Emil Guillermo: Where's Patsy Mink? Starbucks' #RaceTogether short-shrifts Asian Americans
March 24, 2015 1:25 PM

Patsy Mink was a 12-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii--the first woman of color and first Asian American woman elected to Congress in 1964. She ran for president in 1972. And for all you March Madness fans, she authored Title IX of the Higher Education Act, officially called "The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act."
Patsy2.jpgI was honored to know Mink when I worked on Capitol Hill in the early '90s.

So why isn't she mentioned in that Starbucks-USA Today timeline of our country's race history called "Path to Progress?"

Glaring omission? Or just another stupid oversight in the clumsy initiative that should really be called "Some white guys sitting around thinking about race together?"

Diversity 2.0 it's not.  
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#RaceTogether turns out to be like some phony white nostalgia capable of "Mad Men's" Don Draper, who still insists on seeing the world in black and whiter.

I know, I was initially taken by the idea, because I've been a victim of the racial "micro-aggressions" that unconsciously occur and saw nothing wrong with a little race conversation. 

But it turns out #RaceTogether is really just more race double talk.

I saw it fifteen years ago when I was part of a small corporate dinner with Starbucks officials, including Howard Schultz. There were less than 20 people. And it was practically all white--at least the people who talked and were perceived to have any real power.  I don't think Schultz even noticed me. Or will remember I was there. 

That's how much being at the table can mean. 

Maybe he thought I was a waiter.

Still, when I first heard about Schultz' #RaceTogether campaign, I was willing to give him points for earnestness. Any time corporations try to act like good citizens, I think it should be applauded. 

At first, I found the backlash to the whole campaign kick-off pretty surprising. The left and right can't get together on affirmative action, but it sure found common ground on the subject of Starbucks talking about race.

I may have wanted my race conversation venti, but most people just want their coffee regular, to go.

And now I'm jumping over to your side, you coffee grumps. 

Thank goodness Starbucks has stopped writing that darn hashtag on their cups.

If you'll recall, the whole #RaceTogether effort was timed to arrive with an insert included in last weekend's USA Today

If you saw that insert, then you know Starbucks doesn't have a clue when it comes to Diversity 2.0. 

I was astonished at how black and white it all was. 

diversitymap1960.jpg

From the cover of the eight-page insert to all its content, Starbucks and its partner USA Today are still thinking like it's 1960. And yet they know things have changed.

On page three, a full page graphic shows off USA Today's Diversity Index.

It features three maps of America under the heading, "What is the chance that the next person I meet will be different from me?  On a scale of 0-100, the chance that two random people are different by race and ethnicity."

The 1960 map is almost all white, even California. And the nations' index number is a low 20.

By 2010, the map is full of different shades of black and gray among white in America, especially California, and the index number has more than doubled to 55.

Then it shows 2060, where the national index number is 71 and the map is an explosion of all different shades. 

diversitymap2060.jpg

But it's still in black and white, the theme of the insert and the mindset of the entire campaign.

By page 4, the first faces of real people appear. Of six people pictured, there's two Latinos, three African Americans, 1 white male.

I know quotas are illegal. But not in news stories. Where's the Asian American? Native American? 

The insert also has an interesting report on an "unconscious bias experiment," in which researchers drafted a legal memo from an associate named "Thomas Meyer." The memo purposefully contained grammar and analysis errors. Then it was sent to 60 partners of different firms, but "Meyer" was identified as African American to half of the firms. The other half were told he was white.

The partners who thought he was white gave him nearly a full point difference more. Where 5 points was excellent, white Meyer got a 4.1, was found to have fewer errors (remember the memos were identical), and was told he has "potential."

The  African American Meyer got a 3.2, was found to have 4.4 more errors, and was said to need "a lot of work," or  "average at best."

Interesting. But why the name Meyer? Were the researchers listening to Lenny Kravitz CDs? 

In a Diverse 2.0 world, it would have been more revealing to have used a name such as "Lee."

Consider a world that has spawned Robert E. Lee, a white man who commanded the South, Bobby Lee, a funny Asian American comedian, and Carlos Lee, a black Hispanic retired millionaire baseball player. 

Now that's a real complex gene pool.

What kind of a reactions would any Mr. Lee get in 2015?

Another section called "True or False" tests assumptions. And Asians are mentioned in one of eight questions: "Asians recently surpassed Latinos as the fastest growing group of new immigrants to the United States." True or False.

See the answer on my blog, www.amok.com.

But the real clincher for me that Starbucks was mired in yesterday's coffee grounds was the so-called "Path to Progress," a timeline of race highlights that is incomplete at best. 

Asian American highlights are there, such as 1903's Japanese-Mexican Labor Association. 

But why mention that and exclude Cesar Chavez and Larry Itliong's Mexican-Filipino effort in the far more significant United Farm Workers struggles in the '60s?  

The Immigration Act of 1924 that ended Asian immigration to the U.S. is mentioned, as are subsequent immigration changes in 1965. 

But there's no mention of U.S. vs. Wong Kim Ark, the landmark 1898 Supreme Court case, still being used today to uphold your birthright to U.S. citizenship when born on American soil. Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1871, went to China, and then was denied re-entry to the U.S. The victory in that case is still relevant today.

The timeline mentions how the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare decided in 1970 that students cannot be denied access to education because of an inability to speak English. Great. So why not also mention Lau vs. Nichols, the 1974 case in which the Supreme Court gave a real victory to bilingual education?

Of course, the incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II is mentioned. But nothing about Fred Korematsu's successful challenge of Executive Order 9066?

The timeline is a mixed bag of events. 1945 cites Jackie Robinson as the first black player in Major League Baseball. It even cites pop breakthroughs, such as 1979's Sugar Hill Gang and "Rapper's Delight." 

So come on, where's Patsy? 

I will grant them leaving out Connie Chung, first Asian American anchorwoman on a network evening newscast.

But leaving out Patsy Mink and putting in Vanessa Williams, the first African American Miss America? And no mention of Shirley Chisholm? 

It's a throwback to the '50s when exclusion was the accepted rule. 

If Starbucks wants to acknowledge the news of the day--Ferguson and the black/white divide accentuated by law enforcement--then it should do that the way corporations can. Open more stores there. Hire more African Americans who can't afford to buy Starbucks products. Pump money into the community so they can. 

That would be far better than making it sound like Starbucks is on some mission of inclusiveness and then conveniently leaving us all out.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Vincent Wu's birthday memories--jailed at Selma in 1965, worked security for MLK at the March finale
March 17, 2015 10:49 AM

At face value, Vincent Wu, 73 years young this week, looks like many successfully retired Asian American engineers. At Atari, the company that brought the world "Pong," Wu led the effort to bring "Donkey Kong" home--to the home PC, that is. 

Remember the floppy disk version? That was Vincent. 

But ask him about the real highlight of his life, and he'll point to his soul and to Selma. 

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Engineer Vincent Wu with daughter Maryalice Wu at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
(Photo courtesy of Vincent Wu)

Fifty years ago, you might say Wu helped bring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. home.

Wu was a volunteer marshal in the historic final march from Selma to Montgomery, where he walked alongside Dr. King as a member of his security team. 

At 5-feet 9-and-a-half inches and 155 pounds, Wu said he wore a blue chambray work shirt and jeans, no uniform and definitely not a suit. Only a blue armband made out of plastic, like that of an air mattress, distinguished him as a member of the volunteer perimeter security team. They were never more than 10 or 20 feet away from Dr. King on the march to the Alabama capitol.

"We were jubilant because this was a triumphant event," Wu told me about the voting rights march. "We were finally reaching our objective, our goal. It was an honor to assist him, to protect him."

Did King ever speak to him? Wu only laughed. "I'm just a foot soldier," he said of his days volunteering in the historic march. Wu was a 23-year old in grad school at Illinois in 1965. Like other Americans, he was outraged by the scenes on the TV news from "Bloody Sunday."

"We answered the call of Dr. Martin Luther King to come down to Selma to bear witness and to stand with the people who were oppressed," Wu said. "My motivation was for my love of American ideals. It was a moral as much as a political stand for me. I believe in the value of non-violence and respect for every human being. So it stems from a sense of morality and ethics. . .as a human being. . .I was there not as an Asian American student but predominantly as an American citizen."

Wu was a minister's son born in the Yunnan province, China, but his family made its way to Hong Kong. At the time, the immigration quotas prevented many Chinese from coming to America. But as a minister, Wu's father was given special passage to the U.S. to serve at the First Chinese Presbyterian Church in New York City.

In 1951, Wu was just 9 and attended P.S. 59.

"We lived in a mostly white neighborhood, one of only two Chinese families in the school," he said.

When I said it sounded like "Fresh off the Boat," he laughed. As an immigrant with an accent, he could probably relate to both American-born Eddie Huang and his parents.

From midtown Manhattan, Wu moved to San Francisco, right on the edge of Chinatown, and his education resume was typical for many Bay Area Asian Americans: Francisco Junior High, Washington High, San Jose State. But then came Illinois for grad school, and Selma for activism.

He was one of seven in a VW bus, organized by a Unitarian Church. In nine hours, he was in Selma, the start of what would be two weeks that would change his life.

He didn't see any other Asian Americans. But he did have a sense of danger.
 
"We were kind of scared," he said, reminded of the images of the Selma police and Bloody Sunday. "When we drove through, we did not dally downtown because it was a dangerous place."

They went straight for the black neighborhoods where they were welcomed, put up in people's residences in public housing, fed, and treated well. 

It was a lot more hospitable than the Montgomery County jail.

As a volunteer, Wu was put to work shuttling other activists from airports to Selma and to Montgomery. 

That's when he encountered the police. Wu was profiled--he was driving while being a civil rights activist.

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Wu, who transported activists at the 1965 march, was jailed for one night. He stands at the new facility 50 years later. 
(Photo courtesy of Vincent Wu)

"I was stopped by Montgomery police and thrown into jail," Wu recalled. "I spent one night in the Montgomery jail, due to no cause but just transporting activists...There were no charges, so I was out the next day. One night. But that was my first introduction to grits."

Shuttle duty was one of the more dangerous jobs for volunteers, as it turned out. As part of the transit team, Wu said he drove the same car as Viola Liuzzo, the white activist from Detroit who was shot and killed--one of the Selma deaths that galvanized activists around the nation.

"You kind of freaked out," Wu said when he recalled learning of her death. "You felt it could have been you in that car."

But the volunteer job that was more dangerous was actually being part of the team of volunteer marshals marching with Dr. King.

"[We] were holding hands, circling around Dr. King. We walked with him from the car to the stage, like that," Wu said of an unforgettable memory that would fuel his student activism for years. After the marches, Wu continued to drive folks to register in Alabama and Mississippi.

"I remember driving like hell on the back country roads of Alabama," Wu said.

It was a quite a way to celebrate his birthday month, 50 years ago.

Wu was also active in the antiwar movement and said he was likely the first in San Francisco's Chinatown to declare himself as a conscientious objector.

"I'm a pacifist," Wu said. "I truly believe the best way to live life is to seek the truth, create beauty, and live with kindness toward all. Those are my goals. To live humbly and be a witness and, hopefully, be a good example for my children and my children's children."

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Asian American groups were present at Selma 50 years later. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Wu)

And that's what struck him about Selma a few weeks ago. There are people following in his path. 

In 1965, Wu never saw an Asian American in all that he did at Selma, though there were a few among the thousands of protestors who came for the marches.
 
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Asian American banners at 50th anniversary Selma march. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Wu)

At the 50th anniversary this month, Wu saw real progress just for Asian Americans that dates back to 1965, when the immigration laws lifted quotas and allowed more Asians into America. At Selma 2015, Wu saw Asian American families with three generations of activists. For the first time, Wu met Todd Endo, his wife Paula, and their grandchildren. They stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and shared the memory of being Asian Americans at Selma 50 years ago. 

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Wu met Todd Endo for the first time this month; Endo was also at Selma 50 years ago. 
L to R: Wu with Endo, his wife Paula Endo, and their grandchildren. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Wu)

They were brought together by the young contingent of activists present at the march. Wu is modest about being at Selma in 1965. He could not deny the call he felt. But he's truly inspired by the response of a new generation of Asian Americans and "their enthusiasm and steadfastness." 

It should give all of us real hope for the future, as the fight for equity and justice continues.

*     *     *
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Post-Selma rap lessons from "Fresh Off The Boat," OU's SAE, and President Obama
March 12, 2015 9:07 PM

A fundamental story pattern on "Fresh off the Boat" has emerged. Eddie's hip-hop clash is the New American Asian Fusion that sets off the comedic and leads us over the bridge to racial harmony!

It all came into focus this week when Eddie gets automatically paired with a new student, an adopted Chinese Jewish cello nerd. Somehow school principals have this basically racist instinct that not only do all Asians look alike, but we all must like the same things--including people who look like us. 

FOTB-FB2.jpg
But that's just time-honored segregationist logic.

Of course, Jessica, Eddie's TV Mom, immediately loves the nerd, every Tiger Mom's delight. But she comes to find that the nerd is "selfish" and not "a good Chinese boy" like Eddie. It provides the sitcom's moral of the half-hour: Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be selfish, Broadway show-loving cello nerds.

It also brings Mom, the immigrant, even closer to the New American Eddie. At the end, they both high-five, and then Mom surprises all when, in a show of true maternal love and assimilation, she accompanies young Eddie to a Beastie Boys concert.

The next day at school, Eddie discovers his true soul mate, his black classmate who was at the concert and has the exact same Beastie Boys T-shirt.

And the Chinese kid and the black kid--after "C-word" tension in the very first episode--finally find common ground because of some Jewish rappers.

It's a "We shall overcome" moment in America.

After Selma weekend, and the week we just had, we need all the sitcom feel good we can get. 

And all of that, thanks to that thing called rap music.

Maybe someone ought to upload some '90s hip hop into William Kristol's iTunes. Kristol was on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this week actually defending the racist "N-word" song chants from that Oklahoma University's SAE fraternity.

You've heard the chants by now. It was downright ugly and inexcusable. 

White Boys with Attitude.

And there was Kristol, conservative man of privilege, copping the biggest attitude of all, covering the frat boys' backs, saying rap music was to blame. You know, it's that "cesspool of culture." According to Kristol, the frat boy Parker Rice was just aping the music of our times. Why, that's not racist, right?

Of course it is.

I don't hear any songs about lynching on the radio, or people openly advocating violence and hate in pop music.

More distressing is that the SAE rant came on the night of President Obama's Selma speech, a speech that really was directed more at the young than anyone else.

I'd like to think young Parker Rice and his SAE buddies were huddled around a keg watching the president on cable news. I know that's wishful thinking.

As soon as I heard the president, I raved about the speech on my
amok.com site. (You can read the actual transcript of the speech here.)

The president talked about Ferguson and the Justice Department's report. He even rejected the commonly heard reaction of naysayers, the one that goes, "See, things haven't changed all that much in 50 years."

ObamaWH.jpgBut the president had an answer for that:

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America.  If you think nothing's changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s.  Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing's changed.  Ask your gay friend if it's easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -- our progress -- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.


OK, we are better off today.

The president even had an answer to another commonly held notion among those like Kristol and his ilk, who have doubts that racism even exists. The president indicated we should know better:

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the "race card" for their own purposes.  We don't need the Ferguson report to know that's not true.  We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation's racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. 

We know the march is not yet over. We know the race is not yet won...There's nothing America can't handle if we actually look squarely at the problem.  And this is work for all Americans, not just some.  Not just whites.  Not just blacks.  If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination.  All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now.  All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children.  And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.


Getting to that consensus is the hard part. Do we have that moral imagination? Maybe that's where the young come in. The president wasn't aware of all 
the SAE nonsense. But his speech was a pitch to our youth:

"You are America. Unconstrained by habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, because you're ready to seize what ought to be. 
For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there's new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow."

Historian Douglas Brinkley on CNN called the speech Obama's "I Have a Dream" speech for the 21st century.

For me, I found re-reading the speech again this week comforting and poetic, a vision of the America that can be.


I do think it will be the speech America's first black president will be remembered for. More than empty rhetoric, it's a helpful reminder for when news like the SAE chant and all the Ferguson stuff gets in the way.

The news doesn't have to derail us.

As young Eddie shows us on "Fresh off The Boat," there's lots of ways to cross a bridge to lead us to common ground. The Beastie Boys? Sure, why not?

In the perfect world, let's imagine Eddie lock-armed with William Kristol, who could be heard saying, "This is the illest." 

Now that takes some moral imagination.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.



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Emil Guillermo: On Selma, Todd Endo, and the continuing fight for justice in all of America's institutions
March 7, 2015 11:50 AM

There's something about a march. It's not a parade. It's a march. People together. Maybe arm in arm, maybe not. But definitely believing in the same principles, and moving forward in the same direction. 

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Does anyone doubt that sense of unity is what our country needs more than ever? 

So I don't know why Republican leaders are not at the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma to Montgomery march. I know if I had a congressional plane and VIP accommodations, I wouldn't be hesitant to commemorate a real milestone in our country's history of equality.

Maybe the Boehners of the world regret all that ever happened.

Without 1965 and the Voting Rights Act, there'd probably be even fewer minority voters, let alone minority candidates and office holders today. Indeed, 1965 was a banner year for our democracy and all the things that have made our country great. President Johnson's War on Poverty began to address economic inequality. Massive changes in immigration laws would lift discriminatory quotas and lay the groundwork for generations of diversity.

I guess that's why some people would rather not remember Selma. Especially if they are the ones leading the reversal, forcing the pendulum to swing the other way. For some, Selma must seem like it was the beginning of the end. 

But for people of color, Selma was just the beginning of the hard work needed for a new American future. 

And, of course, make no mistake, Asian Americans were part of that. 

But I will defer to the man whom I feel is our community's official delegate to Selma. 

Todd Endo was there 50 years ago. In many ways, he was born to be our surrogate at Selma.
As a Japanese American who spent the first three years of his life incarcerated in a WWII internment camp, Endo knows a sense of injustice from birth.

When I first met him at the March on Washington in 2013, we joined others in replicating the march that began the push for the Civil Rights Act and commemorated Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.  

But even then, as we walked by the MLK memorial, Endo was saying, wait for Selma's 50th anniversary in 2015. That, he said, was the march that changed his life.

This year, I re-connected with him last month at a special event organized by the University of San Francisco's Critical Diversity Studies/Asian Pacific American Studies.

EGEndo.jpg"Even the Japs are here," Endo recalled hearing when people saw him at Selma.

The epithet was a reminder that Asian Americans in 1965 were still seen as foreigners, and definitely oddities in the South.

Endo told me he always saw himself less in terms of his ethnicity and more as "non-white in America." 

It enabled him to empathize with what was happening at Selma. 

But he admitted he did not immediately join in 50 years ago. He was not at the march on the day known as "Bloody Sunday." He was still in Boston, a history graduate student at Harvard, watching it play out on black and white TV. That's how he witnessed the beating of John Lewis and the other marchers.

Then two days later, on what became known as "Turnaround Tuesday," it all became a matter of conscience. 

After that second aborted march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, later in Selma came the news that the Rev. Jim Reeb was beaten to death. Endo was an acquaintance of Reeb's in Boston. And that was the moment for him.

"If Jim Reeb hadn't been killed, I wouldn't have been there," Endo said. "I went two days later."

Endo admitted to being angered. But there was something more.
 
"I got energized," he said. "In some sense, [Reeb] went, I didn't. He died, and I'm sitting in graduate school. Why did he go and I didn't?  It was a pretty quick decision then to go."

At Selma, there were the marches that made it on TV, and then there were the everyday marches that people were doing long before the cameras showed up. Endo described it as what the real people did for three years before, marching to the courthouse to show a commitment to democracy.

Endo said in the movie, "Selma," he related most to the Oprah Winfrey character, who attempted to register to vote and was constantly denied. Endo saw her as a composite of the many women he saw at Selma.

He didn't remember the woman's name, but he recalled what she told him. "She said, 'I've done this 16 times and I've failed and been turned away 16 times, and I'm going to keep doing this,'" Endo said, recounting her story. "'We're going to do it every day, we're going to do it whenever we can, until I can vote.' "

Endo called the woman his hero. "Because she's an ordinary person living in Selma doing an extraordinary thing. And it's extraordinary because she knew what the consequences were for her and her family," Endo said. "She'd lose her job, lose her home, she could be beaten, arrested, even killed. She is a resident. She's going to stay. I'm going to leave. I'm going back to graduate school. My involvement was very temporary. Hers was permanent... "

"They were shot, threatened, systematically intimidated into not voting," he added. "The only way that changed was for people like that women saying we are going to register to vote." 

Endo said he was never scared at the march, although he saw the sheriff's deputies and knew of the violence in the prior marches. He drew strength from the two women he marched with.

In retrospect, he wonders today if they were there to protect him. "They're marching outside of me," Endo remembered, sandwiched between them, "because I'm the vulnerable outsider." 
Endo didn't recall their names. But he definitely remembered their spirit at Selma.

"Among the marchers, there was community," Endo said. "If you form a group that is commonly and collectively committed, you get a sense there's something greater than you....that's what was working here."

A sense of community as Selma. Todd Endo felt it 50 years ago.

He's back there today to feel it again.

CIVIL RIGHTS IN MEDIA?
I have to admit, I felt that community feeling earlier this week when I attended a memorial service for my friend Dori Maynard.

Maynard was the president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which advocates for diversity in employment and coverage of people of color in all media. She died of lung cancer last month.

Dori.jpg
(photo by Emil Guillermo)

What amazed me was how her service drew people from nearly 40 years of my life in American journalism. It was like a mini-civil rights confab, and as diverse a crowd as you'll ever see in 2015.

There were blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asian Americans. All together at an interfaith service of 200 people from intermarriages, mixed race kids. It had the look of the real America.

And there were many people from the media.

I also saw longtime friends and colleagues, such as Jon Funabiki, longtime reporter, now a journalism professor; Evelyn Hsu, former Washington Post reporter, now program director at the Maynard Institute; Valerie Chow Bush, former Asian American Journalists Association executive director; Lisa Chung, also a former AAJA executive director, as well as a former columnist with the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle

Chung lamented the loss of Dori, who was bi-racial and was a magnet that brought all different folks together. But her real lament was for the fate of the news business without constant prodding by Dori and the institute.

lisa.jpg
(photo by Emil Guillermo)

"The traditional newsroom is gone," Chung said. "Now we have digital media and they have no sense of history, diversity, or the need to represent or reflect communities...We need diversity in our news media." 

Chung was sensing what maybe we've all felt the last decade or so--the rising inequality in all aspects of American life. And our quiet acceptance of it.

It made me see Dori's service as my Selma. For me, this was about the civil rights battle in my own profession, the media.

I may have been a child in 1965, wondering how to keep a ground ball from hitting me in the face while playing third base.

But the world around me was changing to create the line drives I would later face as an adult.

Just as life today is being transformed digitally and creating disruption in all industries, including the media, Selma and 1965 were the start of another very basic and real disruption in society. 

It was racial.

Institutions that were all-white were forced to be less so in employment and news coverage. But in the media, it was not so easy as flipping a switch.

1965? So why was it only in 1989 that an Asian American first became a host of NPR's "All Things Considered"?

I know how it happened. Because that Asian American host was me.

All the memories, seeing the faces of those at the service as the once and future diverse newsroom, underscored the continuing importance of the Maynard Institute's work. And the continuing fight for justice in all aspects of our society.

The battle against stereotypes and for inclusion is still our great fight in America and in all its institutions. 

Dori's service was proof to me that you don't have to be at Selma to feel Selma. 

Selma is everywhere. We have to make it happen wherever we are. 

All it takes is marching together, in the same direction.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Oscars? Here's the Emil for Best Minimal Presence by an Asian American in a Best Picture nominee
February 21, 2015 4:02 PM

By the time you read this, the whole world will have watched the Oscars. And while there's a great chance of someone on the red carpet "wearing an Asian American," I am sure of this: There's absolutely no chance an Asian American will win in any of the major categories. Not Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor. Best Actor in Support Hose. Nothing.

Again. That's always the way it is. No dearth of talent among us Asian Americans. Just a dearth of Oscar support. (Not one nomination for Harold and Kumar ever? What is the academy NOT smoking?)

That's why it is necessary in my one-man academy (100 percent people of color) to make up a category that Asian Americans are sure to qualify for.

I call it the Emil for best minimal presence by an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for best picture. 

This is a very specific category. And it is loaded with suspects, I mean, nominees this year.

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Remember, the actors all had to be recognizable for at least a second in movies nominated for best picture. My nominees are:  

1. From "Birdman," Keenan Shimizu, who played Han. Now here's a guy with the prototypical Asian American acting career. He was Big Father in the 2001 Louis C.K. classic, "Pootie Tang." And on the small screen, he acts so well that on "Law and Order," he's played Det. Kwan, Asian Tech Guy Hsu, and a Deli Owner. That's the Asian character trifecta!

2. From "Birdman," Akira Ito, who plays a translator so well, I don't even remember him being in the movie. True invisibility--in any language!

3. From "Boyhood," Andrea Chen, who played "Sam's Roommate," the great enabler. Chen enters her dorm room and finds Mason, the boy in "Boyhood," with his girlfriend studying "biology," if you catch my drift.  Chen says she'll be back, in a way that pays homage to Schwarzenegger. Scene stealer! And she didn't need 12 years to nail the role.

4. From "The Imitation Game," are you kidding?

5. From the "Theory of Anything," all that high minded science stuff, and I didn't see one Asian American.

6. From "Whiplash," Stephen Hsu, guitar, and Tian Wang, piano, were boys in the band. And how's this for true sub-minimal treatment: They are uncredited. That really sets the standard high for minimal presence---they were in the negative, absolutely unrecognizable. Their sub-presence is so low it edges out Kavita Patil, a lovely and accomplished actress, who usually plays Indian doctors, nurses and health care workers on TV and in the movies. In "Whiplash," Patil plays....Sophie, the assistant!  And she got a credit. Sorry Kavita--that's way too much recognition already. 

I know you're saying what about Zero from "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the lovely Indian ...nope. Tony Revolori is from Guatamala, and not technically Asian. Besides, he should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, just for his hat. The Lobby Boy made that movie! But alas, zero for Zero. Robbed.

And as for that "American Sniper" actor Mido Hamada, who played the Butcher, he was born in Cairo. Technically, Middle Eastern people are considered Asian in a broad sense. But in this movie, the transgressions are on a totally different level so as to disqualify them for the "minimal presence" award. 

And that leaves us with our winner: (Drumroll, please...)

The winner for Best Minimal Presence by an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for Best Picture goes to Selma," for the minimal Asian American presence of Steven Kiyoshi Kuromiya. 

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And just when you thought there were no Asian Americans at Selma. (It's sort of like the Oscars; we're there somewhere.)

If you don't know about Kuromiya, he was a creative activist, an SDSer, who became an aide to Dr. King and then later a loud and proud AIDS activist for ACT UP. He actually was beaten up in the earlier Selma marches.

Kuromiya wasn't technically in the film. But my "AA-dar" went off when the film cut to documentary footage included on the last big Selma march to Montgomery. It was an Asian guy. And it had to be Kuromiya. I swear on any bible Rudy Giuliani believes in. 

Kuromiya was an Asian American who made a difference. 

So that's it. No red carpet. No big show with Neil Patrick Harris hosting.

It's just a single Emil. One award. No plural needed for the best minimal presence of an Asian American in a major motion picture nominated for Best Picture.

One is enough. And it goes posthumously to Kuromiya, so he can't show up anyway. 

But if there were a living winner, while the Emil doesn't really exist physically, it is totally acceptable to mime stroking it admirably--in private. 

Speaking of awards, there are Oscars and there is the Emil. And then there are the 2015 Justice in Action Awards presented by AALDEF.

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Unlike the minimal presence at the Oscars, the winners this year are all highly visible and making a difference for Asian Americans every day in their respective fields: Jessica Hagedorn, novelist, poet, and playwright; Neal Katyal, partner at Hogan Lovells, Paul Saunders Professor at Georgetown University, and former Acting Solicitor General of the United States; and John W. Kuo, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of Varian Medical Systems.

Get your tickets here.

Hollywood is still a fantasy game played by actors. The fight for justice is no game. And no fantasy. It requires those who take action. That's the example set by the AALDEF Justice in Action Award's deserving winners each and every year.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 1 comments