Emil Guillermo: Not a spy in the house-Chinese American scientist Xiaoxing Xi; his daughter, Joyce; and Wen Ho Lee
May 18, 2016 9:45 PM

When Joyce Xi graduates from college next week, I hope the celebratory pride and joy she and her family experience will be so tremendous, it will blast away the cloud of suspicion and shame that has hovered over them the last year, once and for all. 

That's always the hope when you come to a "good" life event. 

The family has had to endure a "bad" one that began May 21, 2015.

That's when the world changed for Joyce's father, Dr. Xiaoxing Xi, and the entire Xi family. 

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It was the year of being falsely accused of spying.

If you saw Dr. Xi on "60 Minutes," then you saw him pantomime exactly what happened nearly a year ago when the F.B.I. visited the family's suburban Philadelphia home. With guns drawn, agents vigorously knocked on the front door, then cuffed and arrested the physicist as his family stood by in disbelief. 

Dr. Xi, a naturalized Chinese American citizen, and, at the time, head of the physics department at Temple University, was accused of spying for China. 

And even though the charges were dropped last September, the emotional pain of the experience hasn't dissipated at all.

"Yeah, it's been really hard on everybody," Joyce Xi told me on the phone. "You only see the headlines that the case was brought, the charges were dropped, and all those things,every single day, worrying about. . .80 years in prison and a million dollar fine. Being under surveillance and things like that. That's the part that people don't see. And that just doesn't go away."

As I talked to Joyce, I couldn't help think of Wen Ho Lee, the Taiwanese American who worked at Los Alamos Laboratories and was accused of transferring nuclear secrets to China in 1999, and his daughter Alberta.

Lee was arrested, detained for nine months, sometimes in solitary confinement. 

But then the government's espionage case fell apart, and The New York Times, which had led the media drumbeat against Lee, published a semi-mea culpa. 

It wasn't quite an apology for racial profiling, but it was a soft admission of the Times' reporting flaws, an over-reliance on government sources, and the harsh, accusatory tone it used in stories about Lee.

One paragraph in that editors' note, in particular, has always stuck in my mind. It's where the paper admitted, "We never prepared a full-scale profile of Dr. Lee, which might have humanized him and provided some balance."

I remembered that line when I talked to Joyce Xi the other day.

So here's a humanizing fact. 

To pass the time, Joyce said she and her father like to play the popular board game, "Settlers of Catan."

Who wins? She says she does.

But in the strategy game, they both share a scientific approach to things.

Though she's more chemistry than physics, she admits to taking after her father. 

"I'm an Asian scientist," she tells me. "He's always been into science, research, and ideas. So yeah, I grew up around that. Science is his life."

Joyce's too. And that's been the troubling thing about the facts in her father's case.

"It's hard to reconcile," she said. "It shouldn't be that way. The facts should speak for themselves. But that's not what happened."

She said she's not sure why the case was even brought forward.

"My dad was prosecuted for sharing [a product called] the pocket heater with entities in China," Joyce said. "My dad never shared the pocket heater with China. They should not have brought up the case."

She wonders why the government didn't consult an independent scientific expert who actually understood the science before they prosecuted her father. 

But we're not dealing with science here, just politics.

Members of Congress already called for an investigation and an apology last year, when the charges against Xi and another Chinese American scientist, Sherry Chen, were dropped. Although the Justice Department dropped the charges against Chen, her employer, the National Weather Service, fired her. In response, Chen has since filed a discrimination complaint.

But nothing seems to have changed to prevent more racial profiling against Asian American scientists. Earlier this year, the Justice Department did issue a letter to its prosecutors that all future national security cases like Xi's will be directed by more experienced officials in Washington. 

Community activists don't think that's enough to protect future innocent people.

And it's not good enough for those who've been through the wringer, like Joyce Xi.

She's leading a public petition drive calling for an independent investigation and a formal apology for her father and other Asian Americans who have been wrongly accused.

"The government has not substantively responded to my father's case or been held responsible for it," she said. "This is something that has shaken our whole family, and my dad should not have been prosecuted to begin with."

"So, it's something that we'll carry with us forever," she added. "It's not just going to go away. And we hope this never has to happen to anybody ever again."

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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: In the red part of blue state California, Asian Americans have felt the burn, find hope in Sanders
May 11, 2016 9:20 PM

With everything so presumptive in politics these days, it's easy to see why the primary season has turned secondary.
 
So Donald Trump crushing his GOP opponents in Nebraska and West Virginia was just page A4 in my morning newspaper on Wednesday morning. (Oh yeah, newspapers, I still read them. But I gave up the horse and buggy last year.)

More astonishing is that on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders absolutely trounced Hillary Clinton in West Virginia. I don't think that was the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith vote.

The media keeps saying it's an insurmountable lead for Clinton and that the race is over. But Sanders has raised more than $182 million.

You don't think he should give any of it back, do you? 

Nah, he should take all that money and let it ride for democracy.

Just to keep them all honest.

And with California's 546 Democratic delegates up for grabs on June 7, why not?

The Asian American faces were pretty visible in Stockton,Calif. on Tuesday. 

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As West Virginia voted, Sanders was in California, in the place I call "the red part of the blue state."

Historically, Stockton has been an important place for Asian Americans. For the Chinese during the Gold Rush of 1849, you don't get Hop Sing cooking on the Ponderosa in TV's "Bonanza" were it not for the Chinese in Northern California, with Stockton as its base.

Stockton was important for Japanese Americans, who made their livelihoods farming the Central Valley, once again with Stockton as a base.

And for Filipino Americans, Stockton was the home of Little Manila, at one time the largest community of Filipinos in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the papers there, The Record, is famous for anti-Filipino editorials that called Filipinos "unassimilable."

Many years later, it was the height of irony for me to work for that paper (under its new owners) and to tell Filipino stories on the front page.

This week, Sanders made news by showing up for a rally. And it was jammed with thousands of people who make up the new Stockton.

Of a population of 302,000 people, Stockton is 12 percent African American; 1.1 percent American Indian; 40.3 percent Hispanic; 21.5 percent Asian. 

It's 37.5 percent white, but just 22.9 percent "white alone." And that alone tells you this is as mixed and diverse a city as you're going to find anywhere in America.

Among Asian Americans, you won't find a more diverse community than Stockton, with Sikh, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Lao peoples. 

When I reported from there, I learned that Asian American did not mean "Chinese."

And just looking at the crowd, it just seemed like they were all there rallying for Sanders.

Some may think people of color aren't attracted to Sanders. But the vast majority of Asian Americans are still recovering from the recession that started at the tail end of the Bush years.

They've felt the burn. 

"People of Stockton know Wall Street very, very well," Sanders said from the podium. "You know what Wall Street's greed and recklessness and illegal behavior have done to this community."

Of all the nation, California's Central Valley was one of the hardest hit areas in terms of bad loans, foreclosures, and job losses during the recession. 

Recovery after devastation has not been easy.

The city of Stockton itself was hit, filing for bankruptcy in June 2012, more than $700 million in debt. At the time, it was the largest city to seek Chapter 9 protection.

Just last year in February, Stockton has come out of the hole, but was still being sued by Franklin Templeton for its full share of the debt owed, $37 million.

Seeing the faces of diversity, the oft-forgotten victims of the recession, it just seemed natural for the city and its people to see Sanders as their hero.

Stockton can't easily relate to Hillary's comfort and wealth.  

Stockton isn't Chappaqua. And I've been to both.

Throughout the nation, there are Asian Americans who aren't in the 1 percent. They work in restaurants, hotels, and service jobs. They work in the Chinatowns of America. They live in forgotten cities like Stockton.

Sanders' visit to Stockton made me wonder if the Democratic race was really over. There are people out there who haven't been heard from, who know the economic pain that only he seems willing to address head on.

So maybe it's not quite over, yet.

Clinton has 1716 delegates.

Sanders has 1433. 

The race to 2383 is mathematically difficult but not insurmountable.

There are 714 super-delegates, and many can be up for grabs if the convention is contested.

Will it?

There are 1065 delegates left to be distribute.

On June 7, California's 546 and New Jersey's 142, are available.

On May 17, there's Oregon with 71, and Kentucky with 61.

It's been a strange campaign year, but a long-shot scenario remains to get the government many of us need, and not just the government we always settle for that seems good enough.

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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: Does SFPD racist texting scandal help us understand NYPD's Liang-Gurley case?
May 1, 2016 9:03 AM

Happy Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (the official name signed into law, as per President George H.W. Bush's pen), or Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or AANHPI Month.

By whatever name you choose, it's still May--our time to revel in our Asian-ness and help people understand the complexities of our big tent sensibility from New York to Honolulu.

We're not the model minority, and we're not "seen one, seen them all." 

Unless, of course, you're a cop.  

And then blue is much more dominant in the color scheme than we all think.

Let's just hope you didn't get a "Happy APA Month" text greeting from former San Francisco Police Officer Jason Lai. 

JasonLaiSFPD.jpgIf you did, it was likely filled with some pretty spicy language.

Last week, CNN reported on the release of dozens of text messages by Lai in 2014 and 2015 that revealed a politically incorrect view of people's ethnicity.

South Asian Indians?

Lai texted (misspelling included): "Indian ppl are disgusting."

Latinos?

"I hate that beaner," boasted Lai in another text about a Latino person.

Lai called African Americans "nigs" in a text about basketball player LeBron James.

He even used the words "hak gwai," an insulting Cantonese phrase for African Americans. Lai called one incident a "bunch of hock gwais shooting each other."

And there's more where that came from, discovered as part of a police department sex probe against Lai last year that resulted in no charges. 

Since then, he's been charged on misdemeanor counts for accessing DMV information for non-official reasons, with an arraignment scheduled for May.

Don Nobles, Lai's attorney, told CNN that the texts were "not reflective" of his client, and that they were transmitted from his personal phone to his friends on the force, but not necessarily in the act of policing.

When I first heard of the whole thing, I was colorblind to Lai's race. It was also the second instance of inappropriate texting at SFPD since 2014. That one involved homophobic remarks.

But when I saw the key figure in this go-round was an Asian American, (there's another Asian American involved as well, retired Lt. Curtis Liu), I asked the man who released the texts to the media, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, his reaction.

Did it strike him as odd to read such things from another Asian American?

"No," Adachi told me. "I think that SFPD has a problem in terms of a culture that allows racism to thrive. When you have sergeants and lieutenants involved in this racist texts scandal, it tells us that it is much deeper than just street officers who share these attitudes and engage in racial profiling. Minority officers like Lai are not immune from racism. Clearly, Lai expressed his racist beliefs and feelings to his fellow officers and friends, and did so in a very casual and comfortable manner. What was chilling is that you can see how his racist beliefs affected his police work and his use of the power that was entrusted to him. "

Adachi, a Japanese American, indicated there's something in cop culture that trumps all ethnic loyalty or sense of solidarity. 

"Being an Asian American, it troubles me greatly when I see an Asian officer who harbors these kinds of racist attitudes," Adachi said. "What does it say about how Asians view Blacks or Latinos? That's why it is important for Asians to come forward and say they denounce Officer Lai's texts. I think most Asians do not, although it's important to acknowledge that we all have unconscious biases that affect the way we see others based on race."

Denouncing Lai, the former Asian American cop, should be easy.

But another case involving policing and race, it sure hasn't been easy to denounce former NYPD officer Peter Liang. Many have instead rallied to his support. 

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The Liang case involving the stairwell shooting of Akai Gurley continues to divide the community, Asian vs. Asian, as well as Asian vs. everyone else. 

The recent sentencing hearing that resulted in no prison time for Liang has only aggravated the situation.

Liang is still seen as a greenhorn Asian American cop who is being scapegoated. 

Or he's seen as symbolic of a racist police force whose careless actions result in a tragedy like the Gurley shooting death in New York.

In San Francisco, it helps that Lai isn't a rookie. I have seen no public outcry for leniency in the texting case. 

Perhaps too, it's because the texts reveal an underlying attitude in cop culture that can alter one's personal sense of values. It seems to create a real "us vs. them" mentality that trumps ethnic loyalties or even morality. 

If you are an east coaster or a Peter Liang supporter who doesn't get why people don't run to support a fellow Asian American in San Francisco, the texts show how Officer Lai of the SFPD saw the world. 

Adachi insists that has to affect how you police. He believes it could have an impact on many cases his office is defending against the SFPD. The first texting scandal in 2014 has already prompted a review of 1,600 cases for police bias.

"Racism is ingrained in police culture," Adachi told me. "The blue wall of silence means that officers don't report other officers who are racist or who express racist beliefs. There were 14 officers involved in the first texting scandal, and now four more. The question that should be asked is why none of the officers came forward when they became aware of the racist texts. It's because they are trained not to tell on each other, even when misconduct occurs. That needs to change, because if they expect the public to cooperate against criminal conduct, the police need to as well."

Since Adachi leaked the Lai texts last week, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr released even more texts and said he's ordered anti-harassment classes for his force next month.  

The Chief is getting support from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, but that might not be enough.

The texting scandal comes on top of two recent police shootings of an African American and a Latino. A third case last March involves a federal grand jury's decision that the police did not use excessive force when it gunned down Alex Nieto, 27. Nieto allegedly pointed a stun gun at officers.

It all has fueled the rage of San Franciscans who see police misconduct and gentrification, which has displaced working class people, as commingled. 

Sound familiar New Yorkers?

But in San Francisco, the protest has spawned a hunger strike that continues into its 11th day. 

The Frisco Five includes Asian American rapper, Equipto (Ilych Sato), who last October criticized Mayor Ed Lee for his policies saying that Lee was a "disgrace" to Asian people and "had no heart."

The Five say they won't eat until Suhr steps down. 

It's all a bit of a mess, and it's happening on Mayor Lee's watch.  

Ineffective Asian American leadership, plus allegedly racist Asian American cops. 

Look at the positive side. We're busting up that model minority myth!  

And just in time for heritage month, or whatever you want to call it.

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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: Prince--Beyond race, a genius' vision, an activist's heart
April 22, 2016 7:12 AM

For an Asian American guy like me, who has a penchant to go amok, Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," with its purple banana reference, was always a favorite.

But now the lyrics seemed to have a divine message:

'Cause in this life 
Things are much harder than in the after world

In this life 
You're on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor

I still wasn't ready for Thursday's news.

Like almost everyone, I had the initial reaction that this was some kind of cosmic prank.

Twitter hashtag #PrinceRIP? Dead at 57? Did Prince punch out?

I reassured myself that this had to be an IHFKAJ--an "internet hoax, formerly known as a joke."

I still want to think that this is all some belated April Foolery.

But no, it's for real.
 
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On the Queen's birthday, Prince died and the purple tears began.

On the news shows, it became the only song.

Not even the ridiculous North Carolina bathroom debate could get much airtime.

Prince was the man who could trump Trump--and Cruz. 

Those two men may want to be the next president, but they could never hold a candle to Prince, an artist who influenced world culture for five decades.

As I saw the anchors on Fox News Channel report on the death, I kept thinking--if only their viewers actually listened to Prince's music, there wouldn't be such a tremendous racial divide in this country.

They'd have too much fun for hate. And the right soundtrack for love.

At least for the moment, Prince had forced Fox to keep things politically rancor-free. 

Everybody seemed to get it, about how much Prince mattered.

Still, I wondered how many Ted Cruz evangelicals were home tapping their foot to Prince's 1979 hit, "I Want To Be Your Lover"? 

Or rushing to iTunes to check out "Dirty Mind" from 1980, where Prince was evolving his identifiable rhythm in songs like "Head"? (Uh, that's not a song about Fox News head Roger Ailes.)

For me, it was the music and the style. In the '80s, I was a young permed Asian American of Filipino descent covering the entertainment scene for the San Francisco NBC station. The high point was 1984, when the music scene exploded with major tours from Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Prince.

All three stars were destined to become iconic. But for me, it was always the mysterious Prince who had the most mass appeal with his funky, sexy, androgynous fun.

Prince defied all the traditional categories.  You couldn't segregate his music on the black stations. And he wasn't a traditional rocker. But just check out his axe solo on "Let's Go Crazy."

Prince had chops. And he was vegan.  

He broke down all the barriers in music and in life, and created a unique blended package. Gender? Race? I know Filipinos to this day who swear he had some Asian blood in him from his Louisiana roots. In fact, the Guardian in England published an interview Prince gave to the New Musical Express that acknowledged his father was of mixed race, including Italian and Filipino.

So does that explain being 5-foot 2-inches? He was part Asian with a love for heels? 

But as he sang in his song, "Controversy," "I said life is just a game, we're all just the same, do you want to play?"

Prince was simply free to play and be Prince, which in itself was an inspiring thing.

"He allowed himself to be himself, and encouraged others to be themselves," said Stevie Wonder on CNN.

"He was very free. . .to do what he did without fear, was a wonderful thing. Because it is always great. . .Always great when we don't allow fear to put our dreams to sleep, and he didn't."

There was a fearlessness to his art, and ultimately in his fight to recover the rights to his music.

Of all the commenters I heard, perhaps the most revealing was Van Jones, the CNN political analyst who was a close friend of Prince's. Jones could talk about the legal battle Prince waged with the help of Phaedra Ellis Lamkins. 

But Jones also knew another side that wasn't just about the music.
  
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"There was a core of genius that just used music to express itself, but he was also an incredible humanitarian," Jones told CNN. "He was a Jehovah's Witness, so he was not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts, any of his charitable activity."

Jones was one of those close to Prince who helped him back organizations like "Yes We Code," which helps underprivileged youth from minority communities get into high tech.

"Every time you see a black kid wearing a hoodie, you say: There's a thug. If you see a white kid wearing hoodie, you say: There's Mark Zuckerberg," Jones told USA TODAY last year. "I said, 'That's because of racism. And Prince said, 'Maybe so, or maybe you civil rights guys haven't created enough Mark Zuckerbergs.' "

On the night of Prince's death, Jones mentioned other projects Prince was involved with, such as "Green For All," a program that helped Oakland residents get solar panels. 

"Anybody struggling anywhere in the world, he was sending checks, he was making phone calls, but he did not want it to be known publicly, and he didn't want us to say it," said Jones on CNN. "But I'm going to say it because the world needs to know that it wasn't just the music. The music was one way he was trying to help the world. But he was helping every single day of his life."

Earlier, Jones said Prince didn't call when you had a good day. But he was there when you had a bad day. And now Jones said he felt guilt over the death of his friend. "What could we have done? What happened?" Jones told CNN as he held back tears. "He was there for us when we were down."

Jones said when he left the Obama White House and was at a low point emotionally and professionally, Prince called and invited him to the Paisley Park estate to talk.  "And he said, 'Go to Jerusalem, stay there two weeks and pray. Then when you come back, sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down everything you want to do that you think will help the community. And I will help you do it, OK?'" Jones said. "And so I went from working for a president to working with Prince."

Jones said the recent concerts in Chicago, Baltimore, and New Orleans enabled Prince to help local non-profits and their leaders. "He said, 'I can't be in this world and see all this pain and suffering and not do something. Don't give me the credit, don't give me the glory.'  But he pushed all of us to do more. And we all did more. And I want him to be known for that too."

I knew Jones when he was an Oakland activist at the Ella Baker Center. At the time, I hosted a local TV show, "NCM-TV New California Media," and could always count on Van to come on to make his points eloquently and passionately.

On this sad night, Jones again delivered the truth, this time about Prince--humanitarian, activist, and philanthropist.  

Quietly, Prince was going crazy for those in need in the community. 

As it turns out, we weren't alone. Prince was there for many of us. 

And now the music plays on without him.

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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: We are all No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, even Asian Americans like Tim Lincecum
April 15, 2016 5:52 PM

Color lines were broken on April 15, 1947, almost a generation before the Civil Rights Act. 

That still left a lot of barriers to break down, even after Jackie Robinson took his first step into fair territory on a major league diamond. 

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Surely, you didn't see a lot of Asian Americans on baseball teams back then. Still don't. 

And since it falls on a Friday this year, we should make it an all-Jackie Weekend just to take in all the significance.

Robinson's first days are worth remembering. 

Just like the days when you were the only Asian, only Filipino, or only minority in the room in your respective field.

Robinson started at First Base and batted second when Brooklyn played the Boston Braves in Ebbets Field and won that first game 5-2. He didn't get a hit, but reached base on an error and scored his first run, which broke the tie that enabled the Brooklyn victory. 

It was one first after another. Robinson's first hit, a single, didn't come until his second game, April 17.  

On April 18, Robinson got his first RBI and his first home run. The Dodgers still lost the game, 10-4. But that's OK. It was against my beloved Giants in the Polo Grounds.

Somehow, by design, the Giants and the Dodgers, now both in California, always play on Jackie Robinson Day. This year, they're in Los Angeles, where the big matchup is the pitching duel between the Giants' Madison Bumgarner and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.

For me, as an Asian American of Filipino descent, I'll never forget covering Jackie Robinson Day 2014 when the Giants played the Dodgers in San Francisco.

Of course, they all wore Robinson's No. 42 that day. 

But the Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum was special. And not just for the mustache he sported that year.

His mother, Filipino, his father of French descent gave him the genetics for his unorthodox delivery that featured his unique ball dangle. 

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(photo by Emil Guillermo)

You can't argue with the results. Can you name a more accomplished player with an Asian American background? 

And not an Asian import like an Ichiro Suzuki.  I mean a 100 percent American of Asian American descent.

2014 was the year Lincecum pitched his second no-hitter, becoming the first in Major League History to no-hit the same team (San Diego) in consecutive seasons. Baseball is legendary for scraping through the record books for any anomaly that tells us: We've never seen this before.

Or if we have, it's so rare that it's remarkable. For example, Lincecum has won multiple World Series championships, multiple Cy Young Awards (for best pitcher), multiple no-hitters, and multiple All-Star games. 

The only pitcher to match all that? Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, again of the Dodgers.

The Giants won that 2014 Jackie Robinson game, 3-2. Lincecum struck out 5 batters after 5 innings and left the game before the Giants came from behind.

But now two years later, it's strange not seeing Lincecum, the face of the Giants for so many years in a San Francisco uniform. Lincecum is a free agent, recuperating from surgery and hoping for a comeback. Last week, it was reported he was rehabbing and pitching without pain in Arizona.

When I've talked to Lincecum, he was always a tad reticent about his Filipino-ness, having been closer to his father than his mother. On a short interview with him years ago, he's pretty candid.


But he was close to his maternal grandparents, and when we've had conversations about Filipino food and such, he'd light up and smile.

He was also not burdened so much with color, to the point that it may have derailed him as it did African American ball players prior to Robinson. Lincecum always had a chance to prove it on the field. And I hope he gets another chance again, as a starter, maybe for the Giants. But please, not the Dodgers.

In the meantime, Lincecum deserves mention as probably the most accomplished ball player of Asian American descent in the history of the game. 

Before him, the first Filipino player was Bobby Balcena, a Filipino American from California, who got a chance with a September call up in 1956.

And then there were durable players from Hawaii like Ron Darling, Benny Agbayani, and Shane Victorino.

But no Asian American comes close to the accomplishments of Lincecum. 

Who knows if he would have gotten a chance if baseball had remained racially and ethnically resistant. 

I know, I make a big deal about Lincecum's Filipino-ness more than others. 

Maybe even more than Lincecum.

But I know how people like to erase the memory of race and pretend it's not important.

In the new Ken Burns documentary on Robinson, there were more than just a few things that surprised me. 

For example, I didn't know Robinson was a Republican who campaigned and worked for Nelson Rockefeller. I didn't know Robinson was pro-Nixon, but ultimately shifted to Kennedy. Robinson was fluid politically, backing those who advanced racial progress.

Robinson was also much more business-oriented and corporate than I realized. He worked for Chock-Full-of-Nuts, then went on to run a bank. The guy was a capitalist. Smart and articulate. He didn't like Malcolm X, and he said so, as a syndicated columnist who wrote for both the mainstream and  the ethnic media. (Hey, an ethnic media columnist, like me. Imagine that.) 

But he faced some backlash. There were even some who called him an "Uncle Tom." Talk about heresy. Twenty years after the color line was broken, Robinson had to tread new cultural gaps exposed along generational, social, and economic lines. The documentary presents a strong and complex portrait of the man who traversed them all.
 
The documentary also revealed how Robinson's Hall of Fame plaque in 1962 didn't mention being the first anything or breaking any color barrier.  Nor was there much news coverage of this civil rights milestone. It was the year the Giants won the pennant in San Francisco. I was just in elementary school and didn't exactly know how race played into my life. Or what a big deal it was.

I do now.

As Asian Americans, we've seen a lot of barriers.

By breaking through a major institutional one, Jackie Robinson showed us how to break through them all.

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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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