Glefen is a Lyft driver I met this week in DC. He immigrated here from the Philippines as a kid, and is in his twenties now. A naturalized American.
He makes me an OG. But what does that make my dad? An OOG?
Glefen has the AC on in DC, where we’re coming up to the hottest day in the last few years. And not because my show “Emil Amok” is opening at the CapitalFringe. (Tickets here.)
My show is about my father, who arrived from the Philippines to San Francisco as an American national. Colonized. No papers needed. I link it to my own journey to Harvard and NPR.
It’s our history. I asked Glefen about it, and he knew more about the traffic patterns of DC than he did the historical patterns of racism against Filipinos.
He needs to see my show.
Asian American history is nothing if not the story of exclusion.
The Chinese came, they were excluded. Filipinos came, they were excluded and repatriated. The Japanese came, and they were interned during World War II.
The rest of us have experienced a variation of the “Go Home” story.
It’s in our blood. Even to this day, it’s the eternal fight.
We belong. We don’t belong. We fight to belong again.
Keep that in mind as the dangerous Trump rhetoric blossoms into his personal race war with America masquerading as a presidential campaign.
That his words are being denounced by Congress is important. Trump is officially on record as using racist rhetoric.
But so what? History abounds with more than just racist words. How about actions?
What was Truman signing the Rescission Act, taking away Filipino WW II veterans’ right to citizenship after answering FDR’s call to fight next to Americans? A budgetary move? Or racism?
History tells us we’ve been here before. And we have survived. The big things, and the small ones.
In California in the ‘90s, Asian Americans fought hard against Prop. 187, which took services away from undocumented immigrants.
In the ‘80s, we fought to get people to become citizens when there was an attempt to cut SSI benefits to older immigrants.
When California’s Prop. 209 began spreading the “colorblind” idea to eliminate perceived discrimination against whites, the so-called “Civil Rights Initiative” got rid of affirmative action in state employment and at public institutions of higher learning, like the University of California.
History is full of “go home” variations. And history says this too shall pass. But only if we pull together and realize we are all on the same “squad.”
Obama talked about all of us being on the same team. Why does Trump want to be president and kick us off the team?
That’s what makes this transgression toward us a little more dangerous. In previous attempts to exclude us or take away rights, people were trying to appeal on some false moral high road. In the colorblind fight, proponents misconstrued Dr. Martin Luther King’s words to get rid of affirmative action.
In Trump’s case, there is nothing subtle. There’s no attempt to deny the divisive racism fueling the rhetoric. As the monologist Mike Daisey said, performing in his “A People’s History” at DC’s Arena Stage, Trump is simply taking off the hood.
To have the president as your proxy is powerful, as the Trump base yells adoringly, “Racist, my racist.”
They’ve been waiting for this moment a long time. And with the demographics of the U.S. changing, this is the time for them to fight for aggrieved white hate.
But in normal times, “Go Home” is a bullying sentiment. And even illegal.
If someone in a workplace told a fellow worker to “go home,” you can bet there’d be talk of a discrimination lawsuit.
Federal civil rights laws that protect the diversity of our country and its people still mean something.
My friend and colleague, attorney Rodel Rodis, posted a note about a lawsuit on behalf of nearly 70 Filipino American hospital workers at California’s Delano Regional Medical Center, who reported that they were subject to harassment and discrimination based on their national origin: “The workers alleged that fellow staffers “constantly made fun of their accents,” and some “were told to go back to the Philippines.”
“The EEOC argued that the employees’ conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the hospital settled the case for $975,000, distributed between the approximately 70 employees, while committing to develop stronger anti-harassment rules in the hospital.”
The law matters and protects diversity in America.
That triumphant U.S. Women National Soccer Team was built in large part due to Title IX.
Laws protecting diversity still work when the rule of law still means something in America.
It’s just a problem when no less than the president chooses to tippy-toe boldly into Fascism.
What else is it when Trump says “Go Home,” and leads the cheer of “Send her back”?
It’s fascist. It’s un-American. And we are in new dangerous territory after last weekend.
Trump breaks down norms and does the unthinkable as people’s heads spin. When you recover, the country isn’t the same, and America is less than what it was.
We can’t let that happen. History is on our side–if we know enough to understand what’s happening in plain sight.
Of course, Trump seems to want it both ways. To have his fascist foray and eat it too. Thursday afternoon, he was asked about the rally, and he actually said he “disagreed” with the “send her back” chant.
He didn’t. Another gaslighting moment from the president.
He should run a utility company, not a country.
In the meantime, let’s all tell the stories of our past, to help us realize exactly what we’ve overcome and what truly makes America great today.
Glefen, my Lyft driver, couldn’t believe the story of how Filipinos were treated in the ‘30s when Filipinophobia was the source of white men’s rage.
We’ve been here before. But so have the perps. In 2019, it will take an even greater united effort from the community in coalition with others to beat back this attempt to exclude and marginalize our voices.
The simple solution: Make sure you register and vote in 2020, and tell all your friends to do the same.
See what I told Glefen at my Capital Fringe show) this week at 555 Water St., SW, in DC:
Saturday, July 20 at 1pm
Tuesday, July 23 6:15pm
Friday, July 26 at 5:15 pm
Saturday, July 27 at 9:15 pm
Sunday, July 28 at 2:45 pm.