Emil Guillermo: More Amok after 25 years

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If you read the blog posts here on AALDEF, then you have the unofficial history of the last ten years of Asian America through my amok lens.

Stuff happened. We had opinions. We weren’t silent.

When I started writing for AALDEF in 2010, I had already been writing my Amok column once a week on Asian American issues that I syndicated in the ethnic media, beginning with San Francisco’s Asian Week in 1995.

2020 marks 25 years of continuous amokness. That’s more than 1,200 columns trying to convince people Asian American voices matter.

My very first column in Asian Week was on Connie Chung, then with CBS News and on prime time with her own show. She had just made waves with a “gotcha” interview with then Republican leader Newt Gingrich’s mom.

That’s right. It wasn’t an interview with the former GOP House Speaker, who was energized by talk radio to lead the first real conservative revolution in America in 1995.

The interview was with Gingrich’s mom.

In a “just between you and me” ask, Chung got Gingrich’s mom to reveal what Newt thought of Hillary Clinton.

See it here.

The story represented the polarization and personal animus of the 1990s. (See how it’s all evolved?) The story brought on such a backlash against Chung that even yours truly, who had long been critical of Chung’s choice of careerism over community, was compelled to support our gal Connie.

Coming to the defense of an unfairly maligned Asian American icon, or an Asian American anything, was my beat after all.

For fifteen years, I columned until Asian Week folded in 2010. Then, after a conversation with AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung at the Asian American Journalists Association convention in Los Angeles, I got the chance to move the column to the AALDEF blog.

The very first blog in 2010 was my amok take on the Rutgers suicide of a gay student, Tyler Clementi, and the Asian Americans who used technology to shame and bully Clementi to the point where he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Was it a hate crime?

I opined this in my first post:

The only bias they have is for something more interesting than their own boring lives. In the end, what motivated the Rutgers Deux isn’t the gayness, the sexiness, or anything remotely human.

These kids aren’t really voyeurs or sex deviants. Nor are they homophobes. They’re technophiliacs. I’m coining the term to define people with an irrational love of technology, where the love of technology is greater than the love of humanity. Where kindness is lost and never a consideration. The only thing that matters: Hey, I can do THAT with THIS GADGET? That IS SOOOO cool.

Call it “Plug and Play” morality.

From there, I wrote about the 2010 election and Nikki Haley and how she has emerged as THE Asian American politician on the right.

Look at how she’s evolved in a decade to where she maintains her Trump-positive stance as an Asian American female, and may be the GOP’s great diversity hope in the next decade. (That is, unless Tulsi Gabbard declares “present.”)

The last ten years, however, was really the Obama decade, and you’ll see the laudatory and hopeful columns I wrote. There was so much excitement in Washington when Obama took over. But it soon dissipated as the hope of bipartisanship just turned into a bigger fight. And then came the last four years since 2016. Instead of building on Obama’s tenure, there’s been such a negative backlash to diversity, hope, and change.

Trump has normalized xenophobia as his rallying call to undo not just the Obama years, but the last 50 years of progress.

And it could go further than 50 years if attitudes change about our nation’s Constitution and our governing democratic institutions. That’s the importance of being on the right side of the impeachment story.

I didn’t expect this to happen. I’ve been looking forward to this new decade since 1989, when demographers first noticed that if the demographic trends continue, minorities would be a majority.

But as diversity changes America’s complexion, here’s what we’re seeing–the rise of an authoritarian, strongman government doing all it can to do whatever it wants. Like keep the demographics at pre-1965 levels to satisfy a threatened white base.

Unless a leader brings us together and unites our country, the backdrop going forward into the next decade looks grim.

So you see, I really needed the laughs Ali Wong provided me this Christmas season.

In 2020, and the coming decade, with all the Asian American storytellers emerging, we’ll see more about us. And we’ll laugh for sure.

“Saturday Night Live” has always been a good target of my posts and columns. Over the last ten years, this space has taken shots at the “Not Ready for Diversity” players. (This SNL post is from 2010.)

In 2019, we now have Bowen Yang playing presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Progress?

OK, but recently on the Jennifer Lopez-hosted episode, SNL writers saw fit to mention Filipinos twice by name in the same show. That’s got to be a moment in racial show biz history. In one gag, a Weekend Update guest commentator talks about going up to honor a Native American woman he sees in the subway, and the woman replies back, “I’m Filipino.”

Huge laugh for mistaken identity.

Later in an ad parody, the writers pun “Filipino” with “Fallopian.”

We’re still punchlines. Is that really a sign of progress? Or are they just discovering a new group amongst us that won’t stand up to them?

It’s not like Eddie Murphy joking as “Buckwheat.” At least he’s in on the joke.

We aren’t. That can’t be a good sign.

Irony of ironies, we can expect to see more inclusion in the days ahead, with some laugh-inducing moments as well. Just figure we’ll experience hurt and some tears too on the policy front.

Compared to where we were ten years ago, the Trump era has only heightened the sense of polarization that exists in our country. When people have a hard time accepting truth and fact, that polarization only continues to build.

2020 and the decade ahead? The struggle in our unique conflict known as “being Asian American” won’t end soon.

Happy New Year? The answer to that will come in November.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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