Oscars, bathroom debate, and immigration–In one year, America goes from #OscarsSoWhite to #TrumpSoWhite


This is Oscar Weekend, a time when we’re supposed to escape the humdrum of everyday life for the uplifting fantasies of movie-dom.

And then everything changed, when real life turned into “Trump, the presidency.”

I even liked the most popular movie of 2016, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” mostly for its Asian buddy-movie-within-a-movie. How comforting to see Hong Kong star Donnie Yen as the blind and fearless martial artist Chirrut Imwe, alongside Jiang Wen, the kind but brutish Baze Malbus.


Along with the other cast members, it was intragalactic diversity at its finest. Good to see they were so progressive “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”

But it was too much to think any of them would get an Oscar nomination. The movie got two nominations for sound mixing and visual effects.

Still, diversity is so present on the big screen in the 2017 Oscars, it’s hard for me not to root for the breakthrough “Moonlight,” or Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in “Fences,” or Dev Patel in “Lion.” Or being an intermarrier myself, Ruth Negga in “Loving.”

I even liked “Manchester by the Sea,” nominated for Best Picture, where Best Actor nominee, Casey Affleck, plays a tragic figure trying to overcome grief. He’s a member of the 99 percent. Relatable, not rich. A somber loner, Affleck’s Lee Chandler is a white janitor in working class Massachusetts. Taking another job from some immigrant.

He’s probably not a Trump voter in Boston’s North Shore, but a Trump voter in Wisconsin or Michigan?

Watching that movie matched how I felt about the country and the world. I’m ready to sucker punch someone.

It’s the reason I can’t root for “La La Land.”

I don’t feel like dancing with Emma Stone, not when the world has changed.

Whatever happens on Oscar night, #OscarSoWhite is no longer a concern.

But #TrumpSoWhite sure is.


As I watched last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the most striking thing to me was hearing what must be Trump’s penance for giving us Alabama’s Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

Sessions, the man who would make Coretta Scott King roll in her grave, is head of the Justice Department, and the point man in the rollback of civil rights in America.

Knowing that, Trump reassured last week for all to hear: “No matter our color…or the blood, the color of the blood we bleed, it’s the same red blood of great, great patriots.”

I guess that means even my American Filipino blood.

And then Trump said declaratively in his not-so-Lincolnesque way: “We all salute with pride the same American flag. And we all are equal, totally equal in the eyes of almighty God. We’re equal.”

Did you get the emphasis? Equal. Not Sweet and Low. Not Splenda. Equal.

But still, somewhat artificial.

Maybe it will send a signal to those emboldened by Trump to be their whitest, rudest, racist selves.

The day before, in a reversal, Trump let everyone know just what he thought of the LGBTQIA community.

Despite a vow in January that he would protect the rights of that community, the day before CPAC, Trump went about-face on the Obama administration’s guidance on the issue of transgender bathrooms.

Obama had previously said the Title IX provisions against sex discrimination applied to trans people in education.

Trump said it’s a states’ rights issue. We fought a civil war over that.

Will we fight over the bathrooms?

At Lambda Legal, Demoya Gordon told me more people contacted their office confused about the Trump action.

“There’s a lot of panic out there and a lot of fear,” Gordon told me. “Transgender people are used to having their rights trampled on. And when you have a statement by government that seems to sanction that discrimination, you can understand why transgender people are waking up with more fear today.”

She assured that the guidance was one thing. Title IX is still intact. Trans people can still vindicate their rights in court.

But it looks like the big case is coming on March 28 in the Supreme Court with the case involving 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, a trans high school student.__


There was even more confusion as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents conducted more raids throughout the country.

Early leaks of ICE’s new strategy indicated that the priority would no longer be just criminals and felons, the “bad dudes” as Trump likes to say, but others who may be in violation of far lesser offenses.

What exactly does that mean?

Mass deportations? Trump seemed to indicate that, saying “it’s a military operation.”

But it was just more fuel for Trump’s own fake news generation.

Later, John F. Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security head, had to clarify: “There will be no use of military forces in immigration. There will be no–repeat, no–mass deportations.”

Perhaps the emphasis was for his boss.

Yet, everything on the ground suggests a situation no less tough than the Obama administration’s massive deportations.

And what about immigrant workers in Chinese restaurants?


Last week, a round up in Central Mississippi’s Asian American community netted more than 50 Asian restaurant workers.

Are these Trump’s “bad dudes”? Or just the low-hanging fruit intended to alarm a nation?

The president didn’t pick on DACA recipients for now. But the new policy is so vague and so broad, no one would be surprised if a DACA protected student gets caught in the mix. And, of course, there are no protection guarantees for their parents.

If you don’t think Asian Americans should be concerned about any of this, in my upcoming podcast, historian Erika Lee reminds us that Asian Americans are the both the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S., as well as the fastest growing undocumented immigrant group, who are likely to feel the changes in policy.

Lee notes how Asian Americans were the very first group to be successfully banned from immigration, and she calls Trump’s executive orders on immigration and the travel ban worse than the Chinese Exclusion Act.

And we thought that was as low as it gets.

But Trump is going lower. The lowest.

He’s seemingly going back to the spirit of American immigration at its rock bottom start, the Naturalization Act of 1790.

That law offered up the first rules for citizenship in America, excluding American Indians, slaves, free blacks, and Asians, and limiting naturalization to immigrants who were free white persons of good cha racter.

Sounds like Trump’s secret formula for his cabinet and his country.

It’s #TrumpSoWhite.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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