Crime. Identity. And Politics.

I’ve just read this article, “My life as an Undocumented Immigrant”. And it makes me want to cry. Why do you ask? I’ve never really feel so “other” in all my life. And it seems silly to say, but it’s because I’m a hyphen. I’m a Filipino-American. I’ll make a generalization about us privileged college-educated Filipino-Americans and our search for identity and representing and dissecting that struggle through various club activities and PCN (Pilipino Cultural Night). Yes, I’ve even stopped the pretense of spelling Filipino with a “P”. I get it. We’re making a cultural and political stance about being Proud and Filipino. Pilipino. Because our language does not traditionally contain an “F”- the traditional and nationalist way of spelling Filipino is Pilipino.

This article disturbs me and hugs me at the same time. It disturbs me because it gets at the root of everything that I’ve felt about being a hyphen American. As in NOT American. Not a “Full” one anyway. And how do I react to places that don’t accept me? I rebel. I call myself Filipino not Asian. I call myself Pilipino not Filipino. I call myself a womyn, not a woman. One of my discomfitures of being a part and apart of America is race. Its a topic that has kind of made me who I am today- someone who fights for those who have been traumatized, other-ed, oppressed, and in plain and simple terms hurt by the way that society has treated them.

I’ve been paralyzed by fear as well. Maybe not to the extent of Jose Vargas. But I’ve always worried about not acting right, or wearing the right clothes, or saying the right thing. Because, Mr. Vargas, I’ve also worried about not being “enough”- not being American enough. My legal status is of a citizen, but does that stop you in Arizona where they can pull you over and ask you to present your legal papers? Would a blonde, blue-eyed, white-skinned person be just as likely to be pulled over?

One of the processes of assimilation and internal oppression is feeling apologetic for the color of your skin. I admit that growing up during the vulnerable emotional times of middle school and high school I wished I was white. Then, I was a double traitor. Not American enough. Not Filipino enough.

These are the thoughts that occur to me when I hear immigration debates. Not because the fact of illegal immigration isn’t real. I know even people in my extensive familial network who are possibly enacting the TNT (Tago ng Tago = Hide and hide from immigration) status. What I feel is this: where does the immigration debate stop?

The answer is that it doesn’t. It doesn’t stop. Immigration status boils down to creating and delineating legal differences for people where it doesn’t matter. Or it shouldn’t matter if we’re trying to create a society of hope and diversity. Gay marriage is another example of creating and delineating legal differences. “You can’t have the same rights because you’re not the same as us.” In a society, heck any human society, punishment is a form of social regulation. If you get hurt when you put your hand in a fire- then you don’t try to touch the fire again. If two men get dirty looks or snide comments holding hands in public, they might not hold hands again. If a woman tries to enjoy her sexuality by dancing suggestively at a club and then later gets raped because “she acted like a whore”, she might be scared to ever express herself again. If a person can’t get access to education or a job because they don’t have the right papers, they’ll start feeling like they are not a citizen. And in these debates, what people confuse citizen with is human. As in citizen = human. Then the result is taking someone’s legal rights away from them dehumanizes them.

So why is it a hug- you ask? Because I feel relieved every time I hear that someone feels the same way that I do. Because I understand- empathize- with how he feels. Because that means that it isn’t an individual problem, it’s a systemic and cultural problem. And I’m glad he’s brave enough to jeopardize his life, his Pulitzer Prize winning life mind you, to say that he’s been hurt by this ridiculous system that we have in place to make human beings feel like they are worthless and – at worst – criminals.

Is a man who steals $1 from a bank to get health care a criminal? Who is the criminal? The man or the system that forces the man who is in so much pain to seek jail as an alternative to health care? So where is the crime in a system that would deport a man who won a Pulitzer Prize?

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This is apparently the first push for Jose Vargas’ campaign Define American | http://defineamerican.org/

Reasons Why the Washington Post Didn’t Publish Jose Vargas’ article
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0611/57591.html

Jose Vargas’ Personal Webpage
http://joseantoniovargas.com/

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Bike. More?

I’ve recently learned how to ride a bike and while I appreciate the skills I’ve learned. There are still a few things that trip me up about it. This is an interesting article and can I just say I identify with ALL of them? =P

http://www.grist.org/biking/2011-06-20-bicyclings-gender-gap-its-the-economy-stupid

Snippets of note:

“A widely cited 2009 study found that women are more likely to choose to ride on quiet residential streets, while men are more likely to choose direct routes even if they have heavier traffic. Women are an “indicator species” for cycling, this study concludes, and that cities can cajole greater women ridership by building safer-feeling bike infrastructure.”

Women Bicyclists Vintage Photo

“Another barrier: Bicycling takes time. And this is something that, by the numbers, women have less of than men. In 2004, employed women reported an average of one more hour of housework per day than their employed male counterparts. These same employed women reported twice the time spent caring for young children. Employment status being equal, we have more household duties and are far more likely than men to be caregivers for aging relatives.”

“Bicycling is, in much of the car-centric U.S., either a privilege or a punishment. That’s why more women aren’t bicycling. It isn’t because we’re fearful and vain; it’s because we’re busy and broke and our transportation system isn’t set up for us to do anything but drive.”

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Living Life to the Fullest

Recently I had an aunt die from lymphoma. I still have mixed feelings about this, but my aunt had lived 30 years on a transplanted kidney. She was a fierce woman who lived by the motto, “work hard, play hard, love hard”. She was kind and generous and vivacious.

I’ve also passed a few milestones in my own life like going from 25 to 26 years old. This is probably not the biggest deal to many of you, but 25/26 is also the time when your body starts deteriorating.

My mother had breast cancer and survived. My cousin has breast cancer and went through chemotherapy and survived. Just last year my uncle had cancer and did not survive.

It’s been a wakeup call these recent years. I can’t treat my body badly like it’s going to last forever. Because it’s not if I don’t eat right or exercise. But its also a wakeup call not to be complacent because anything could happen at any time. I think if I had the luxury of looking back once I expired- would I be happy with what I’ve done? Or would I regret the things I was too scared to do?

I was in a running group 6 years ago training for a marathon. I didn’t end up running because I hurt my hip. And so it’s been a regret of mine that I’ve never ran a marathon. I know though that I have to go slow. 5k 10k Half and Full.

Unlike my friend Joanne (The Fierce Runner) – I don’t know if this is the year of running. Maybe for me it’s the year of commitments, following through, and enjoying life.

Today I ran for 15 minutes (due to some serious congestion issues I had to stop). I won’t let anything stop me but I do have to take it one step at a time.

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Painting the Town Red

I wish you all an exciting weekend. Better than mine anyway! I am soooo ridiculously sick, but luckily being sick doesn’t prevent you from blogging.

Here’s all the red bikes I saw on Friday last week. It’s like everyone got the red memo.

Anyway hear hear to those who paint the town red on weekends and everyday!

Look at this cool motorcycle-like bicycle.
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Missing seat tube off a mountain bike. I hope the bicyclist took it with him.
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Red scooter-like bicycle.
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Here’s another view. Look at the logo on the side- very SF!
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And a red scooter!
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Happy Friday! I hope you feel better than me!

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Overjoyed / Overturned!

Prop 8 was overturned in the California Supreme Court last night! And on to the Federal Court! We’ll see…

The last time I marched from the Castro to Civic Center, it was a completely different emotion. People were hurting and needed an outlet to vent their frustrations. So I joined a group of my friends in support to call an end to Prop H8. I felt helpless and disappointed with California voters. Whatever views you may have, religious or political, I feel that prop 8 is really a line connoting difference. Like my previous post on Jan Brewer, Prop 8 is another line of the have or have-nots or those who belong and those who do not. What makes a citizen and what rights we American citizens have.

I’m happy to say the march to Civic Center on Wednesday was a complete 180 from the other march. People were happy and as cars drove by they beeped in support. Community building, not division.

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Sing it, Stevie…

And though you don’t believe that they do
They do come true
For did my dreams
Come true when I looked at you
And maybe too, if you would believe
You too might be
Overjoyed, over loved, over me

And though the odds say improbable
What do they know
For in romance
All true love needs is a chance
And maybe with a chance you will find
You too like I
Overjoyed, over loved, over you, over you

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I’m Looking At You: Thoughts on Racial Profiling in Arizona and Manhattan

Read this article, Because Jan Brewer Is Everywhere, here. [Or as I have reproduced it in it’s entirety at the end of this post]

Racial Profiling as drawn by Dan Cagle

My thoughts:

I think what Realuyo says really hits home. And I’m sad to say that my vehement stand against SB 1070 isn’t entirely altruistic. But what Realuyo says hits home, “I am obviously not one of these people”. As a person of color, I get the feeling everyday that I am not one. Maybe that’s why I yearn for community and for an identity to such a degree. Because I’m searching for a place to belong. I know as a person of color and even as a woman of color identity politics and “finding yourself” become cliche. We have countless PCNs, groups with the words “woman”/”Filipino”/what-have-you, and so many other events based on our identities or parts of our personality. And, yes, I have (and still do) contend that these groups are problematic and at the very worst exclusive and alienating. That’s with any group. And so I come to the term “American”, SB 1070 has deemed what an “American” should look like. I recall another moment in history where certain groups of people had to carry around identification, rounded up, and sent away because of their difference. Unfortunately, it is a regular occurrence in history. And since we have the hindsight of history- we know how it’s going to end. Badly.

America is lauded for it’s cultural diversity. But it’s also constantly struggling with it. I’m not sure why “American” has come to mean blond and blue-eyed or just white. In any case, brown or black means “not American”. I know when people meet me for the first time one of the first questions (if they’re going to ask it anyway. I’ve met people who didn’t bring it up until later) is “where are you from”. I know what they’re asking, but I like making things difficult so I answer “San Diego”. And so they are forced to ask, “where are your parents from?”. And then I respond. I know if I were to ask a white person “where are you from?”, I’d get a myriad of answers such as: New York, Iowa, Florida, etc. And that would be acceptable. If you are a white person, do you recall the last time someone asked about your ancestors who came on the Mayflower, Dutch colonizers in New York, or even your Creole Louisiana background? No. I don’t believe it does. I’m sure no one questions where Jan Brewer grew up. By the way, in case you were interested a quick wiki and google of Jan Brewer yields the results that her mother’s maiden name is Bakken, which is Scandinavian in origin. Do you care? No. Why? Because she’s white. And I know the term “white guilt” also. And I am not chastising or in any way negatively connoting what it means to be white. I am just pointing out that being white is a “get out of jail free card”. Especially in Arizona. No one questions your ethnicity if you’re white. It is when you are brown or black that it becomes problematic.

And Realuyo brings up another point, “they probably assumed I was Latino”. Racial profiling of Mexicans is vague and unclear (and unfair). But that is the crux, how do you convert a legal status “illegal” into the way someone looks? Again Realuyo highlights the idea that racial profiling is really rooted in who belongs and who does not in a purely visual and shallow way. I won’t go into the complicated ideology of citizenship because that’s for another post. I just wanted to clarify that racial profiling is an inexact and prejudiced way of determining one’s citizenship in the US.

Racial Profiling definition (as found here)

Definition of racial profiling

Racial profiling occurs when someone’s race is used by law enforcement officials (police, airport security, counter-terrorist agencies etc.) as a basis for criminal suspicion. The reason for suspicion is race rather than suspicious behavior, criminal clues, witness reports, evidence etc.

and this arguement that racial profiling is illegal can also be found in the same post here.

Racial profiling is illegal

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (source)

The “probable cause” means that a search (frisking, stopping a car etc.) can only take place for a good reason. Being of a certain race can never be a good reason, since there are no races that are criminal a such. Most people of all races are law-abiding citizens. Being of a certain race doesn’t in itself make you more likely to commit a crime.

What scares me is that racial profiling has been made legal and it won’t just stop in Arizona. It hasn’t as evidenced by Realuyo. It happens in Manhattan. It happens in Arizona. It happens in California. It happens everywhere as long as our society continues to believe that we can tell who belongs and who does not by sight alone.
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Because Jan Brewer is Everywhere

Thanks to Jan Brewer, we are all Arizona. The fascist machine that she’s created has been on my mind a lot lately. I am a staunch protester of SB 1070 that took effect on Thursday, but I didn’t expect it to be delivered to my doorstep in the same week, a reminder perhaps of how quickly the essence of this fascist machine can travel and put into practice by those with very narrow minds.

On Monday, I decided to do my laundry early in the evening. I usually do it late at night, around 9pm, so I don’t have to run into the residents of the building. To do laundry, I had to go through the front door (one doorman) and the elevator (another doorman) to be taken to the basement. During the day, the laundry room is full of brown people, all maids of the white people who live in my building. After a few times of being asked by the brown maids where I worked, I decided to stop going there during the day. I live in an all-white-resident building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. As the only brown person in my building, I have been mistaken for a delivery boy by newly-hired white doormen (they’re all white), and have not been let into the building until the another doorman confirmed that I lived here. Once they found out that I actually lived here and had no pizza to deliver, they became extremely gracious, as they should be. The laundry room is next to the exit of the parking garage. At 5:45pm, I was happily stocking the washer with my clothes, when a woman, who so resembled Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, suddenly appeared at the door and condescendingly confronted me with, “WHAT APARTMENT ARE YOU IN?” Shocked, I actually answered her, and she left. Just like that.

Thanks to my netbook and wifi, I had access to my Facebook account and managed to post the incident as it happened. I usually stay in the laundry room until I finish, and spend my time doing some work on my netbook while I wait. I really should thank countless of you who responded to my public outcry with very supportive statements. I would find out within that hour that the hapless Jan Brewer of the Upper East Side was actually in a “position of power.” The doorman who witnessed the incident was just as angry and was more than happy to give me the real name of this woman. I was thinking, if such were the types to sit at the decision-making table in places like this, it comes as no surprise that there were no doormen-of-color in this building.

I was very furious that evening. I still remember her inimical gaze, the kind that rips into your soul. It was also the second time it happened to me in my building. I regret not having insulted her back, but what would that accomplish? I realized the reason why I decided to do my laundry late at night was because I really didn’t want to encounter another racial incident and ruin my day. I have developed coping mechanisms to survive this filthy rich white neighborhood I have lived in for over ten years. People wonder how I got here or what I’m doing here. I am obviously not one of these people. I tell them simply, I have relatives around the block. Yes, there are Filipinos on the Upper East Side. Yes, I am one of them. In fact, I spend so much time walking around here, I am probably a landmark, like the rusty lamp post in the corner.

Racial Profiling

Let’s talk about racial profiling. If I were a blond man doing my laundry on Monday, the Jan Brewer of the Upper East Side would think twice before violating me with such a highly-charged question. She would think twice, thrice, or may not even ask. She might even ask the doorman who I was first. She might even think I was cute. Or I might even take my shirt off for her and flex. She might even stutter while she asked me. Or she might just walk past me and assume I was a friend of one of the residents of my building, while muttering to herself, whoa, who was that? Whoa! Yet no, since I was brown, just like the women who cleaned their houses during the day, she just had to stop and find out where I WORKED. Yes, she didn’t think I lived here. She thought I worked here. She wanted to know my affiliation in the building by the apartment number I gave her. And now that she knew that I worked for Apartment # _, DANGER was lifted off her shoulder. Danger meaning, Me.

And such is the nature of racial profiling.

When Mexicans in Arizona are stopped by the police, who according to the real Jan Brewer of Arizona should be given the power to harrass, interrogate, and then arrest, only one assumption is made about them: these dangerous people don’t belong there. Because the Jan Brewer’s minions have already been blessed to propagate “if you’re brown, you must be illegal,” racial profiling has now been, to put it simply, institutionalized and systematized. And if you’re indeed one of the Mexicans who live there (remember, you NEED to look like a Mexican migrant), you need to save yourself the trouble and get out.

Diversity is in the Heart

I love America. I love the diversity of this country. I came from quite a homogeneous culture, with slight regional differences. But we basically resemble each other and ate the same food. I have lived in New York most of my life now, so any hint of homogeneity has faded in my brain (and tongue). I thrive in highly diverse environments. I choose it for work. I get restless when I work in an all black situation, or all white, or even, like in my last job, all-Filipino (teachers). When I was in San Francisco recently, I experienced culture shock because I only saw Filipinos for five days. It is so cliche to call New York the microcosm of the world, but it truly is. It is such a mesh of culture, that the melting pot has been taken to another level, just like this Mexican restaurant where I was the other night that was run by a family of Palestinians. Where do you find that?

Today, on the train in Manhattan, I gave directions in Spanish to some tourists who wanted to go to Wall Street. They probably assumed I was Latino. Being asked in Spanish by lost Latinos in New York is part of my quotidian existence. I love the idea that as a Filipino immigrant, I can assume many roles. Where else can this happen? In Arizona, I would have to carry an ID every single day, because I would certainly get stopped for looking like a Mexican migrant worker. I wonder what the police would think if I flashed them my Harvard student ID.

Jan Brewer is Everywhere

Jan, Jan, Jan. How holy do you think art thou? I don’t know what goes through the brains of these people who think they are better than others because of their color. In the time of Obama, the Jan Brewers of America seem to be coming out of their holes, and making their “holiness” a public spectacle. In Obama’s blackness, they find a reason to turn their bigotry into a public platform, after all, they “voted” for a black man. The down economy is their excuse to make accusations against the brown universe, and “post-racial” America is their forum to speak out. For the Jan Brewers, this is not about race. It can’t be. Not with a black president. In one of my job interviews, the non-profit Jan Brewer just couldn’t resist asking me, Where are you from? while his male counterpart ripped my resume apart and punctuated the ripping with, When did you leave Argentina? nary a blink (Yes, I studied there, but I am not from there, you racist idiot). They were both very comfortable with highly directed (and illegal) ethnic questions that had no bearing with the job. For these types, I make sure I wrote “Filipino” as one of the languages I speak on my resume. I am not sure Che Guevarra’s relatives spoke that language. Indeed, I, a brown immigrant man, have many coping mechanisms and am well-equipped to deal with these circumstances, or so I thought. Unfortunately, the Jan Brewers are quickly multiplying, with new strategies in the blame game.

The Jan Brewers are nervous. They are afraid the brown people are taking over the country. They are afraid that Spanish will become the lingua franca. And all of us will be watching Univision and not CNN, and eat rice and beans. They are afraid that sitcoms like Friends, Seinfeld, or Sex and the City, all set in New York, will have brown lead characters in it. And all the hospital shows will have Filipino and Jamaican Nurses. Ah, they don’t exist. After all, New York City has no brown people. None (except in my building.)

America’s face is changing. Jan Brewer is very afraid. Because she is very afraid, she needs to make sure that racial profiling becomes the law of the land, so we can send all the Mexicans back where they belong. (Yes, Texas.)

As the country diversifies and as racism permeates the brown universe, Jan Brewer will take on new identities. In the future, the Jan Brewers will no longer be white and blond. She will be black, latino, or worse, Filipino. That’s how viruses spread. We have already seen them, but that is for another blog entry.

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SF Bay Area Public Transportation

The other day I went to have a lovely dinner with Raf and Malyn and they gave me their keys (Mwuahaha!).This is what the commute from SF to Berkeley looks like. I’ll been doing this soon!

About to board the Muni in the Haight
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BART Station
(look at the dude with the bike, yeeeeah everybody commutes with a bike)
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On the BART
(this dude had a folding bike. It was a full size folding bike- usually the ones I see are half size wheels)
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I would have taken more pictures, but it got dark and camera phones aren’t always the best. Whomp whomp. But a good taste of the commuter’s lifestyle, no?

Cheers!

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