Kuwento

In Napa, California, an anti-Filipino attack backfires

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03:58 PM January 16th, 2013

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By: Benjamin Pimentel, January 16th, 2013 03:58 PM

SAN FRANCISCO – The letter, arrogant, vile, hateful, was clearly meant to provoke.

It called the growing Filipino community in the city of American Canyon, in Napa County, “filthy.”

In a rambling, vicious rant, it accused them of having women with “CAUCASION” (sic) husbands   “to assist in ensuring their half-breed children have ‘straight noses’ in order to be accepted in non-Filipino society.”

It’s not clear who sent it. It also was not clear if the letter writer was white or non-white, or if that person (or persons) even lived in American Canyon or in Napa County.

But whoever sent it clearly knew it wouldn’t be popular. The letter was signed “Concerned American Canyon Neighbors.” That made sense in a way — he/she/they probably knew the reaction would be swift and strong.

In fact, it was.

The city council of American Canyon quickly considered a resolution condemning the attack and embracing a policy of tolerance. And that wasn’t enough for many of the city’s residents and their leaders.

Last week, despite the cold spell that recently hit the Bay Area, about 40 people marched from city hall to a shopping center. They held signs that said, “We (heart) everyone in AmCam.”

One of the marchers was the city’s mayor, Leon Garcia whose wife, Eva, is Filipino-American. A newly-elected city councilmember, Kenneth Leary, was also there. “We don’t tolerate racism in any form,” he told the Napa Valley Register.

And it wasn’t just talk. American Canyon has a fairly Filipino-friendly city government. One can browse the city government Web site in Tagalog. City leaders are known to take part in Filipino events.

It’s a wonderful community. My wife and I once considered moving there years ago. We once joined a city-sponsored fun run.

Part of the reason we liked American Canyon was because it’s in Napa County, famous for its vineyards and wineries and other attractions. Another reason was its huge Filipino community. In fact, we have many friends who live there. One of them is my kumpare Persi Trance who saw the solidarity march as an affirmation of his belief in American Canyon.

“Natuwa ako doon,” he told me. “That made me happy. The mayor and the city councilmembers did something immediately. Then some of the businesses supported the action by providing the sings.”

“I’m not worried,” he continued. “The Filipino community is well-established here. And it’s really diverse. Do I think there could be Tea Party type racist violence here? I don’t think so.”

But he’s lived in the U.S. long enough to know that racism still exists, that it would be naïve to think that racial tensions in American are a thing of the past.

“Sa akin, bahagi iyan ng buhay sa America. That’s part of living in America that there are those who are ignorant and have racist tendencies.”

But he also picked up on the point I raised: the letter writer/writers launched an anonymous attack – because he/she/they knew the backlash would be immediate and decisive.

“Kung alam nilang tama ang ginagawa nila, hindi sila magtatago,” Persi told me. “If they knew what they did is okay, they wouldn’t find the need to hide.”

I found out about the letter on “Positively Filipino,” the new online magazine based in the Bay Area. That’s worth noting, in a way.

The magazine’s name comes from the infamous sign at a hotel in Stockton in the 1940s. It said: “Positively No Filipinos Allowed.”

The sign was clearly displayed in a public place, clearly aimed at intimidating, humiliating Filipinos. Whoever put up the sign knew it was okay to convey its message of hate, a message made even more abhorrent with the word “positively.”

No need to hide. No need to use false names.

That positively was not the case this month in Napa County, in a city called American Canyon.

On Twitter @BoyingPimentel. Visit (and like) the Kuwento page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/boyingpimentel

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