Tag Archives: Asian American

Emil Guillermo: When I first saw Bobby Jindal

I wrote this back in 2007  for my AsianWeek column when I first heard of Bobby Jindal.

Who would of thunk he was presidential timber?

My first impressions still hold true.

And now he wants to be the leader of the free world.


Uncle Bob Jindal: Man of No Color

Print Friendly

The politics of color is changing in America. For people of color, the best path to success may be to become a “person of no color.”

I caution people in evaluating the apparent success of Bobby Jindal.

Jindal, the first Indian American in U.S. history to be elected governor last Saturday — in Louisiana of all places — is what I call a “man without color.”Normally, you’d describe a person “without color” as white, but even white is a color. Jindal’s a guy who seems to aspire to being totally colorless (that’s not to say bloodless, though we are talking about a professional politician here).

In the past, this sort of character might have been labeled a chameleon, but even that’s not quite Jindal.

He doesn’t change skin tone. His skin is still as dark and constant given his immigrant Hindu parents from Punjab.

But the changes are they’re on the inside, which makes the constancy of his skin tone a tool of deception.

When you see a person of color, you expect someone with similar values, views, beliefs — someone in touch with the emerging new majority. With Jindal, you get someone who very deliberately and proudly downplays his race in order to seek his own individual path. That kind of independence under certain circumstances may be commendable. But only if you happen to agree with his ideas that range from free-market health care, intelligent design instead of evolution, anti-choice and a fenced-in America.

When did Newt Gingrich die and reincarnate?

Whites, of course, regard Jindal as their Asian American Republican Catholic with impeccable Ivy League and Rhodes Scholar credentials.

And boy, are they happy to see a little friendly pigment float into their universe.
But for those in the South Asian community, the joy for Jindal has been mixed. Where’s the breakthrough for Asian Americans when the celebrant hardly acknowledges his ethnicity or doesn’t represent us?

Vijay Prashad, a professor of South Asian history at Trinity College in Hartford, described how Jindal has been portrayed in the Indian American ethnic press.

“The fact that he’s of Indian ancestry is a subject of jubilation,” said Prashad in the New York Times. “But there’s a very shallow appreciation of who he really is. Once you scratch the surface, it’s really unpleasant.” In other words, can you praise him and still hold your nose at the same time?

We have seen this before. South Asians have already had Dinesh D’Souza. Filipinos have current Fox darling Michelle Malkin. But they’re mere right-wing commentators, not elected officials.

Jindal may be the political empowerment version of the Pogo line, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.” It’s negative diversity — where the group is abandoned for individual glory.

When Jindal won, even the New York Times saw it fitting to remark how the first words from his mouth weren’t about his historic ethnic victory. It was about LSU’s defeat of Auburn earlier that day. It’s an old trick, a la “We’re all part of the same team. Just us honky-tonk footballers here!”

Is he bridge-building? Or is it an example of the sickening kind of denial that can easily be attributed to ambitious, Darwinian, “every person for himself,” success stories in our minority communities?

Perhaps it shows that immigration can be the “Great American Makeover.”

Yet we know a number of successful Asian Americans, politicians among them, who don’t forget their origins and are truly in step with the struggles of their mainstream community.

In an almost calculated way, Jindal has positioned himself away from racial politics that we know, and toward something else of his making. But how does someone get elected in Louisiana without a solid plan to address post-Katrina infrastructure and build-up?

I was almost willing to give Jindal a pass during his transition and be mildly impressed by his colorless approach. But then came the negative Los Angeles Times story on the rise of Chinese immigrants who give to Hillary Clinton. Nothing illegal.

But the implication was that this strange idea of immigrants being part of the process was somehow unhealthy if only Democrats benefit. The fact is color still matters in politics.

Maybe not to the new governor of Louisiana, whose real name, by the way, is Piyush Jindal.

He adopted the name Bobby because he liked The Brady Bunch. Now he’s created a unique modern character in Asian American political history: “Uncle Bob.”

Emil Guillermo: Rachel Dolezal resigns NAACP post–did she have to?

I was expecting more of a fight.

But it looks like Rachel Dolezal was being pressured on both sides for passing.

It’s not like we have a real hard and fast standard for identity.

Even in the Census, we live in a “you are what you say you are world,” with the ability to self-define.

You can call yourself anything. If that’s who you say you are, then it’s fine for the official count.

It’s not passing. It’s not lying. Just mark one box and live with it.

Given that set of ethics,  I’m surprised that Rachel Dolezal was unable to weather the storm created in the media and resigned this morning from her NAACP post in Spokane.

Even the NAACP said there was nothing in its  by-laws preventing her from holding a leadership position in the organization.

So what do we have here?

Likely some kind of internal politics, where some may feel the leadership of an NAACP chapter is an “African American” only position, and used the issue of her race to raise a critical point of ethics and integrity.  Enough to oust Dolezal.

Passing as black? Oh mon dieu!

It also riled up those on the outside who look on the NAACP in Spokane as “the enemy,” who made it a big “Gotcha!”

Still, anybody hurt by Dolezal’s transgressions?

From all accounts, she has been an effective activist and leader.

Now she’s gone.

If you were on the inside and hated Dolezal, you’re smiling.

And if you’re up there in the conservative part of western Washington, you’ve just touched up a real adversary by discrediting and needlessly putting the NAACP through the national media wringer.





Emil Guillermo: Asian American with the game winner! Bobby Wood? Hawaii-born, California-raised, now a hero for U.S. Men’s Soccer in first victory on German soil ever.

Asian American alert:Bobby Shou Wood, from Honolulu, who played youth soccer in Irvine, Calif., and now plays pro soccer in Germany, was the U.S. hero in yesterday’s U.S.Men’s team friendly versus Germany in Cologne. Bobby Wood. Yes. Asian American. Just look at his fade.


Click here to read more. 



Emil Guillermo: David Letterman had his own Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration this week.

Usually it’s some government office kind of event. But he honored his Asian American employees this week.

That’s what you get when you retire during heritage month.

See my tribute to Dave here.

See this clip of Asian American legend Connie Chung “singing” on Letterman in 1988.


LIKE  and FOLLOW us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media

And FOLLOW my latest tweets  on  Twitter    http://www.twitter.com/emilamok