Who gets the blame when a bi-racial Obama screws up?

Thanks to Wanda Sykes, we know.

At Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner (now simply called the WHCD), comedienne Sykes pointed out that the “first black president,” was in fact  bi-racial.

So when Obama’s wonderful, he’s  TFBP (the first black president).  But when he screws up—then he’s the white guy.

Obama is positioned by birth to be at both ends of the joke.  He can be the pin-pricker and the pin-pricked.  It’s the new ethnic humor.   As mixed marriages and their offspring grow in number,  expect to see more of this  new ethnic joke form come up.

I said the same thing recently about Giants’ Tim Lincecum, last year’s Cy Young winner for best pitcher in the NL. When he’s pitching well, we Filipinos love to point out he’s  at least a quarter Filipino (which explains his greatness, of course).  But when he’s getting shelled and pitching poorly,  that must be the white part  giving up all those hits.

I point this out because ethnic humor may be one way to break the ice and begin having those awkward race conversations Attorney General Eric Holder said we should be having.

If we start talking wonkily about race by exploring Brown and Plessy, or their latter day counterparts that could impact us all,  no one will be having a conversation soon.

But if we talk about our president like Sykes did at the WHCD, we may be able to sneak up on the tough conversations we are too  cowardly to have.

Manny Pacquiao should quit now and run for president of the Philippines

Would Manny be worse than anyone else being mentioned now?  That country has already had a B-movie action hero as president.  So far, some of the names bandied about include a  Catholic priest and  a former TV anchor.  A boxer? Why not? Pacquiao could at least live up to the traditional standard political rhetoric. Last year, when Hillary Clinton said she would “fight for you,”  voters didn’t buy it.  If Manny says he will fight for you, now that’s credibility!  Budgets,  public policy, creating a middle class?  PacMan can hire technocrats to figure out those details. ,Pacquiao’s emerging fame from the Hatton fight and his “shot heard round the world” already makes him more  famous and influential than the current president of the Philippines, Gloria-what’s-her-name.

The Philippines desperately needs a leader, a man who can inspire and bring hope. And change.

Sound familiar?

As I’ve said, Pacquiao’s  pugilistic rock-star appeal  makes him potentially  the Barrack Obama of the Philippines.

If  you were being frugal and didn’t get the pay-per-view,  catch the PacMan put the hurt on Hatton.

The shot heard round the world?  See for yourself.


Remembering Al Robles, Filipino American poet and activist

Even as the global Filipino community cheers the triumph of boxing’s  Manny Pacquiao, those in the Bay Area have tempered their glee as more learn the news of Al Robles’ death on Saturday.

Manong Al was the quintessential amok, whose life was the perfect balance between wildly creative  self-expression and dedicated and continuous community service. An activist and a poet, I first met Al 28 years ago in 1981 when I returned to San Francisco as a television reporter and did a follow up story on the legendary International Hotel.  I found him running a senior center on the edge of Chinatown by day, reading and writing poetry by night. Through the years, he was one of my best sources, a grassroots barometer of the community, always zeroed in on what was going  on.

Earlier this month, I learned that Al had come down with Guillian-Barre’ Syndrome, a debilitating disease that compromises the immune system. His illness was not thought to be life threatening when activists  let Robles’ network of friends know of his illness.  But few updates on his condition arrived. Only this weekend did his close friends begin  spreading the word that Robles had indeed passed away May 2.

Manong Al was always warm and friendly, greeting me as “Mr. Amok” whenever I saw him. He was always encouraging me to keep on doing my work in the ethnic media.  How he treated me was indicative of how he treated others. His unique role was to be both inspiration and motivation to all.

In these rough times, Al’s fighting spirit will be sorely missed.

May Day, May Day: It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

But does any one care?

I survived Vice President Joe Biden’s warning yesterday having taken a cross-country plane trip, a bus ride, and a subway ride all within  the same 24 hours.

I’m not sure what I’m incubating, but I’m proud to say I lived to see the start of another APA month.

Coincidentally, Asian Pacific Americans are competing with others who have declared May Anxiety Disorders Month, Digestive Disease Awareness Month and Better Sleep Month ( and that’s a short list among others including bike enthusaists and hug givers).

That means there’s probably no better way to celebrate  May than to find a crazy Asian American with lactose-intolerant inspired gas attacks,  then ride a bike to their place to hug and have a great nap!

But, of course, only if you really want to get into the spirit of things.

APA Month was originally a week, but expanded to a month, perhaps because it gave people more time to forget that it was a time to celebrate.

I’ve long complained during APA month that another one comes along and no one ever sends me so much as a Hallmark card.   Some public employees  groups and non-profits annually  celebrate with food and music fests (APA Month is a good excuse to have one more lumpia and dance the tinikling).  This year,  Asian Week no longer publishes but it does have its public display, the big street festival.

But generally, the month is lost in the shuffle what with seemingly everyone else claiming May, or the month is taken for granted, if not totally forgotten. That of course is the shame. APA month is a chance to spotlight the community and let others  develop their experience and appreciation of us.  If prejudice and discrimination are based on ignorance, an APA Month should be seen as our educational tool to help non-Asians  understand that their “foreign” neighbors have real American roots. Old hat? Effective education requires repetition.

But on the eve of our month, I was forced to rethink who this month was really for.

I was on a subway in Boston and bumped into an Asian American woman a Stanford grad visiting from California.  I told her about how things in Boston had changed since I went to college in the area in the 70s. Back then, the Asians were normally elites from Asia off for an American adventure.  Asian American working stiffs from Calif. were few and far between. These days, however,  Harvard’s APA population is around 30 percent. And they’re not all Asian royalty.

As I spoke, the young Stanford grad looked at me  like I was some kind of alien.  To her, race/ethnicity was no big deal today. She even admitted she doesn’t really see herself as Asian American, or identify by her ethnicity.

It was my post-racial moment, to use the term often brought up by the ascent of President Obama.  Some have wondered what  post-racial means.  I think it’s primarily a generational view. Same as the debate among many Asian Americans who split on the Hillary/Barack debate.

If you are over 45,  race is still a relevant part of your past and present. It’s in your DNA.  But sometimes it seems that no one knows or cares about the trouble you’ve seen.

If you were born during the Reagan era, you feel you belong.  Life is good and we’re all inclusive now–in theory.  So the post-racial era is  how we all adapt to each others’ ignorance and prejudices. And maybe move closer together.  But  there’s still a generational divide in there and it’s changed the purpose of APA month.

I used to say APA month was more important as a way for everyone else to understand us and the Asianness in our different cultures.

Now with the diversity within our communities, and this new generational divide, it seems like we need APA month more than ever— just to understand how we have grown and changed as Americans.

Emil Guillermo's amok commentary on race, politics, diversity…and everything else. It's Emil Amok's Takeout!

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