Emil Guillermo: Vote now to stop campaign hate rhetoric; and more on birthright citizenship and Wong Kim Ark

November 2, 2018 6:30 PM

On the U.S. southern border, a newspaper editorial wrote about "an ignorant, filthy, leprous horde."

And in California, another newspaper spoke of a group that was "half-human, half-devil, rat-eating, rag wearing, law-ignoring, Christian-civilization-hating, [drug] smoking, labor degrading, entrail-sucking Celestials."

They're all sentiments toward Chinese laborers written in the late 1800s.

You see, America's had a long history of hot, racist,  anti-immigrant rhetoric used in a shameful grab for white voters. It brought both votes and bigoted policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In fact, politicians loved playing up to the anti-Chinese sentiment so much that in California, March 4, 1882 was set up as a legal holiday for anti-Chinese demonstrations. 

And after the Chinese, other Asian American groups have been sent through the race gauntlet. 
Japanese were commonly called by the single syllable racist abbreviation for years, from the first phase of immigration in the 1880s to the 1940s.  

In the 1930s, politicians in California feared 30,000 Filipino males arriving as American Nationals would take jobs and women, and condemned them all as "lusty rabbits."

So consider today's racist rhetoric a throwback to a not-so-great American tradition of racist politics. Your empathy is quite natural for the new "invading hordes," mostly innocent brown mothers and children from Central America.  

It only seems far worse because the vitriol comes not from some regional enclave of hate, but from the White House itself, and out of the mouth of the president of the United States.

Sadly, in 2018, America is still prone to racist hate at the highest levels.

But you can do something about it.


I voted earlier this week. Then I drove 30 miles to my county registrar to make sure my ballot didn't get lost in the mail. Or end up shredded in Moscow. 

Now I can shut out the angry, hateful rhetoric and wait for Tuesday's results.

It was getting pretty bad when Trump, without evidence, claimed that caravan of asylum seekers was filled with MS-13  gang members and Middle Eastern terrorists. 

But now we've reached a new level of ignorant hate when Trump says rocks thrown at the border will be considered a firearm and justification to shoot to kill.

Nothing like a little blood lust for his base, as Trump talked about his intent to send 15,000 troops to the southern border. 

That's more troops for Trump's fake invasion than there are in Afghanistan.

He's tried to soften his remarks. But on Thursday, Trump said what he said about the caravan members who might throw rocks: "Consider it a rifle, when they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military police, I say consider it a rifle."

And then, out of self-defense, the order is shoot to kill? 

This is what happens if you were one of the folks who in 2016 thought government needed a little shaking up and voted for Trump. Or maybe you said to yourself, "Government should be run like a business."

Problem is businesses are about profits. Governments are about people. 

Now we have a president who does run things like a businessman and cares only about his own  shareholders--a Republican base that's white, angry. Pro-gun. Pro-border wall.  Anti-diversity. Virulently anti-immigrant. Nationalistic to the point of racism.

What about everyone else? You mean non-Republicans? People of color? Women? Not a major shareholder in the Trump democracy, if you even count. 

By focusing on his base alone, Trump can be as vicious and nasty and uncaring as he'd like in the final days of the midterm campaign.

He riles them all up with xenophobic fear, gets them emotionally charged to vote, and doesn't care about any residual racism that might be left over after the campaign.

He even gets to ignore all those great economic figures that came out today because that only lulls and doesn't motivate voters. Good news doesn't get people to the polls like bad news and fear. 

So now we have Trump in campaign mode with the threat of new executive orders changing asylum rules, based once again on Trump's false assertion that people claim asylum, get into the court system for up to 3-1/2 years, and then don't show up. That sort of thing may occur, but not at a level to change what Trump called the "catch and release" laws and start tent cities on the border.

Other executive orders that Trump says could come out next week may include a proposal to end birthright citizenship.

But birthright citizenship itself is protected by the Constitution. 

And you'll recall we have a Chinese American to thank for that.

I've written about Wong Kim Ark before. He's the San Francisco native, born to Chinese immigrants. He was a Chinese American who worked as a cook, like my dad. He went to China for a vacation, then was told he was not a citizen when he re-entered America.

The case went to the Supreme Court and is the basis of birth-right citizenship.

But conservatives continue to use birthright citizenship as an "oldie but goodie," at the ready in their quiver of racist tools. 

Trump's has attacked birthright citizenship before. So when they take it out to shoot a policy arrow into the sky, you know it's campaign time. 

Let's be clear, the president really can't change the Constitution by executive order. A king might be able to do that, but Americans revolted against a king and we all should remember that as Trump starts acting like one.

That's why in San Francisco's Chinatown today, San Francisco's leaders will honor Wong at the very place of his birth, 751 Sacramento Street.

It's the logical place to take a stand against any thought that a Trump executive order would take away an important constitutional right. It's the actual site that confirmed the birthright guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

And it's a part of our Asian American history.

If you don't like how history keeps trying to repeat itself, fight back the best way members of a great democracy can.

Remember, citizens get to vote. Value that right, whether naturalized or by birth. Use it to counter the racist campaign energy generated by Trump. 

It's the most revolutionary thing you can do on Nov. 6 to make sure our country gets back on track. 


I'll be at the FANHS National Museum in Stockton doing part of my "Amok Monologues," talking about my story slam performance at Harvard (Did I win?), the Harvard affirmative action suit, my vacation among the hoodoos, the elections (predictions?), AND a workshop on how to tell your story. You will leave with a blueprint of your story!

So much this Sunday! 

More coming in November in SF. But if you're lucky enough to be in Stockton(!), come by.

$10 donation This Sunday, Nov. 4, 2pm, 337 E. Weber Ave., Stockton, CA. 

*     *     *
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AALDEF.


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