Q&A: Ernie

Q: Tell me about yourself.
I'm Ernie - grandfather of 2 and father of 2 children and Orange County resident.  

Q: Anti- Filipino sentiment occurred in California, Hawaii and Alaska  in the 1920’s when Filipino laborers suffered anti-Oriental  prejudice (often confused with Japanese  that preceded before them) .  Filipinos were accused of taking jobs  from white Americans And attracting white Women that spurred the passing of Anti-miscegenation laws . Tell me more about the Ilocano Manongs and this historic time in Stockton . 
The Ilocano "manongs"  are the pioneers of Filipinos in America who worked in the farms of Central California and the fishing industry / canneries  in Alaska.  As their ancestors in the Ilocos provinces, these workers who were hired in the before the 1960s like the self-educated Carlos Bulosan (was just grade school in the Philippines) he documented by way of first person anecdotes of his and his comrades' experiences in California. Many of these Ilocanos worked hard and long just to be able to give back to their families some Almighty dollars that helped many of their relatives to go to school and finish college.. that resulted in so many nurses graduated that followed their replaced their farm back breaking hard work.   The Ilocanos, led by Larry Itliong, were actually the catalyst of the Labor union movement but due to sheer numbers, Cesar Chaves, was able to get the credit. However , history is slowly being corrected to show what really happened.

Many of these Ilocanos grew old and died single as they could not find a woman to marry, except a few, maybe. Mexicans became their "first choice" as there were almost no Filipino women in America at that time... When some of them retired, some go home and with their pension, although small in comparison to others, was huge enough that when they went home, they were able to marry the "best, the most beautiful: young girl *half or a third of their age" to compensate for all their "lonely years" in the farm... The play, "The Romance of Magno Rubio"  is a comedy-satire of the Manongs  plight in those years.

 Q: As a Filipino-American Catholic man who raised two children, how did you address the topic of race and privilege with them?

Having been "discriminated" by the elites and the rich boys in the exclusive expensive college, Colegio de San Juan de Letran (now Letran University, that is celebrating her 400 years since it was founded this year)  where I was blessed to go, the prejudice or discrimination I have had in America is very subtle and did not really bother me as much. Looking back, some of the signs of prejudice is practiced by less educated people as one way to "compensate" for their lack of education or the lower economic status. 

One incident that I remember when i was a controller of a hospital in La Mirada when I was have having a meeting for the employees under me (from the Business Office/Billing, Accounting/Admission) was a old unschooled woman, Dorothy,  blurted out  "Ernie , speak English"  as I was the only non USA born with a different accent.. I ignored her then and did not make a scene.. but when the meeting was over.. I called her into my private office and .. told her to sit down in the corner and I stood up and firmly said "Dorothy, can you please repeat what you said !   and  she did not answer .. so I shouted it can you please say what you said.. and she saw I was really mad, and she started crying.... and I give her the first and last sermon I ever did addressing some degree of "prejudice".. and I warned her that  I will not want to hear that again otherwise she will not have a job in the hospital.. And true enough. she became a better person.. I think.

To fight racism or prejudice is to show you are better and can do more, and not to succumb to their "playfulness"  as making fun of others  esp when you are young is "common".. When my daughter was teased "little shrimp" or called "Dolphin" in grade school, I taught her to fight back and say that dolphins are the smartest mammals in the ocean.

When the giant Americans/Rotarians playfully tell me "Ernie, Stand up". I jestingly respond and tell them "It's really hard but very nice to be a "dime among nickels".

Along the way you have to fight back one way or the other as prejudice and discrimination existed since Biblical times. Even Moses, being the son of a Hebrew slave  was discriminated by the Egyptians, but he pursued his role and destiny.

Q: In Asian American and Filipino culture , children are sometimes told by parents “ Don't bring home a black boyfriend or girlfriend.”. This illustrates  racism and anti-black sentiment by older Asian immigrants. Does this stem from colonialism or what was taught in schools in Asia? How can an older Asian immigrant unlearn racism ? 

For lack of life's experiences,  many people base their knowledge on a very limited or perceived first or even third person's  stories. 

The dominant culture, unconsciously, use their number, power, wealth to follow the least resistance and use them to maintain their privilege. And unfortunately many "subjects"  accept it as  it if it s  their destiny to be  poor, slave and  hire help all their life, which also subliminally teaches their children just to follow as "obedience" is a virtue.

Even in the convent where the priests  live,  they also treat their lower level employees differently than those higher in society or their peers. MEN after all are like animals.. the survival of the fittest, sometimes /often apply. The worms can be eaten by the chickens and are eaten by the raccoons, the raccoons can be eaten by the hawks and the chain continues.

Indeed, human kind and thousands of years in existence. Cultures and ethnicities have evolved. Mysteriously,  some groups are just considered "superior" or inferior  and the stereotype pervades over centuries.

The key to racial equality is to kill the new buds of racism when the young minds are being developed if you can... and it might be too late  when there are already old and matured especially once they have uniform and badge to cloth their own insecurities and  lack of education and wealth. (I see that also among the sheriffs in jail.)

Q: How are  the 1992 LA riots different or the same as what’s happening today ?  

 Rodney King's  cry "Can we all just get along? " did not result substantially to educate the police force.

I think bad cops started from the time they are hired. I think that vetting of police hires should be more thorough, such as checking their younger years if they were already known as a bully .

 These protests or riots are worse now as there are more people, and people are angrier at the system that has not substantially improved. To earn a good living needs and requires education.

Hence, the Catholic philosophy of Restorative Justice works best  as the successful inmates/prisoners  do not go back to prison. The nationally acclaimed program of Father Boyle (founder of Homeboy Industries in LA) is a model that needs to be replicated in all cities..  

Q: According to NAACP’s Website, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times  the rate of Whites. We understand systemic racism comes into play along with other factors.

As a volunteer  in the Prison ministry for several years now, you’ve told me stories of  men who attend Bible study just to  get an hour out of their cell to men who genuinely  reflect and want to reform. 

How can we repair these racial disparities with incarceration for Blacks? 
Government programs are not conducive to rehabilitation, as the prison industry is a huge business. privatization of prison enriches those  politicians'  families/companies that get the contract.. 

The per capita budget for prisoners is said to be 5 times than the budget to educate school young kids.  It  should be the other way around, investing for the molding of the minds of young people so they will not be in prison eventually

So many possibilities, but the powers that who enact policies are often detached and unaware of the lives of the poor and marginalized. 

Q: Are you hopeful  for the future? Why or why not? 

Maybe, but  to have that "good and delicious omelette,  more eggs will be broken and scrambled".

Rodney King happened almost 30 years, so  it will take longer time to really have a substantial transformation.

As the saying goes, "Doing the same things over and over again and still expecting a different result is insanity".There must be a dramatic change in the system and to change the system is to change those people who are making the policies, the politicians , the bureacRATS  - which is easier said than done.

In the prison system, for instance, what  is being done/practices is not known my most citizens/voters. Voters vote for those offices NOT really knowing the platforms of those running.

Until I see the kind of leaders in those critical positions including the White House, I am more pessimistic than optimistic.

My "American dream"  will be a different American for the very young people now. My normal  life,  the last 40 years will be a different NORMAL for the next generations.  

There is much work is to be done to bring those golden years back!

(Editor's Note: Ernie is my father.)


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