It is time for a little more substance from US presidential election contender Donald Trump. What is his real understanding of Asia? And if he's prone to making errors that a Harvard undergraduate can catch, what more the top levels of government in any important Asian country?
By Emil Guillermo ·
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network
In the last general election, polling data showed that among Asian-Americans there was a good number of what I call GOPinoys.
In other words, a right-ward drift from among us.
If you are a tilting Filipino of the conservative kind, I'd suggest you take note of what the GOP standard-bearer is saying.
But first, a question: How many times, as a Filipino, have you been called Mexican? Or Chinese? Or Japanese? Or Puerto Rican? Just anything but Filipino.
It's that damn Spanish-sounding last name, right? Or maybe it's another Asian sounding name like Go, Goh, or Ngo?
But what if your last name is Murphy by marriage, yours or your mother's?
Confusing, isn't it? It happens a lot based on names and appearances, even now. Add race and it's a toxic mix.
And just look at who's behind the most newsworthy example to date: Donald Trump.
Maybe you saw what happened to Joseph Choe, a 20-year-old whose parents immigrated from Korea.
Choe is an economics student at Harvard who recently learned a lesson in supply and demand. When he heard Donald Trump supplying untruths about South Korea on the campaign, Choe decided he'd demand the truth from the Donald. Or at the very least a correction.
Choe went to confront Trump at a rally in New Hampshire last week, dubbed the "No Labels Problem Solver" convention. But all Trump saw were labels.
As reported by the Associated Press, Trump saw Choe's hoodie which branded him a Harvard student. Trump often boasts about attending Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Harvard?" Trump asked. "You go to Harvard?"
The report mentioned that Choe seemed to delay. Trump became impatient.
"He's choking!" Trump jabbed. Then Choe asked his question.
"Basically, you said that South Korea takes advantage of the United States in terms of the defence spending on the Korean Peninsula," Choe reportedly said. "I just want to get the facts straight."
Like a bully, Trump interrupted and went ad hominem. When in doubt, attack the person, right?
"Are you from South Korea?" Trump asked.
"I'm not," Choe said. "I was born in Texas, raised in Colorado."
Some laughed at that. Then Choe said, "No matter where I'm from, I like to get my facts straight," and then was cut off.
"I don't care who you are, whether you're the prime minister or Donald Trump, if you say something factually wrong or do something factually wrong, I'll call you out on it," Choe later said to a reporter.
"(Trump) makes all these, like, weird accusations, whether it's toward Mexicans or women, or South Koreans; I just wanted to call him out on that."
What bothered Choe was Trump had said South Korea pays nothing for US help in defence. All Choe wanted to do was let him know South Korea pays about US$860 million (S$ 1.2 billion) to the United States.
But Trump responded in the way people who shouldn't be president responded.
Whatever happened to the GOP's "compassionate conservative" approach? Whatever happened to civility?
Trump didn't have an answer, so he bullied and attacked the credibility of his challenger.
And when he saw that Mr. Harvard was also ethnic, well, he could drop the petty Harvard stuff (some good Republicans come from there too. Not many. But enough). And then he could just go ethnic.
Bully plus ethnic? Sounds like racism to me.
Trump has already shown he likes to mock Asian accents when referring to Asian leaders.
Good red meat for Tea Party Republicans in the early going of a campaign, but if I were a Republican in the middle of the Pacific, I'd be concerned about Trump as president.
Time for a little more substance from the Donald.
What is his real understanding of Asia? And if he's prone to making errors that a Harvard undergraduate can catch, what more the top levels of government in any important Asian country?
More distressing is his use of the ethnic attack against a fellow American. Or are all Asians perpetual foreigners?
In the politics of intolerance, it figures that a billionaire builder would want to build a wall on the Mexican border. It's just a skyscraper laying on its side. But in a country where Asian-Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group, soon to overtake Latinos? What kind of structure does he want to keep us in our place?
Trump's outburst is a reminder of how race has been used in America's past. Being seen as foreigners didn't help the Japanese-Americans rounded up and incarcerated during WWII.
Filipinos arriving as workers in California in the 1920s weren't supposed to start families and become real Americans. Laws were passed to prevent Filipinos from marrying outside their race and start any kind of family. They were prevented from buying homes. And in 1934, spurred by anti-Filipino sentiment, the U.S. took away American national status and turned us back into aliens.
Public policy is important. Trump's reaction is important. Assumptions on race do happen in 2015. Wrong assumptions. Hurtful ones. They shouldn't be made by someone who wants to be our leader.
Trump says a lot of things about Mexicans. What would he say about Filipinos?
The polls from recent elections have shown many Filipinos moving more to the right in the US
If that's so, you GOPinoys should send a message to your party.
Republicans should stop playing around and get serious. The Donald is not the one.
* The writer recently won the Ahn Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association. He also just won a Plaridel Award from the Philippine American Press Club. He writes from Northern California.