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Mar 21st
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako An Encounter With Racism: A Chapter from my Autobiographical Novel, Unfinished and Untitled Yet
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 20:33


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako


T his is a true story. It happened. 


It came from a chapter of an autobiographical novel that I began writing 15 years ago that I've put away unfinished ... and had forgotten. Then, a couple of weeks ago, while digging for something in my boxes of old files, I found instead this old, yellowing, coffee-stained manuscript. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I stopped what I was doing, sat down amidst scattered files and began reading. It brought back pleasant memories ... and unpleasant ones, too. 


It was discovery, like finding a trove of old treasure in the attic of one's house. 


T he title of this chapter is: "Jonathan's First Encounter with Racism." Jonathan is my eldest son. He's 27 now. This particular story happened when my family and I lived in Florida, and I was working then as a deputy sheriff for the Martin County Sheriff's Office. Here's a portion of this chapter:


He was barely five when Jonathan had his first encounter with racism. We just moved in into a gated community in Palm City. Jonathan and his-four-old brother, Chris, and my wife had just arrived from the Philippines, and my wife and I thought Palm City would be the perfect place to raise our two boys. It looked like a quiet, neat and clean, friendly town.  It had a look of promise and of growth.  Young families abound and there were a lot of kids the age of my two boys.


"And Palm City Elementary School here is excellent," a couple of friends at work and our realtor told us. So, we settled in. I found out later that the friendliness was only a facade. Underneath smolders ... hatred.


THEY CALLED ME "WING-WONG": One afternoon, while coming home from a "honey-do" errand from Maribel, I saw Jonathan sitting on a curb in front of our townhouse. He was crying, silently. I sat down next to him ... and hugged him.


Nearby, in an empty grassy lot that served as courtyard for three townhouses, wafted hard laughter and wild cheering. A made-up soccer game was intensely going on. The neighborhood kids and their parents all seemed to be having fun.


"Why are you crying, Jonathan?"


"They hurt me. They fought me."


"Who hurt you?"


"They beat me."




"Those boys there. They beat me, kicked me and they won't let me play."




"I don't know. And, they called me 'wing-wong.'"


"They said that?"


"They said I am China Boy."


"There's nothing wrong with being Chinese. And, you're not Chinese. We are not Chinese. We are Filipinos. But anyway, the Chinese are beautiful people. They are a gentle, intelligent people. They are civilized ..."


"What's a 'wing-wong,' Papa?"


"I am not sure. It's perhaps a slur word for Chinese."


"What's a slur word?"


"It's a bad word some people use to call other people who are different. When they use a slur word, it makes them feel superior. But that's ignorance. They're even too ignorant to know their ignorance. You can only feel sorry for them."


Jonathan's coal-black eyes blinked several times with more questions. It grew intense as he tried to concentrate. To understand.


"Let's see those boys who beat you up."


The neighborhood soccer game had stopped. White faces were looking at us.  Staring at us. I sensed their hostility. I saw it in their eyes. I felt a chill.  I held Jonathan's hand. He tightened his hold of my hands. 


We approached the hostile stares. Slowly.


We approached, defiant of their hostility. Our hands clasped even more tightly.


PARRYING WITH THE PIGGIES: Two monstrous and potbellied, pig-looking white faces waddled forward to meet us. Hate flashed in their piggy, blue eyes. I looked deeply into their eyes. I saw more than hate. I saw something sick.  Menacingly sick. I recoiled from it.


Jonathan's little hands tightly clung to mine. I looked at him. I didn't see any fear in his coal-black eyes. I began  to draw strength from that innocent fearlessness.


One of the pot-bellies snarled and pointed a stubby finger at Jonathan, "Is he yours?"


"He's my son, yes," I coolly answered. I had contained my fear.


"We don't want gooks and wing-wongs in this neighborhood," barked the other pot-belly.


In that instant I saw an enemy. I was in Vietnam again, my squad silently crawling, moving in for the attack, to kill unsuspecting enemies.


It would have been so easy with these two smelly, and sweating pig-like men. I could have easily shot them with my service revolver hidden inconspicuously under my shirt and inside the waistband of my pants. But I came to when Jonathan's little hands tugged at my hand, repeatedly, as it to wake me up, to bring me back to the present.


Those little hands that gave me strength to confront the hideous face of racism were now giving me the strength of control, from committing a dreadful deed. 


Once again I was in a Palm City gated community, living with my wife and two boys. Not in enemy territory. There was really no danger here. There was law and order. And the weapon of choice in handling an "enemy" in this kind of world, is "da mouth."


WHAT IS A GOOK?: I parried the assault of the piggies. I smiled at them first, then said, "Do you know what a gook is? It's something that's fat and ugly, hairy and patsy white, with rotten teeth and evil eyes, who smell bad, like you and your twin brother there. That's what a gook is!"


"Say what!" the piggies oinked in chorus.


"Y'all heard me," I said softly, almost soothingly.


T he piggies took a step forward. They smelled like brewery and swills. One more step would be unsafe for me and Jonathan, who still clung to my hand. I wouldn't have room to maneuver a double snapping roundhouse kicks to their snouts.  From the side of my eye, I saw one of the piggies made a menacing move, an attacking move, but ever so slowly, telegraphing an off-balance, flat-footed attack. I could have easily buried one of my pointed cowboy boots into his ribs.


"Mister, I wouldn't do that if I were you," I warned,  "Or, I'll lay you out flat and cold, hog-tied you and drag you to jail."


"Why, you mother fucker!!!" screamed the other piggy, his ferocious attack imminent.


"Hold it there, buddy. I am a cop," I said as I quickly pulled out my badge and flashed it at them.


At this precise moment, a Martin County Sheriff's unit car screeched to a stop, with blue lights flashing. Steve, a U.S. Marine veteran and a good friend, who had asked me to be his best man, in his forthcoming wedding, quickly stepped out of his patrol car. 


"Hey, Jesse, what's going on?" he drawled, then let go a stream of Copenhagen tobacco juice through the steel grill of a manhole in front of him.


"Just a little neighbor problem, Steve. I've taken care of it," I said. "No problem. "I'll file an incident report later on tonight. Thanks for coming."


"No problem. Maribel called Dispatch and I volunteered to go, told them I was already 'enroute' when I heard it on the radio," Steve said. Then pointing to the two pot bellies, he said,  "These two guys need a ride 'downtown' for booking."


I shook my head and smiled a no. "They're 'friendlies,' Steve, and my neighbors here."


"All right, I'll see you later then. Say hi to 'Marybelle' for me," Steve drawled, then gave Jonathan a wink and a smile, then drove off, his unit radio squawking a coded call. 


The pot bellies and the neighborhood soccer players have vanished, too.


I looked at Jonathan. He never left my side. He still clung to my hand and I still clung to his. Our sweaty palms had fused together throughout this whole episode. There were so many unspoken questions on his face ... that have yet to be answered.


We headed home for dinner.  (To be continued …)  JJ  


Editor’s Note: Jesse Jose has also written the following articles about racism:


Laughing at the Ugly Face of Racism


Post Script to "Laughing at the Ugly Face of Racism" Column of Jesse Jose (By a reader of Jesse Jose)


Bitter you, Bitter me and the Bitterness of Michelle Obama (Now a Nasty Debate Among FilAms in IL)


America Has Spoken: Hail Barack!


I, Barack HUSSEIN Obama Do Solemnly Swear …


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 20:47
Comments (2)
1 Wednesday, 09 March 2011 20:52
Jesse Jose wrote: "They're even too ignorant to know their ignorance. You can only feel sorry for them."

Pareng Jesse,

Pathetic, those piggies. Why I can be sorry for their plight, I would have done the same thing you and your son did, which was to stand your ground. I believe you looked more menacing than them.

That was a nice way to teach them their lesson. And you triumphed! I can't wait for the next chapter. Nabitin ako! Thanks and best regards,

Romy Marquez
2 Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:12

Wow! I find it unbelievable that people can act like these two piglets in your story. I have never personally have seen this type of behavior, although I have heard it and have felt the hostility of hate of people who don't like you for your race or ethnicity. Having never had to confront them, I did see it in the early 70's, when I was stationed on the USS Hancock and race relations were at their lowest. Rumors of race riots on the USS Kitty Hawk, which actually happened, bled over to the Hancock. Things were tense for awhile and the Navy finally got their act together and started race relations seminars.

But yours is more poignant, as it involved your son, Jonathan, at a young age. Having to go through that kind of abuse without knowing why is the cruelest of all things that can be done to an innocent child. I applaud your bravery and tenacity in handling these bigots the way you did.

I can't wait for the "rest of the story"


Life is short. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.

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"I told him, 'Son, what is it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care.' "--Frank Layden, Utah Jazz president, on a former player

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