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Sep 22nd
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako Laughing at the Ugly Face of Racism
Laughing at the Ugly Face of Racism PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Monday, 30 July 2007 12:32

A Cup o' Kapeng Barako 

A pious man explained to his followers: "It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’"

That came from Amy Tan’s last book, "Saving Fish from Drowning," before Alzheimer’s struck her down.

It reminded me of Pandak and the Filipino people. The pious leader is Pandak and the fishes are the Filipino people. It could be Bush and the Iraqi people, too. But that’s not my story today.

It’s about RACISM: America’s dark and dirty little secret. Though it’s no longer blatant as it used to be, it IS alive and well.

This was written not too long ago by one of my favorite columnists, Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize winner and a syndicated columnist of The Miami Herald: "My youngest son was arrested last year," he began.

"Police came to my house looking for an armed robbery suspect, 5-feet-eight-inches with long hair. They took my son, 6-foot-3 with short braids.

"They made my daughter, 14, fresh from the shower and dressed for bed, lie face down in wet grass and handcuffed her. They took my grandson, 8, from the bed where he slept and made him sit on the sidewalk beside her.

"My son, should it need saying, hadn’t done a damn thing. In fact, I was talking to him long distance -- I was in New Orleans -- at the time of the alleged crime. Still, he spent almost two weeks in jail. The prosecutor asked for a high bail, citing the danger my son supposedly posed.

"A few weeks later, the prosecutor declined to press charges … There was no robbery, he said. The alleged victim had picked a fight with the perpetrator, lost, and concocted a tale. A surveillance video backed him up. The jury returned an acquittal in a matter of hours.

"But the damage was done. The police took a picture of my son the night he was arrested. He is on his knees, hands cuffed behind him, eyes fathomless and dead. I cannot see that picture without feeling a part of me die. So I took personally what William Bennett said …"

"For those who might have missed it," Pitts added, "former Education Secretary and self-appointed arbiter of all things moral, said on his radio program that if you wanted to reduce crime, ‘you could … ABORT every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.’"

That’s BLATANT, RAW RACISM!It reminded me, too, what former First Lady Barbara Bush, the MOTHER of George W. Bush, said about the mostly Black New Orleans evacuees of Hurricane Katrina who were temporarily living in the Houston Astrodome in Texas.

I mentioned this before in a previous story, but I think it bears repeating. She said: "What I am hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many people in the arena here, you know, were UNDERPRIVILEGED ANYWAY, so this is working very well for them."


And so is the word, "MACACA." Macaca is a French word for monkey. Former Republican Senator George Allen used that word to describe a man of Indian descent while campaigning last year for his senatorial seat. As y’all know, Allen lost his seat to now-Senator James Webb.

People who are racists, such as William Bennett and Barbara Bush and George Allen and many others … may not realize what they are doing. They have learned to accept negative qualities that are found within a race and ignore anything to the contrary. They have formed a personal conviction that prejudging is the right and acceptable way to think.

Racists are tragic, abhorrent people. But what’s more tragic and abhorrent is they tend to pass on their way of thinking to their children.

And just like Mr. Pitts and his children, my children and I have also experienced racism in this country. It would be too long to enumerate all of them on this page, so I can only tell you the best. Yes, THE best … because I laughed at its ugly face. It happened two summers ago.

I was in my front yard, wearing scruffy cut-offs, an old sleeveless shirt and a sweat-stained buri hat, tending to my flowering plants and mowing the lawn and such, when I heard a car pulled over the curb in front of my house.

A man’s voice called out: "Hey, Chico! Chico!"

I turned toward the voice, stopped what I was doing and ambled over. The car was a shiny, brand new Lexus and there inside was a white family of four: the man who called out and his gorgeous-looking wife and two young children in the back.

I took off my buri hat, stood humbly before them and said, "Si, senor?"

"You speak English?" the man asked.

"Beri leetle only, senor," I said, indicating with my thumb and forefinger how little was "leetle" and it was very little.

Then he asked, "How much do you charge for mowing lawns?"

I took a long look at the man’s good-looking wife and winked at her … then I looked at the man straight in his eyes and said in a perfect American accent that I could muster:

"I don’t charge cash, pal … only in kind. Whenever and wherever I mow lawns for anybody, I get to sleep with the lady of the house." The lady of the house sitting in the car giggled. She seemed to like the idea. I smiled at her. Then I laughed in the man’s face … at that ugly face of racism!

Racism roared away.

I ambled back to my flowers to have a deep sniff of their earthly scent.



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