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Jul 30th
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako The Trayvon Martin Tragedy: Is it a Racial Killing?
The Trayvon Martin Tragedy: Is it a Racial Killing? PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Thursday, 12 April 2012 18:04


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako


T he plot thickens.  And as it thickens, it sickens.


The murder of Trayvon Martin continues to dominate the headlines of newspapers and talk shows of America's mainstream media.  Until justice is had and the killer is behind bars, locked away for good, I think this trend will continue.  It should and it must.  Otherwise, it's a mockery of justice.


Two weeks ago, in one of my columns, titled "Sanford, Florida: A Memory of Palm City, Florida ," I wrote a story about this killing.  In case you've missed this story, please google that headline on the Internet.  I wrote that what happened in Sanford, Florida reminded me of what my family and I experienced in Palm City, Florida.  That story affected a lot of people because I received several feedbacks on it.


Here are some of the comments.  These came from readers of Huffington Post, an on-line mainstream publication where I would send some of my opinion commentaries on top stories that it posts: 


  •  Wow, just wow!  Also, thank you for your service.


  • Such a horrible thing to happen in America.  Thank you for your service.


  •  I am so sorry it happened to you and your family.  I know how devastating it must have been.  I have had my share of racism thrown at me and it is always hard being the bigger person.  However, it seemed that you rose above it.  I think that's the only way to win.


O f course, not all were kind comments.  Here's one that who didn't like what wrote.  I think this person is an ignoramus.  His/her comments were full of grammatical errors and misspelled words, that I had to clean it up to make it readable for.  His/her comment was signed off: HOOPSTER 11. 




I have lived in that area and it's not like that at all..  Jensen Beach, Ft. Pierce are high tourist and retirement areas.  This area is a nice "melting pot" of folks from all around the country.  Lots of Canadians in this are as well.


Everyone is trying to single out this 17-year-old death to make some political points.  How about the 50-plus people killed in Chicago area last week.  Do you really think Martin County is worse than that?  How about ArizonaTexas border towns, ever been there?  More people were murdered along the Mexican border than in Iraq last year.  Come on, Sanford's worse than that.  Please stop trying to score political points off this young man's death....


A FEEDBACK FROM PHILIPPINE VOICE: I also received this feedback from my prolific-writer friend, Romy Marquez of Philippine Voice.  He wrote: "That's deplorable, Pareng Jesse.  I didn't pay much attention to this story, not until you write about it now.  What's wrong with Florida?  Is that also the Wild Wild West.  Thanks so much.  Best regards."


"It's the Wild Wild West full of hicks, rednecks and morons,; swamps, alligators and Jewish retirees," I replied.  "Down south within this state is another country, called "Little Miami," where the spoken language is called "Spanglish."  It's a screwed-up place, if you ask me.  Like New York City, it's only a place to visit, not to live in.  And when you visit, make sure to bring your six-shooter or your 9mm.  You can shoot anybody in this state and get away with it, just by claiming self-defense, under the law, called "Stand Your Ground."  


ECHOES OF RACISM FROM A FIL-AM IN AMERICAHere's the most eloquent feedback on my story.  It came from another friend, named Lee Licerio.  It's a story on its own.  Though brief, it's a well-told and passionate story of racism that Lee had seen and endured in America.   


Hi Jesse,


Your Palm City, Florida experience in racism should resonate with all Filipinos who came to this country from the early 1900's to the present.  I won't even mention the travails of the Filipino galleon sailors who jumped ships in Mexico in the 1800's and found their way to Louisiana. We all went through the racism and bigotry of white America.


I came here in 1954 and since then we have had the infamous cases of Emmett Till (Mississippi, 1955), Rodney King (California, 1991) and now Trayvon Martin (Florida, 2012). There were probably other lynchings we never heard about.  If anybody thinks that prejudice, racism and bigotry are things of the past in this society, he is deluding himself.  Concealed, maybe, and not overt but they are definitely with us today.


When you get a chance to visit, I will let you read my story (the word "memoir" seems too hoity-toity) and it is full of  experiences like yours, including one in Florida. I know what some of the white majority would say, "Why don't you go back where you came from?" 


I bet Native Americans asked the same question when the Europeans first came to this country.


Anyway, my answer to that question is that I choose to live here and my service to this country entitles me to stay without being classified as a second class citizen. Years of being subjected to racism and bigotry made me a sensitive, angry and even paranoid human being. I admit that.  You told me once that I probably suffer from PTSD from my tours in Vietnam


No, the trauma is the result of living here and not be accepted! Why don't I go back to the Philippines?  The answer - my children were born here and I want to be close to them. I know of another life but not them - they are Americans and know of no other life.


You asked me once why we Filipinos don't join clubs and associations here in America.  I don't know why others don't but I have a good reason.  I can smell prejudice and racism "a mile away." One does not even have to open his big mouth and I can tell by his body language that he is prejudiced, a racist and a bigot. 


How?  Years of experience of being subjected to their stupidity made me an expert in extra-sensory perception of their bigotry. Racism is a very sensitive issue with me. Unlike timid Filipinos, I am confrontational and will not let slide even a minor slight on my ethnicity or my color or my accented language. 


Do you think my being a Caviteno have anything to do with my combativeness? To avoid fights and even jail time, I choose not to join clubs, associations and such.  I choose to fight with no one but my wife.


Jesse, I am sorry for what happened to you and yours in Palm City.  I truly am, because I know the pain that it caused you.  I feel your pain which I know exists even to this day.  I am sorry. I am angry and sad but I am also hopeful that all of us can change - that we can accept people for what they are and not judge them on the basis of the color of their skin or their religion or their nationality or whatever.  That all of us can look deeper into our hearts and be more accepting of our differences.


Come and visit and I will let you read the story of anguish and pain of a brown man in a white society. My story is not a complaint or an accusation or anything else.  It is nothing but a true history of what happened to me and Raquel that I want my children and grandchildren to know and remember.  Take care.  Lee.


FROM RANDY GIBBS: Randy is also a Vietnam veteran, who served with Lee during the war there. This is Randy's response to Lee's commentary, excerpts of which, reads:


Here is one who accepts you and your family completely and without any thought of what colour or where you came from.  I consider you to be one of the very best citizens this country has ever had and I respect your determination and refusal to give in to the discrimination you have suffered....


I am so saddened by the Sanford, Florida story.  It is unfortunately one of many.  One is too many.  I am saddened, too, by Jesse's story..  It is just not right to have to put up with such things, especially in this country.  My regards go to Jesse and his family and I hope they have found a more peaceful place to live without harassment.  I wish him well and thank him for his service....


Thank you, too, Randy and Lee and Romy for your comments, and to all my Dear Readers for reading this story.  JJ



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