‘Lynching’: Trump’s inadvertent Fil- Am history lesson
In case you didn’t know, Filipino Americans were among the victims of lynching in the U.S.
And since October is Filipino American History Month, it’s definitely worth noting in this final week, especially now that the president has used the “L” word.
It was in a tweet last week Trump tried to link lynching with impeachment — to better communicate his own sense of victimhood.
You mean Trump was victimized like the Kurds whom he abandoned when he withdrew troops in Northern Syria?
Was Trump victimized like the families he ripped apart when he stripped mothers from their children at the border as people sought asylum?
No, those are serious things the president actually did to others.
Don’t let his use of “like” fool you. Those aren’t metaphors. Trump was essentially saying he was being victimized like a person of color. Was this a delayed example of empathy? Or was this some demented ploy for minority voters?
His tweet referring to lynching showed no irony.
Invoking the term is straight out of the Clarence Thomas playbook. You’ll recall when sexual harassment came up during his confirmation hearings, Thomas fought back at his accuser, Anita Hill, and declared the process a “high-tech lynching.”
Even though Hill was credible, Thomas–the affirmative action recipient from Pin Point, Georgia turned conservative jurist—still had an ounce of credibility as a person of color. The mere mention of lynching was a showstopper.
Trump, however, is no person of color. Unless orange counts.
Still, it’s interesting how Trump could be so figurative to describe the impeachment process, and yet so literal in his own defense.
Despite the rough transcript, statements from his chief of staff, and the current damning testimony of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, Trump continues to insist that no “quid pro quo” existed, as if the specific absence of the Latin phrase instantly exonerates him.
A “nothing burger,” as he would say, but an inappropriate metaphor given the actual phone call Trump had with Ukranian President Zelensky involving U.S. military aid in exchange for dirt on a political opponent.
Trump’s “perfect” and “beautiful” call? It is painful to watch Trump’s ongoing insistence and defense of a lie.
That’s called wanting to have your metaphor and eat it too.
It only shows that Trump will do or say anything to avoid eating what many see is his just desserts–impeachment cake.
But saying “lynching” crosses the rhetorical line.
It’s such an odd metaphor for Trump, a man with ample rope and in control of a cheering mob of bullies ready to pounce.
A Trump rally of his base has more in common with modern lynching than you think. A controlled mob led by a mobster would smell as sweet?
Historically, lynching was used to intimidate and communicate fear in the hearts of people of color.
From 1882 to 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings, according to the NAACP, with roughly 75 percent of them African American.
Here are a few Filipino ones.
Jim Crowpino In California
The late San Francisco State University history professor Dawn Mabalon wrote about how white migrants from the South and Midwest came to California in the 1920s and 1930s and brought with them the tactics of racial terror.
In her groundbreaking history, “Little Manila is In the Heart” (Duke University Press), Mabalon spoke of the anti-Filipino incidents throughout Northern California: “On June 14, 1930, after it was claimed that he had been seen with white girls, the mutilated body of Robert B. Martin, a local lumber worker and Filipino veteran of World War I, was found hanging in a tree in Susanville, a hundred miles north of Stockton.”
Many lynchings weren’t reported in the mainstream media at the time. But they were reported in the ethnic press, specifically, a Filipino newspaper in the Central Valley known as Three Stars. In August 1930, the paper reported a contractor driving north of Stockton in Lodi who saw two Filipinos hanging from a tree and one burned body propped against a tree trunk.
The incident coincides with a national revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, with one rally in Stockton drawing more than a thousand people. Mabalon cites an incident where the KKK burned down a house that killed a two-year-old Filipino boy.
Just a few overlooked bits from Filipino American history.
Why the violence?
The reason for the violence was clear: Filipinos were seen as threats to the mostly white workers in the fields. Coming to America as colonized nationals, the Filipinos weren’t traditional immigrants. They were the competition in all aspects of life from the workplace to the bedroom.
It was also the so-called Roaring ‘20s, a gilded age of prosperity.
If you’re sharing in the good times, no problem.
If not, you’re resentful of everything standing in your way. Filipinos included.
It brings to the fore the irony of Trump’s choice of the word lynching.
In exploring Trump and racism, New York Times op-ed columnist David Leonhardt recently cited Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins.
Cherlin’s work examines Trump’s appeal to working class whites in 2016. He writes that Trump’s “masterstroke was to recognize the desperation of the white working class over the deteriorating industrial economy and to encourage their tendency to racialize that desperation. Neither economics nor identity politics can be said to be the more important factor…Together, they were tinder for the bonfire that resulted. And Trump was the match.”
But hey, we’ve seen it before.
In the ‘20s, the same elements of dissatisfaction existed, to the point where whites lynched Asian Americans of Filipino descent in California.
That’s why the term “lynching” coming out of Trump’s mouth this week was so offensive. It was so insensitive and ignorant, and spoken by a man who has done more to bring the hate of the past forward to the present.
Lynching? Asian Americans of Filipino descent can say #MeToo.
Something worth recalling in October, Filipino American History month.
A word on Tulsi Gabbard
Her announcement to not seek re-election for Congress to concentrate on her second-tier role for President is baffling.
Desperation (a “Fail big and not go home” strategy?)
Practical (well, she has no shot of winning her seat, maybe she has a chance for a balancing veep as a moderate to Bernie or Liz)?
Audition (she went on Fox before her announcement to denounce the impeachment. Is she trying for a job as the next Hannity)?
She’s playing both sides against the middle. Let’s go with the first word.
Desperation. A guaranteed loss in a presidential run looks a lot better than a guaranteed re-election loss in a Hawaii district she should have been able to keep for life.
Next stop Fox. Or Assad. Or both. TV politician/mouthpiece is a lot easier than being a real public servant.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the North American bureau of Inquirer.net. Twitter @emilamok. Find him on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.