Last weekend, eleven people were slaughtered and six wounded while at synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. It was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of the United States. A senseless, hatefilled act of bigotry because they were Jewish. Upon learning the tragic news, we stated in earnest that we, the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago, do not accept hate and bias and stand with Jewish communities.
This tragic incident as well as the pipe bombing plantings by Filipino American Cesar Sayoc is a stark call that we must change the tone of our national and community discourse to one of unity and positive cultural aspects. As difficult as that is, we must rise to the occasion. Misinformation and gossip led to hate anti-Semitism and violence.
We all know that gossip and tabloids are part of Filipino culture, however, the evidence is clear that these are not just frivolous idiosyncrasies but may in the worst case scenario give credence to someone manifesting prejudices and judgmental behavior through violent acts that harm society as a whole.
On Saturday, April 22, 2017, I was physically assaulted by Filipinos who tried to take over the Rizal Community Center. In their vitriol – incited by Jerry Clarito, former Skokie Park District commissioner and so-called community and human rights activist – these Filipinos spewed anti-Semitic rhetoric against me, alleging that I was not Filipino because I among other things am Jewish. Clarito and his minions then launched a protracted campaign to villify and foment hate and anger for an assortment of misguided reasons.
Little attention has been paid to their egregious behavior: many people in our community disconcertingly enable this offensive behavior, thinking it acceptable and with no thought spread the lies. Yellow papers like Pinoy Magazine and Philam Messenger never mind the ethics feed their readerships’ salacious appetite for scandal and gossip, by indulging in the worst forms of xenophobic drivel.
Since January 2017, we FACC have looked to our organization’s early leaders for guidance in reshaping our present and future, and to make a positive mindshift. In 1965, our leadership changed the name from Filipino National Council of Chicago to Filipino American Council of Chicago, in acknowledgment of the restricted representation of members only to Filipino nationals and the changing constituency of our Filipino community “into a greater degree, percentage-wise, from Filipino nationals to Filipino naturalized American citizens and American-born Filipino-Americans.” They recognized the need “to erase the misleading interpretation of the name of this august Council which had so long been the deterrent stigma of Unification of all local Filipino organizations in the city.”
We are gratified by the many – once excluded because of regionalism, dialect, race, religion, mixed race or national original – who have returned and joined us in our endeavor to foster goodwill, civility, and kindliness in the spirit of bayanihan (community). They inspire us to continue our efforts in making our organization and our Rizal Community Center a welcoming place for our Filipino, Filipino American, and broader communities who support the FACC’s purposes.
The words of our FACC’s leaders and our blessed memories, particularly Dr. Rufino Crisostomo, resonate: We must embrace unity in our diversity. Now more than ever, we must strive to embrace our common humanity and to celebrate our intersections. Hate has no home here.
Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago
Rizal Community Center