To Anyone Even Remotely Sympathizing With Stephen Paddock, Please Stop

To Anyone Even Remotely Sympathizing With Stephen Paddock, Please Stop

Now is not the time to victimize the criminal of the deadliest mass shooting in recent history.
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Only a tweet from the iconic, queen Zendaya can perfectly explain my thoughts on this matter:

Why are many media sources refusing to attack and condemn the Las Vegas gunman that killed 58 and wounded up to 600 more? More importantly, why is there such a divide between how the media describes white criminals and innocent black men? Actual murderers, like Paddock and Dylann Roof, are characterized as lone wolves and normal men. However, as soon as a person of color’s life is taken by a police officer, news sources scramble to find their most menacing image and recent criminal history. The racial hypocrisy portrayed by the media has to stop. A person of any race can be a terrorist, a murderer, an enraged psychopath--they don’t just have to be from a country placed under the Muslim ban to be declared as a threat to our country.

A CNN article, written by Emanuella Grinberg, chooses to focus on Paddock’s own brother lamenting about the shooter being “just a guy” and how he noticed nothing out of the ordinary in his own sibling. In fact, the article goes even further to paint Stephen Paddock as a kind momma’s boy, who just recently sent “boxes of cookies to his mother.”

Now is not the time to show what a good man Paddock may have been. Now is not the time to pretend that “he never gave any indication” that he was unstable, while purchasing deadly weapon after deadly weapon. And it is definitely never the right time to victimize the criminal that intentionally crafted the deadliest mass shooting in recent American history.

Let’s go back. Way back to August 2014. The month Michael Brown was murdered by Darren Wilson. In an article for The Hill, the first sentence states: “First, Michael Brown robbed a store.” Where are the peaceful anecdotes of Brown and his family, his hobbies, the gifts he might have sent his mother? Why must we immediately dive into the felonies of a killed black man? While Paddock is memorialized in the news by his closest family members, the only remembrances of Brown is Darren Wilson’s pathetic justification of killing him. In a Washington Post article, Wilson commemorates Brown by referring to him as “the big one,” “Hulk Hogan,” and comparing his face to a that of a demon. Do you see the hypocrisy here yet or must I continue?

The sad case of Eric Garner, unfortunately, is all too similar to Michael Brown’s. On June 13, 2015, The New York Times immediately explained how police were so familiar with Garner, who was apparently arrested twice the year he was killed. The “cat-and-mouse game” between Garner and the cops ends with Garner’s “refusal to be detained.” Why does the last memory of Garner have to be remembered as him fighting against the cops, while Paddock can be remembered as a meek gambler? Garner’s last moments consist of him flailing on the ground, pinned by multiple cops. Paddock’s last remembrances revolve around his innocent love of poker and dive bars.

The media plays a huge role in how anyone killed is remembered for eternity. They are, however, doing no one any favors by sugarcoating white people’s lives compared to those of others. Paddock, Brown and Garner probably all lived very fulfilling and happy lives, but by choosing to portray only one of those men in a positive light, the media downplays the cruel act of terrorism displayed by Paddock and even pacifies it.

We, as a country, need to do better in actually reprimanding white criminals and accurately honoring black victims.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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Filipino-American Mental Health: It Starts with a Conversation

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When it comes to talking about mental health struggles, I feel like a lot of Filipino-Americans share a similar attitude—sure, it happens, but not with my family. Whether it is because the language is still inaccessible to our communities, or we refuse to approach the topic because of fear, or a little bit of both, a lot of us have yet to really contextualize and express how this particular topic shows up in our daily lives. So you can just imagine how radical it was when a group of Filipino-American health professionals, academics, student leaders, nonprofit leaders and more participated in the first ever National Forum on Filipino American Mental Health held at the Philippine Embassy. On that day, members of our community said yes, mental health struggles absolutely happen, and they are experienced by our families too.

I participated in the forum as an EPYC Ambassador for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). The EPYC Program, in its sophomore year, hopes to empower the next generation of Fil-Am leaders across the country by assisting in the personal and professional development of students and young professionals. As an ambassador for the Capital Region, I was quickly introduced to the scene in the D.C. Metro Area. I made my way from one community event to another, increasing my networks and learning about the resources that I wished I knew when I was younger. But it was, ironically, the topic of mental health that made me very anxious to attend the forum. At the time, I was going through one of the hardest college semesters of my life, and I was afraid to participate in an event dealing directly with this very topic. I woke up that morning with every intention of fading into the background to listen rather than to speak.

But that is not what happened. The hosts made it clear that they wanted to hear what the young people had to say. Jon Melegrito, a local community pioneer known fondly as "Tito Jon" said that that day was about sharing our stories, because we rarely have the opportunity to do so. The room had prominent scholars like Dr. Kevin Nadal (who sat next to me!) and Dr. E.J. Ramos David, but their eyes were focused on us. And so we spoke. We talked about dealing with stigma both inside and outside the community. We talked about the structural barriers (like costs) that make it hard for anybody to get support, regardless of their ethnicity. On the topic of collaboration, I mentioned that it was important for us to address that Filipino-Americans are not a monolith, and that we must always strive to center the most marginalized among us.


Pictured: Austin Chavez, Kevin Nadal, Andrew Bartolome, Jon Melegrito, and Janis Manalang. Photo by Lia Macadangdang


There was one topic, however, that we kept circling back to: the disconnect between parent and child, between first gen and second gen, between the homeland and the diaspora. I often find these conversations to be very interesting, because as someone who identifies as 1.5 gen (someone who immigrated to this country as a child), I serve as a good example that those conversations are not black-and-white. If there is anything I learned from being pushed into the diaspora it is that this life is very hard. No amount of Filipino resilience can prepare you from dealing with so much loss when you are away from your people. What diaspora asks of us is to rebuild and re-envision a new life without having much of a blueprint to borrow from. So who should we be? What kind of life should we have? These are some of the broader conversations our communities will need to have for some time.


Quezon City, Philippines. 2003.


And what we are seeing now is that more and more of our people are willing to have them. Recently, Instagram hired Filipino-American student Jazmine Alcon (@pettyofcolor) as an Instagram Ambassador. Alcon uses her platform to create online spaces for youth, specifically Filipinx youth, to talk about mental health issues. Malaka Gharib of NPR has published a heartwarming multimedia piece on Filipino-American Mental Health with the help of Ryann Tanap of AARP. Academics like Nadal and David have been making a name for Filipino-American psychology for some time and still continue to make breakthroughs.

And we should not stop there. We also need to take a look at what Ruby Ibarra is doing, what Bambu DePistola is doing. We must engage with Elaine Castillo and Jose Antonio Vargas. We have to ground ourselves in the work of Dawn Mabalon and Carlos Bulosan who did so much work for our people when they were here. We also have to be humble enough to look at what other communities have done that help paved the way for us. Fil-Ams, especially non-Black Fil-Ams, need to be just as dedicated in reading their bell hooks and Audre Lorde and James Baldwin and Kimberle Crenshaw and Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston, and so much more. Inclusivity, intersectionality, and solidarity should be the heart of our many conversations. Kapwa (connectedness) must not come with any conditions.

As I unpack my own struggles with mental health, I often look back on the day of the forum. I often have to stop myself from feeling like a hypocrite because I was talking about a topic that I have yet to fully resolve on my own. And then I realize that perhaps the bigger problem was that I thought I had to resolve it alone. As I get closer to graduation, I am beginning to understand that I should not beat myself up any longer, because life in the diaspora already does a good job of doing that. What I should do is be more gentle and give more grace for those are the more radical things to do in the face of what we are dealt with. The business of being free is hard work, but to echo Dr. E.J. Ramos David—this is because "this is the heart's work."

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.

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Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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