Emil Amok's Takeout from Emil Guillermo Media

The podcast companion to Emil Guillermo's Amok commentary on race, politics, and society from an Asian American perspective. If it's in the news, Emil has a take. An award winning journalist, columnist, talk-host and humorist, Emil's compilation of essays and columns,"Amok" won an American Book Award. He is a former host of NPR's "All Things Considered," and has reported and commented for radio and TV and newspapers, in Honolulu, San Francisco, Sacramento, Boston, Dallas, St.Louis, and Washington, D.C. Read his takes on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund website at Emil also writes a column for the U.S. bureau of the Manila-based and on Diversity issues at
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Now displaying: June, 2017

Welcome to "Emil Amok's Takeout," a podcast featuring the takes of award-winning journalist and commentator Emil Guillermo on race, politics, and society from an Asian American perspective.

Beginning with Asian Week, Emil has written a weekly column on Asian America since 1991. It has since migrated to and to his own  His experience includes TV news reporting and anchoring in San Francisco, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.; Hosting "All Things Considered" on NPR; Nationwide newspaper op-eds and columns at SFGate and USA TODAY; Talk-show hosting in Washington,D.C. San Francisco, and Sacramento; And reporting for NBC News Asian America. A collection of his columns and essays won an American Book Award. 

Emil also worked on Capitol Hill as a speechwriter and press secretary for then-Congressman Norman Mineta.

Emil is also a voice-over artist, with videos for PETA registering more than 6 million views on youtube, with tens of millions more views on all platforms.


Currently, Emil writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund at



Jun 29, 2017

I'm on the road, but I can still podcast.

My "Amok Monologues" are at the San Diego International Fringe Festival.

Get your tickets for the final show Thursday, the 29th at 10:30pm. ( I know, last minute, but then I'm less self-absorbed than normal).

Or buy a ticket and I will send you an audio of the show! Just $10!


Got a great review too. "Excellent," says the San Diego Story arts journal.




I talk about my show, others' shows, my niece the survivor, and how the Fringe has brought us together after more than 20 years. Still time to see some great shows. There's acrobatics/circus style dance shows. Solo performances. One Acts. The fringe has it all.

I've also enjoyed detoxing from the news. I haven't seen cable news TV for more than ten days. I don't miss Wolf Blitzer. I like him. But I am happy to have not seen him for 2 hours a day lately. 

I talk about the news hits I've absorbed, like a short Vincent Chin post mortem, and the victory of the Slants, both which I will revisit with interviews next week.

But the show's the thing here, the "Amok Monologues." Invite me to your city, town, college, office, church group, Filipino dance club, whatever. 

I will be there!







Jun 19, 2017
Chin estate trustee provides insight on how difficult it was to get justice for Vincent Chin. The Asian American community was small and reluctant to speak up. Even civil rights organizations weren't sure about Asian Americans in a black and white world. It may also explain why Asian Americans have reacted differently in recent years to hate crimes that should be considered as significant as Chin's but have failed to get traction with a now larger, divided and complacent Asian American community.
Show Log:
:00 Intro, the basic factsa about the death of Vincent Chin, update from Helen Zia, and observations about the case.How the civil rights community was sometimes at odds with Asian Americans.
10:21 Audio portion of interview with Helen Zia
23:26 Emil reads from his 2012 column where Chin's killer Ronald Ebens apologizes for the murder.
34:04 End
Emil Guillermo: Lessons from Vincent Chin murder 35 years after; Podcast interview with Helen Zia; and thoughts on my interview with Chin's killer, Ronald Ebens
June 18, 2017 8:40 PM
We have now arrived at the 35th year of these essential Asian American facts:
On June 19, 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin, 27, who was with friends at his own bachelor party, was mistaken for being Japanese by two white auto workers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, at a Detroit strip club. Ebens told me Chin sucker-punched him. The fight was taken outside, but then broken up. It would have ended, but Ebens and Nitz pursued Chin by car and found him at a nearby McDonald's. In the parking lot, Ebens brutally beat Chin with a baseball bat. 


Chin was comatose for four days and pronounced dead on June 23.
For that crime, Ebens and Nitz, his accomplice, were allowed to plea bargain. They pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, were sentenced to three years' probation, and fined $3,720.
There was no prison time for the murderers of Vincent Chin.
The Asian American community was outraged, which led to a federal civil rights prosecution against Ebens and Nitz. Ebens was found guilty on one charge and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and a second federal trial was moved from Detroit to Cincinnati. Ebens was acquitted by a Cincinnati jury that found no racial motivation in the killing of Chin.
That's where the story has been for the last 35 years: The perps are free. And Asian Americans can still be victims of extremely violent hate crimes, like Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Asian Indian mistaken for a Muslim. This year in Olathe, Kansas, Kuchibhotla was allegedly killed by a white gunman who yelled, "Get out of my country."
For the 35th year marker of Chin's death, I called to get an update from the writer Helen Zia, who is also the trustee of the Chin estate.

Zia said the Chin family was awarded a $2 million judgment in civil litigation against Ebens back in the '80s, and continues to monitor Ebens, now 77 and retired in Nevada. "The judgment has been continued," Zia told me. She said that with interest and penalties, the judgment could be in excess of $8 million, but Ebens has "not paid a dime."
Zia said she's philosophical about recovery. 
"The guy did what he did," she told me. "He's a killer. He got away with murder. But the things that need to be done on behalf of the community don't depend on him or his death. It will bring closure. But it doesn't mean hate crimes have ended."
An edited portion of my interview with Zia is in my podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout.
Besides being the trustee of the estate, Zia was right there in the thick of the Chin case in Detroit. A journalist with legal training, she wrote for the daily newspaper there, but refrained from writing about the case so she could be one of the founders of American Citizens for Justice, the group formed to fight for Chin.
It was just a handful of Asian American lawyers and activists. At that time, there were few Asian Americans in the law or in journalism. And there was no one with the expertise to do a federal hate crime case.
Thirty-five years later, Zia said that what strikes her the most are the things people don't bring up about the case. 

The human stuff, like the late Lily Chin, Vincent's adoptive mom. "She died feeling that if she hadn't adopted him, he'd be alive," Zia told me. "It's so sad to me to think about it that way."
But the human stuff also includes the human opposition to the case within the community and the backlash that existed at the time.
"We had civil rights people who said, 'We'll support you because Vincent was Chinese and thought to be Japanese, but if he were Japanese, we won't support because he would've deserved it,' " Zia said. "I said 'What? You're kidding?' The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan National Lawyers Guild strongly opposed a civil rights investigation because Asian Americans are not protected by federal civil rights law. That was something we had to argue."
Fortunately, the national offices of those legal groups prevailed and forced the state chapters to comply.
"Here were some of the most liberal activist attorneys saying Asian Americans shouldn't be included under the civil rights law. Vincent was an immigrant. We had to establish he was a citizen, with the implication there might not have been a civil rights investigation if he had not been naturalized. All of this stuff...these were hurdles we had to overcome with major impacts today," Zia told me.
"Can you imagine if the Reagan White House had followed the National Lawyers Guild's Michigan chapter and the ACLU of Michigan and said, 'Why should we look expansively at civil rights? We shouldn't include immigrants and Asian Americans.' And at that time, that would include Latinos too, because at that time if you were not black or white, what do you have to do with race? Those were the things people would say to us."
Zia said after 35 years, a quick telling of the Chin case rarely discusses just how difficult it was to fight for justice. But she says those are the enduring lessons of the Vincent Chin case, because it has contributed to a modern sense of social justice for every American.
"Every immigrant, Latinos. Every American," Zia said. "Hate crime protection laws now also include perceived gender and disability. It was the Vincent Chin case when we had to argue civil rights was more than black or white."
Zia said the case was also more difficult because it was during a pre-digital, non-computer, pay-phone age. Communication occurred slowly. 
But the case was also slow because Asian Americans were a micro-community.
We're 21 million now and feel empowered.
In 1980, the Asian American population was just 3.7 million nationwide. And most were timid, non-boat rockers.
"In the Vincent Chin case, people were incredibly reluctant to become involved," Zia told me. "They had never gotten involved before. And I think that's what gets lost [in the retelling of the story]. Exclusion didn't end till about 1950, and so what that meant was Asian Americans of every kind, from Chinese to Filipinos, everybody, were pretty much totally disenfranchised till the mid-20th century."
"So when Vincent Chin was killed 30 years later [in 1982], the communities had. . .I think of it as stunted growth. There weren't people running for office. If there were, it was a miniscule number. There weren't people standing up; we didn't have advocacy organizations."
A right to justice, and a community's sense of empowerment, was a difficult thing to imagine for many Asian Americans. "Not only did we not have it," Zia said, "People didn't even recognize it was something we could have. The idea we all came together with the Vincent Chin case and sang 'Kumbaya' and took over and went to the Reagan White House and the Department of Justice and got all these things to happen. . .that's a mythology. And I think it's a disservice to the next generations to think this."
Helen Zia knows what was happening in Detroit in the '80s as the fight began for Vincent Chin.
More of her thoughts on Emil Amok's Takeout.
I don't know what Vincent Chin's killer did for Father's Day.
I last talked to Ronald Ebens in 2015, around the June 23 anniversary of Chin's death. "I'm doing fine," he told me then, adding quickly he had a good Father's Day with his kids.;
I asked him then if he ever thought about the anniversary. "Like what?" he said. "I never forget it."
"Of course not."
It was 2015. "I'm 75 years old, and I'm just tired of all that after 33 years."
He's 77 now, and Helen Zia doesn't want him ever to tire or forget the truth.
"He will never spend a day of his life without knowing he has a huge debt to society and a huge debt to Vincent Chin's family," Zia told me. "And one day, he will pay for it."
The very first time I talked to Ebens was in 2012, on the 30th anniversary of the Chin murder.
On the podcast, I read aloud the column that I wrote on June 22, 2012.
It has Ebens explaining himself and describing what happened that night. He was reluctant to talk to me, but he did. And during our conversation, he apologized for the murder. 


"I'm sorry it happened and if there's any way to undo it, I'd do it," he told me in my exclusive interview. "Nobody feels good about somebody's life being taken, okay? You just never get over it. . .Anybody who hurts somebody else. If you're a human being, you're sorry, you know."
But Zia, who read my column at the time, has never bought that as an apology.
"I stood next to this guy in court, and I see his face, over and over, read his words, and frankly, I don't see a shred of sincerity," Zia told me. "[He's really saying] 'I didn't even mean to kill, why should I have to go through this.'"
And then to me, Zia said, "It would take more than you interviewing him saying, ' I'm sorry, I killed him.' Let's see how sorry he is and set an example for future people who are thinking of killing a Muslim student in North Carolina, or a man in Kansas. These killers who kill out of hatred and go to justify their killings, it takes more than saying I'm sorry."
Jun 17, 2017
 Show Log
00: Open, intros, Emil comments on news, including the week's gun violence and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
14:35 Karthick Ramakrishnan, UC Riverside, School of Public Policy; AAPI Data
15:52 Interview begins
1:01:20  On bias against South Asians
1:02:49  On Vincent Chin Anniversary
1:07:10 Emil reads his Father's Day Essay

Emil Guillermo: Who is Asian American? On AMEMSA, Vincent Chin, and my Amok Monologues for Father's Day. PODCAST EXTRA: Karthick Ramakrishnan
June 16, 2017 11:57 AM

Say Asian or Asian American, and people think "Chinese."
Most people know that's not the case, but that tends to be the prevailing stereotype. And not just among whites, blacks, and Latinos. 
It's harder when even Asian Americans believe in the stereotype.
"East Asians need to recognize that Southeast Asians and South Asians are Asians too, " Karthick Ramakrishnan told me on Emil Amok's Takeout. "If you combine the Southeast Asian and South Asian categories, all these nationalities together, they're the overwhelming majority. East Asians are now a minority within the Asian American category."

Ramakrishnan is Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. He directs the National Asian American Survey, which recently revealed the jaw-dropping finding that some Asian Americans don't consider South Asians as Asian American.
Previously, I spoke with his NAAS cohort Jennifer Lee about this survey question here.
In my interview with Ramakrishnan, we discuss who has the power to define who is Asian, and how the "Asian American" umbrella is being threatened. Is an AMEMSA--Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian--category inevitable? 
"If you're brown and someone thinks you're Muslim, you get a different racial experience," Ramakrishnan told me on Emil Amok's Takeout. "That's what "AMEMSA" captures.
But what happens then to the broad Asian American category of 21 million and growing when 5 million South Asians can't identify and adopt a new category? 
Ramakrishnan also talks about how the NAAS findings may explain why there wasn't a massive mobilization from Asian Americans to protest the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla earlier this year. 
While Vincent Chin's murder inspired the activism of Asian Americans 35 years ago, the ire over the Kuchibhotla hate crime has not had a similar impact on the community. Ramakrishnan said it should have, and the fact that it didn't reveals Asian America's implicit and explicit biases.
"It's kind of a game of whack-a-mole," Ramakrishnan told me. "Unfortunately, when particular parts of our community are getting whacked, other parts of our community don't stand up nearly as much and are not nearly as vocal as we should be."
Uh-oh. We're reverting back to the other prevailing stereotype. Non-boat rockers. Just get on the boat. Don't miss it. Get off the boat. Just don't rock it. 
But maybe we should. The upcoming 35th anniversary of Vincent Chin is the time for some reflection.
In 2014, I wrote about how the entire community should use the days Chin was in a coma from June 19 to June 23 to think about what it's like to be Asian American.
We are coming up to that time.
It's a wide ranging Emil Amok's Takeout, including a special treat: I read my annual Father's Day essay, part of a story in my "Amok Monologues: A short history of the American Filipino--NPR, Harvard, Death on Mission St.," which I'm premiering at the San Diego International Fringe Festival, June 23 to 29.
Buy your tickets here:

If you're in San Diego, come on by! It's another part of my exploration of the solo performance form. It's funny.  It's tragic. It's amok! 
Jun 7, 2017

Ep.16: Emil Amok's Takeout---Show Log

:00-show open; Emil's take on Trump's tweets, climate change accord, Kathy Griffin, James Comey, Trump as hood ornament.

15::40 The NAAS Survey's finding that Asian Americans often exclude South Asians, Central Asians. Our xenophobia problem.

17:00 Prof. Jennifer Lee, Columbia Univ. on her research with Dean Karthick Ramakrishnan, UC-Riverside 

58:25 Prof. Pawan Dhingra, Tufts University, reacts to the findings. 

Show ends with my Warrior Prediction for Game 3!

AALDEF blog for the week: 

Too much terror, too much news. And the really important event of last week--Trump's nose- thumbing at world unity on climate change by pulling out of the Paris Accord-- is practically forgotten. 

Not that Trump would like us to dwell on that.

That was a classic Trump communication boner.

The Washington Post Fact-Checker, co-written by Michelle Ye Hee Lee with Glenn Kessler, pointed out Trump's basic misunderstanding of the accord. It's a non-binding deal. He can change Obama's goals on his own. That's a kind of deal the slippery Trump should love.

But his misreading of the accord led to wrong assumptions, like whether China and India could end up building more coal plants than the U.S. No, they can't. In fact, China has just curtailed more than 100 coal plants this year. Truth is optional with The Donald. He made up his mind on the Paris Accord with the wrong facts. 

Being morally wrong is bad enough. It's worse when it's compounded by being factually wrong.

And that was just a few Trump misstatements from last week's accord pull-out speech.

It was just the pre-weekend warmup.

After the London terrorist attacks, Trump's tweets turn out to be a lot more dangerous than any greenhouse gas--to the political climate.

Maybe the president needs better pictures to understand the issues. He got things completely wrong when it came to London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was trying to calm his city after the latest attacks. The mayor told his citizenry not to get alarmed by the massive police presence.

Khan wasn't downplaying terrorism.

Trump, of course, totally misunderstood and had to tweet it out.

"At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'" Trump said in a tweet, misconstruing the statement of Mayor Khan.

Another tweet was more offensive. "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his "no reason to be alarmed" statement. MSM [mainstream media] is working hard to sell it!"

And then he used the occasion to further advocate for his travel ban, because in Trump-think, if we banned Muslims we could stop terrorism. Only this time ,Trump was unequivocal in his belligerence and xenophobia.

"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!"

The caps are all Trump's.

This is the kind of misunderstanding that can lead to real tragedy--armed conflicts, major wars.

Even conservatives are starting to indicate that a Trump Twitter intervention may be needed. After Kellyanne Conway defended the president on morning TV by trying to downplay the tweets, her husband, Filipino American attorney George Conway, was appealing to the level-headed.

"These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won't help OSG [Office of the Solicitor General] get 4 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad."
Yes. Sad. 

Trump stands by Twitter as a way to talk directly to the people. But that's precisely why journalists must cover the statements and take them seriously. Surely, world leaders are concerned about the uncensored thoughts coming through Trump's twitter logorrhea.

That's the precise word for it.

We should all be concerned. 

Trump isn't the only one with a xenophobia issue. In some alarming findings, the 2016 National Asian American Survey found that many non-Asians don't think South Asians are Asian American.
Worse, many in our own big tent group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, don't think so either.

Jennifer Lee, Columbia University sociology professor and Karthick Ramakrishnan, Dean of Public Policy at UC Riverside,  published the findings in The Society Pages.

Most whites, blacks, and Latinos held the view that only East Asians from China, Japan, and Korea were Asian American.

Filipinos were tweeners, with anywhere from 15 to 17 percent of different groups thinking Filipinos weren't Asians. (Maybe Mexicans?)

But ask all groups about Indians and Pakistanis from South Asia, and Arabs and Middle Eastern people from Central and West Asia, and embarrassingly large numbers don't see them as Asian American at all.
Among whites, 41 percent said Indians are not likely to be Asian American, and 45 percent didn't see Pakistanis as Asian American. 


Here's the jawdropper. Even among Asians, the numbers who didn't see Indians or Pakistanis as Asian American were in the 30-40 percent range.

It's actually very Trump-like of the Asian Americans surveyed.

You'll recall the February murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the Kansas City tech engineer who was allegedly gunned down at a suburban bar by Adam Purinton, 51, a Navy veteran and former air traffic controller, who saw Kuchibhotla and yelled, "Get out of my country."

That was on Feb. 22. 

It took six days before the president even acknowledged it in a brief mention in his joint speech before Congress.

It could have been an opportunity for real leadership. But everything the president has done has emboldened violent white nationalists. We saw it recently with the violent stabbings in Portland. And certainly we saw it in Kansas City when Kuchibhotla was gunned down.

At the time, I thought the murder would galvanize the broader community of 21 million Asian Americans to stand up united against the hateful political sentiments of Steve Bannon being channeled through Trump and that's been empowering folks like Adam Purinton.

And now, because of the insights of the survey on how we see ourselves, I know why it didn't.

"To fail to see Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis as Asian--especially when they see themselves as such--is to silence their voices," wrote Lee and Ramakrishnan in the Society Pages. "It also risks promoting an incomplete portrait of Asian Americans that ignores more threatening, dangerous and even deadly forms of anti-Asian discrimination."

Jennifer Lee called it "drawing boundaries on Asian America." 

Or maybe a wall?

That NAAS research shows it's happening, and that in a serious way, Asian Americans have our own sense of xenophobia.

Like Trump, we fear each other.
We're just not tweeting about it as much as he does. Listen to my interview with Lee on the East Asian/South Asian divide and the findings of the survey on our podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout, coming soon.

*     *     *
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo