3:13 PM

We Remember!

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

Joseph Santos Ileto, an ordinary man who was naturally kind to others. He would forego his bus monies as a young child in the Philippines and sacrifice not to travel in comfort, instead chose to walk for miles from school to home, just because he opted to give his classmate his bus fare so his classmate can eat. Even though it was not his designated weekend work shift at the US Postal Office, he did not say, “ No I won’t “, but instead, in his natural kindness, he said “ Yes, I will gladly do it, so you can be with your family. “ A kindness that took him to drive not to his usual postal route of a few short miles in Monterey Park, but one that placed him at a detriment, driving from the east side of LA county to Chatsworth on the north side of Los Angeles, a commute of 25 miles that easily became hours.

He did not mind, as he found it inherently natural to be generous in spirit to accommodate the needs of others, whether a fellow classmate or another fellow postal worker. His kindness was not limited to classmates or fellow workers, his generosity was legendary amongst his family, his caring heart cradled their lives and eased their daily burdens.

But, America’s Buford Furrow, a self-described supremacist, who hated folks of color and believed he was shooting a Mexican, shot Joseph Santos Ileto not once, not twice, but nine times.

Nine times to pull the trigger and snuff a life speaks loudly to hatred in one’s heart, perhaps so consuming as to overwhelm him and pull the trigger uncontrollably for nine times.

By underscoring this, it is perhaps for us to realize how much hatred can be unconscious and breeding under the skin within a person, perhaps even nurtured by a dismissive culture which makes it easy for others to be bullied, to be diminished, to be dismissed, to be devalued, to be disrespected, that a single event can catalyze this hatred into a hateful, killing action and where lives do not seem to matter and seem to be insignificant as others.

But not Joseph, he mattered to his family, he mattered to his community, and he mattered to those of us who care about the value of each and every human life.

For Joseph’s family, instead of reacting with vengeance, or feeling embittered by his death, Lillian, Ish, Deena, Carmina, even Kyle, the family opened up their hearts filled with pain, and gave more love to the children of the North Valley Jewish Community Center, who also found themselves at the crossfire of the overflowing hatred from Buford Furrow.

Instead of isolating themselves, they reached out to the communities in Los Angeles and then, outside of California to speak about tolerance, to demonstrate in no uncertain terms what it is to truly love and care for others from the depths of one’s heart.

They showed it in practice with one another, soft-spoken, gentle and generous in how they dealt with folks in the community, in how they showed appreciation, in how they cared about other people, just like Joseph was.

Just like the generosity of the Ileto family, The Filipino American community also found the Asian Pacific American Legal Center generous in their solidarity and alliance with our community. They accompanied us in our hours of grief, in our moments of confusion and disorientation and guided us until justice was reached in the trial and sentencing of Buford Furow.

Today, just like the genuine examples of the Ileto Family living with kindness, living with tenderness, living with empathy, and their generous practices as a family, the Iletos are no longer accidental heroes but are real, genuine examples of tolerance and acceptance and love, and now, the community has matured and engaged in activities, respecting a process that is inclusive and equal in stature to the results that we want to achieve.

Ten years later, I find myself surrounded with folks in the community who care with passion, who care about being generous with one another, who care about showcasing their best selves to each other.

Joseph Santos Ileto’s death has become a pathway for us to live as better Angelenos to one another and his legacy to us, even if inscribed in a slogan has become real: instilling love, equality, tolerance towards one another.

Joseph, your death was not in vain! To our community, you lighted a path that steps into the breach, bridges gaps so we may have more understanding for one another, and ten years later, we are more active in the civic life of Los Angeles, its culture, its community development, active in organizing writing workshops, in doing fundraisers for universities and non-profits, in creating new enterprises and businesses, in hosting art exhibits towards a thriving, multicultural communities in America, a community anchored in civil rights for all, developing good leaders, supporting organizations and authoring books and textbooks for higher education. That is where we are today, ten years after Joseph Santos Ileto’s tragic death befell our community.

Delivered at the 10th Anniversary of the Joseph Santos Ileto’s Shooting on August 10, 1999 at a press conference held at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, August 10, 2009.


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