10 years later, Fil-Ams, Jewish community remember hate crime
LOS ANGELES—For the mother of Filipino postman Joseph Ileto, killed by a white supremacist a decade ago, time has not healed all wounds.
“Pag nababanggit ang pangalan nya, naiiyak ako eh... Hindi naman ako iyakin,” said Lilian Ileto.
Ileto was murdered simply because of the color of his skin.
His murderer, Buford Furrow, Jr., earlier fired at students and staff at the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center on August 10, 1999, wounding five.
The center's survivors and Ileto's family gathered yesterday at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center to remember the 10th anniversary of the violence. Community leaders and high-ranking government officials joined the family.
Furrow is currently in jail serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Joseph's brother Ismael pointed out that even if the killing was racially motivated, mainstream media sometimes did not mention Joseph's race.
“We like to describe him as 'Filipino American postal worker.' Many times after the event, he was merely described as a postal worker, which gave our family, our community a sense of invisibility, a sense of being overlooked, as if we don't count. He was killed because of the color of his skin,” said Ismael.
The Iletos say that the killer's message of hate was overruled by the tremendous messages of love that they received from many people, not just Filipinos.
“I remember the first time I saw the Ileto family, surrounded by the Jewish community. I felt so bad that our Filipino American community and Asian American community were not there. And then from then on, we mobilized our community to hold a memorial service, and we were pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of the community,” said Prosy de la Cruz, a Filipino community leader.
Ismael is hoping that many more Fil-Ams would support their campaign to end hate crimes.
“Ten years forward we wish that people will still remember who my brother was and why he was killed and the importance of everyone getting involved and not waiting till it happened to you. Especially in the Filipino community, a lot of them say 'malas lang' or he was in the wrong place, wrong time. We shouldn't think that way. My brother was doing what he was supposed to be doing. The killer was in the wrong place, wrong frame of mind.”
In honor of Joseph, the Iletos continue their campaign against hate crimes through various speaking engagements throughout the nation. They are also strong supporters of gun control bills.