Ingredients for an Alameda political controversy: rice, hugging and clapping

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer

Mayor told Filipino sister city group her kids eat rice

ALAMEDA | There was an audible gasp followed by quizzical looks from a crowd earlier this month when Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer welcomed dignitaries from Dumaguete City — Alameda’s sister city in the Philippines. And now some people are calling Spencer’s comments racially insensitive and embarrassing to the Filipino American community in Alameda.

The flub occurred June 5 as Spencer greeted the sister city’s mayor, his staff, and members of the community. Spencer said her children, like Filipinos, eat “white rice.” Spencer’s remarks were recorded, and then slowly disseminated around the island.

Fearing a small-scale diplomatic controversy was about to erupt following the delegation’s four-day visit, a Filipino-American activist sent a passionate letter apologizing for the mayor’s remarks. The letter, however, has also caught the attention of Alameda’s political establishment, which is often at odds with Spencer. And the incident could now alienate Spencer from the city and region’s fast-growing Filipino community.

However, this isn’t the first time that Spencer, a surprise winner in last fall’s mayoral election, has come under fire for her comments, nor is it the first time a recording has fueled the fire.

In the audio clip obtained by the Express, Spencer’s short speech is disjointed and littered with incomplete thoughts. (In an interview later, Spencer admitted that it was an off-the-cuff speech.) During her remarks, Spencer struggled to convey the cultural similarities between Alamedans and Filipinos. “I have many Filipino friends,” she said. “Our children grew up … eating rice — white rice!” Spencer followed up the comment with a booming, cackling laugh…

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