Motherland

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I just finished watching this really heartbreakingly real documentary called Motherland  on POV/PBS. I started and stopped and started it again about 5 times because I was crying my eyes out.

I’m not exactly sure what to write about but I am feeling compelled to think through writing.

There’s no context or interviews or voiceover. Throughout the documentary we see the labor and delivery room in the hospital where, at times, three Filipinas are laboring on one gurney at a time. Birthing mothers are rushed off to give birth right at the moment of pushing, no sooner. There’s just not enough tables. The postpartum main hall shows two recovering mothers with premature babies (2 or 3) per bed. Many of the mothers practice “KMC” or Kangaroo Mother Care where premature babies are supposed to be skin to skin 24/7. There’s anywhere between 140-150 mothers with their babies at any given time.

The images of Filipinas shown as birthing bodies are overwhelming. Many of them are on their 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th child. As you are overhearing the intake interview with hospital staff, you learn that many of the women have barely a secondary education. None of them have jobs. Neither do most of their husbands. They don’t know how they’ll be paying for the cost of their hospital bill (some of them choosing to leave early because they can’t pay). Some live in urban poor dwellings or “squatters”.

There’s no real discussion of the dereliction of the state. Instead the social workers and nursing are convincing many mothers and fathers to engage in family planning or get tubal ligation or an IUD. Over mounds of paper work, social workers say that the government has “no money”. Into the blank stares of parents, “no money” goes into one ear and out of the other.

Ok, so what’s bothering me?

I think the documentary is compelling. It is a glimpse into what the lives and plight of Filipino women in the Philippines. It gives a clear basis for a disruptive change in Philippine society.

What they need is structural family planning. What they need is more public assistance. What they need is jobs to pay their bills. What they need is prenatal care. What they need are public institutions that work to their benefit and not at the expense of them and their children.

But there’s none of that in the film. You could walk away and think, “Those Filipinas are just irresponsible birthing bodies.” And perhaps from a Westernized gaze, people could see these mothers as unloving and not nurturing. In their eyes, postpartum, isn’t a warm fuzzy gaze of a mother in love with a newborn. Rather, they have a vision of a future that is laden with struggle and want.

Filipino women’s lives are mired in the contradictions of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalist greed and US imperialism. I think this documentary demonstrates that. It just needs a little help in terms of naming the larger societal evils so that people don’t blame the women in the documentary.

 

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How to Raise Feminist Kids

A New York Times published a piece called, “How to Raise a Feminist SonHow to Raise a Feminist Son” written by Claire Cain Miller popped up on my Facebook feed a couple of days. And of course, since the arrival of my son (my partner and I chose to keep the sex of our baby secret until he revealed himself), I’ve been thinking more and more how I can raise a man that respects women (both trans and cis) and people of all sexualities. I have been thinking of how this world is riddled with toxic masculinity ala Trumpian buffoonery and all kinds masculinity that doesn’t honor women.

But I also think about how I want to raise my daughter with feminist ideals. How do I raise her to protect her body? To understand consent? Not to be ashamed when someone calls her “sassy” or “bossy” which is often a gendered comment that never gets tagged on to her male cousins (also, how do I not feel ashamed when someone calls her that and inherently assumes that I allow for that “attitude)?

Anyway, I’m gonna get to my point but I’m gonna do it by talking about a pink pony.

So, a friend of ours had his daughter’s birthday party at a Build-A-Bear workshop. I was hoping that my daughter, Aya, would pick a regular schmegular bear so she could dress it up as a bear doctor or a bear astronaut–two of the things she’s super into. Instead, my lil homegirl chooses a pink unicorn pony with long tresses of purple and teal hair and eyes too big for its head but made for cuteness and a baby pink pinker than its body unicorn horn.

I look at it and I’m like, what? There’s so. much. pink.

But she loved it. Like at first sight. She hugged it and named it Porcupine.

I took her back to the choosing aisle and showed her the regular bear and what we could do with it but she was like, “I want Porcupine.” For real? Yes, yes she only wanted Porcupine, the Pink Pony/Unicorn. A little part of my feminist heart was crushed and the crumbs of it got blown away by Porcupine’s hair whip.

So, it was.

Here’s the lesson I learned from it: I gotta learn how to let Aya and Cy make their own decisions. I think this idea of self-determination is pretty freakin’ key, y’all.

When whole countries don’t have the ability to determine their nation’s political, economic and social agenda, they are often corrupted into the biggest and loudest voices–ahem, US imperialism. For example, the cancellation of the fifth round of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippine is reflective of current President Détente’s inability to determine a Philippine political agenda that fits into the type of country many Filipinos want it to be–a country based on just peace.

If I can learn a lesson from geopolitics, I think I can apply that to raising my children. After all, as a friend Johanna Almiron-Johnson once said, the work of raising these children is the work of nation-building.

What if raising feminist children is not just about teaching them to treat the sexes equally?

What if its about allowing them self-determination?

To this year’s Filipina/o Graduate

Dear Filipina/o American graduate,
I see you. 
At the end of my first tenure track year at San Francisco State University, it was you that reminded me that I’m exactly where I need to be. No matter how long and hard the journey has been just to get here and how much harder it’ll be to stay here, you reminded me that I not only belong at State but that I have so much to look forward to. 
As you all walked across the stage yesterday at Fil Grad, I, alongside my amazing Filipina/Filipino colleagues at SFSU had the honor and privilege to shake your hand, hug you and bid you our deepest congratulations, sending you on your way to your next chapter. 
And you gave me life. 
Mostly because when you crossed the stage, I had the most beautiful view: your family and friends screaming at the top of their lungs, holding up their homemade banners, blow up pictures of your face and vinyl tarps made from the Philippines with “Congrats [your name here].” They were/are so proud. 
You, the beautiful Queer Pinxy flawless in your gender non-conforming everything. Your singing voice clearly marking the moments in the program as yours with your unabashed talent. 
You, the MA graduate with your extra special knowledge and extra special years behind your name. You braved the whole, “you’re going back to school question?” from your family and came out winning. 
You, the hot-cheeto-Christmas-lights-paper-origami-lei wearing Pinoy donning the weight of the world and your homemade decor on your shoulders. 
You, fly Pinay with your make up on fleek and heels, a set of gold fronts to boot, just so so fly with your degree in hand. 
You, the ones who had a little choreo prepared, strutting on stage to Mac Dre or E40. Pop po’ your collar, bounce-walkin’ like only Bay Area bred cats can on the way to collect your diploma. Reppin’ you and the Bay so. Damn. Hard. 
And even, you, the Filipina/o grad who didn’t walk the stage yesterday at Fil Grad–I see you. 
You, the ones who filed into ATT park to experience the big shebang. Remembering it through an Instastory, Snap or FB filter. Sending a text to me with fellow Filipino/a students to let me know exactly what time it is. 
Thank you. Thank you for shining. 
Yesterday, was my first Fil Grad back at State. Last time, I was graduating just like you. The road ahead unbeknownst to me. But like you, I had the world to win. 
I’ll have plenty more Fil Grads but yesterday, I want to remember just how beautiful, brilliant and full of potential you are. I hope you have a good celebration and then also remember to #StandwithMarawi and make sure you join the rest of us to say #NeverAgaintoMartialLaw. Because we need you. Your spirit and your will. 
Congrats graduate!

And they are also always breathing…

Its taken me a while to figure out what I wanted to write about Alex Tizon’s story about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, better known to Tizon’s family as Lola. Reading Tizon’s account of Lola’s life brought up different emotions for me. One of which was to question how the life of Lola was being written about; authored by another and in confirmation of the decades long story about Filipina domestics as victims. As a scholar writing about the lives of domestic workers and their families, I often struggle with the ways in which I write about their lives and how people may read the lives of the Filipino women (who I admire) as confirmation of the normative tropes about Filipina migrant domestics–as victims or powerless. I’m also often in conversation with other Pinay and Pinxy activist, scholars and poets and writers who are also trying to navigate that dynamic (see Barbara Jane Reyes’ blog post about Critical Pinayisms and a discussion we had about this very issue). Reading Tizon’s writing jettisoned me into the eyes and thoughts of people who couldn’t understand the nuance in domestic servitude in the Philippines, as a vestige of Spanish colonialism and then US imperialism. I felt uncomfortable that we were left bare for people to judge.

The rational side of me had similar reactions as other writers and thinkers about a number of issues in the story that Tizon penned: the problematic conflating the enslavement of Africans to the relationship of indentured servitude in the Philippine context and also, kinda rolling my eyes at the defensiveness of Filipinos (including my own knee jerk reaction of shame or “hiya”) about our “carried over” treatment of Filipino servants. Additionally, I agree with grassroots organizations like GABRIELA USA that criticize the feudal patriarchal Philippine society that relegate women to domesticity which only leave migration as the viable social and economic path. It was also systems of imperialism and capitalism that enslaved Lola.

But I’ll leave those discussions be. They’ve already been rehearsed.

Tonight, I want to acknowledge the breathing, human side of Lola. Her dreams. Her desire. Her fears. There are always many sides to one story right? I wonder if Lola would’ve written her story (just like Barbara Jane wonders in her processing of Tizon’s story), would it have been so melancholy. Would she have been the victor? Would her complexities have shown? I wonder what teleserye she liked. And what was her guilty pleasures? What made her laugh? Was she funny? Did she have a mean streak?

In my work (both political and academic) with Filipina migrants who work as domestic workers (for Filipino families and non-Filipino families), I have learned that their work as nannies, housekeepers and caregivers is an important part of them. Their answer to the question, “what is the hardest and the best thing about your work?” was often tied to their role in the families they worked for. The hardest thing was being a nanny. The best thing was being a nanny.

But it was one part. They also found joys and fulfillment in other things. They loved singing karaoke. They traveled to Cherry Blossom festivals. They watched teleseryes and chatted with other Filipinas as they waited for their charges to be dismissed from class. They took pride in their fish lumpia–a regional delicacy. They loved to send money back for fiesta in the Philippines. They cried together when loneliness overtook them. They found halo-halo and ate it in the middle of snowstorms, reassuring one another that below zero degree weather was better than Manila heat.

The hardest part about reading Lola’s story was that we weren’t allowed to see the community of Filipinas that may have been in her life. Even if they weren’t close, there were Filipinas who were doing the same work she was. She ran into them at the store or at the playground. I’m sure of it.

Filipinas, who are mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers and sisters, working as domestic workers are always breathing and living for one another. They are often building their communities and fictive kin abroad to not just survive, but thrive. Their jobs do not define their lives, although it is constraining. They are individually and collectively multi-dimensional and colorful and at times, victims and other times, victors.

Yes, Filipinas working as domestic workers live under horrifying conditions (see Mary Jane Veloso’s continuing struggle on death row in Indonesia). But they are also creative in the types of resilience they conjure. Below are just some examples of Filipinas on the forefront of rallies to demand justice for their fellow Filipina migrant or Filipinas at the center of cultural productions and political organizing to build up their own leadership in their own organizations.

So as much as I lament the seeming slow suffocation and death of Lola as presented by Tizon. I want to always acknowledge her breath. And acknowledge that others like her are also always breathing to get through a day, a year and a lifetime away from their families and in service to other families.

What’s the point of protesting Donald Trump?

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Dear Papa,

Yesterday, over dinner, you asked me an honest question,”If you go protest, will it stop Donald Trump’s inauguration?”

In that question, I heard so many people’s despair and hopelessness. 

I answered, “No, it won’t.” And then I took a couple of minutes, taken aback by your very real question, to muster up an answer to why my husband and I will take our 2 year old daughter and our 33 week old unborn child to the streets to protest on Saturday morning. 

I know you believed in the potential of Ferdinand Marcos, a cruel dictator that took so many lives and advantages of our people when you were young, but when it came to oust him–you took us out in those streets didn’t you? Well, we’ve got pictures to prove it. Why did you go protest then?

Perhaps it’s the simple act of claiming your own power in a time of powerlessness that pushed you. It pushes us now. 

I’ve been in the streets marching in protests for years. Under the Obama and Bush administrations, under the Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino and even the Duterte administrations, and in those times, I’ve found that even if it doesn’t stop a war or extrajudicial killings or systematic racism in its tracks, that when I stepped out I did it in community. Alongside people who didn’t agree, who didn’t want to feel like we didn’t have a choice in any of it. In collective voice, we found one another! A new way of feeling like we’re part of something bigger.

This time around, and in the next four years, I will work tirelessly and protest relentlessly to claim my stake in what my newly acquired US citizenship supposedly provides. I will teach my children that “democracy” doesn’t just live in a big White House, it’s in the messy, streets where people’s feet bang on the pavement everyday on their way to work. Its in the evening meetings to strategize how to regain ground in our local areas. Its in the family circles where we educate our children about their value despite what the politicians may say.

It is not time to rest. Although it’s a tiring idea to think of the racism, sexism, ableism, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic brand of US imperialism that has come to show its face, finally. So truthful and unabashedly. It’s not time to sit down and not protest. 

It’s time to build bridges; find a new language; and act on uniting across communities to move forward boldly. 

It’s time to do the exciting work of reimagining a new world where trans people’s lives are not in danger. Where Black lives matter, to police, towards economic justice, to all of us. A world where women are not seen as sexual objects for consumption. Where immigrants aren’t forced to leave their homelands, where they aren’t criminalized. Where all families can find housing security. Where all Queer people can dance without fear. Where our human dignity can be restored. It’s time to do the work. 

Papa, I’m protesting because there’s no other option. For Aya. For baby. For Melana. For Kanoah. For Jordan. For our future. You remember that feeling right?

Beyond Final Papers, Beyond the Classroom

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In the past few years, I’ve invested in assigning creative final projects for my upper division classes. Across the three institutions I’ve taught at as a tenure-track professor, the risk is high (because students loathe group work so they’re always giving me side-eye for assigning a group project as a requirement and sometimes it ends up the evals) and the outcomes of the projects vary wildly. The range of quality in the projects can be attributed to the fact that I don’t teach an art or film editing course—I teach sociology. But also because students have varying abilities in creating finished and polished projects whether they be visual graphic posters, videos, art, etc. The final product is not my main concern though—really, its the process students undertake to create their final project that is important to me.

This Fall semester, I had the privilege and pleasure of starting a TT position at my alma mater (San Francisco State, go Gators!) where I knew I could really push students to do something other than a final paper, and where I knew that my department would recognize an “alternative” final assignment as a pedagogical strength (I mention this for those of us on the tenure-track who might want to try this method but ya’ll got to take into account the context of your institution). I taught a Families and Society (SOC 464) class and the students were amazing from jump. They were all open to challenging their own ideas and embodied identities. They were down to be co-teachers/co-learners in the classroom with me, taking on discussion activities through reading groups. I mean. They were great. So I thought that these final projects might be good.

But y’all. They were AWESOME.

I structured it like this. After the mid-term, I had them focus their energies on the final creative project which set up the final project grade with a process-oriented assessment instead of assessing the projects as a final product. I had four assignments due before the in-class screening during the final exam period:

  1. Progress report with research topic, research questions, methods, concepts
  2. Storyboard that outlined a vision of what the 5-6 minute video would look like
  3. In-class Pitch of their idea and what they had collected already
  4. Reflection essay on the course concepts, experiential learning and reflexivity on their roles in the group

I provided at least 2 class sessions where they would only work on the project assignments in terms of brainstorming and collective concept development. For their assignments, I gave detailed feedback to the groups via iLearn (SFSU’s instructional tech management system). I also checked in with groups via email periodically, perhaps in the future, I’ll set up some office hour appointments too.

Here are some course structural things that I want to remember for future courses:

  1. Scaffold the assignments: Every assignment (short papers, free writing activities, group formations) should lead up to preparing them for this final assignment. I know. DUH. But I didn’t set up the class like that this time so I had to play catch up mid-semester; creating assignments along the way. Start at the beginning of the semester!
  2. A Paradox: We already engage the construction of the “normative” in the class, why not have them identify a paradoxical normative narrative in the class as it progresses and have them juxtapose that with their own experiences or better yet, other people’s experiences? That could be the “data” in their final projects.
  3. In-class Tutorials: I should bring an instructional designer in one or two times in the semester to show them iMovie or another PC-based software.

On to the good stuff—the perfect storm: students, the past election season and the medium of creativity produced amazing results. I think partly this was because the students at SFSU are really plugged into political discourse but I also I think they create amazing things when they come together.

With the consent of my students and the consent of the people that they included in their projects, I want to share some of the creative final projects with all of you.

In this short video entitled, “Never Meant to Survive”, students explored the “possibility of queer kinship as the site of political resistance” as Christopher Dokko, one of my students writes. Their group interviewed Queer Folks of Color (QFOC) about chosen families and Queer kin in a time of Trump. They begin with an Audre Lorde poem and splice in interviews with QFOC’s over the realities of living under a Trumpian administration. Important to note that this group decided to switch the direction of their whole project when they met up the morning after the election of Donald Trump as president. The students in this group described their change as a way to heal and wrap their heads around what our lives were going to be like.

This video entitled, “So Who is this ‘Muslim’ the Media Keeps Talking About?” was born out of a critique of my syllabus. I did not have a reading on the families of South Asian or Middle Eastern families or families that practice Islam. Although, we discussed Asian American families and media frames depicting the “model minority, the students in this group wanted to fill in that gap with their work. Students in this group sought to debunk the media narratives circulating about Muslims and Muslim families.

I especially liked this video project entitled, “Creating New Endings,” because the students in the group were what I like to call the “ratchets” of Earth with a play on Frantz Fanon Wretched of the Earth. These students were always quick to reference their epistemologies as women of color, working young women and Bay Area representatives in class and it showed through the song choices and creative turns in this video.

I share these 3 projects not because they were my favorites over other projects but the students accomplished what I had set out the final project PROCESS to be.

  • They translated the academic debates, scholarship and concepts from class in their own words to their people, peers, communities, friends, families to collect data.
  • They internalized the importance of challenging normative ideological codes that circulates about families in the US.
  • They flipped the script and used their own experiences and emotions as the guiding analytical lens to create this projects that will go beyond me reading it in my office and assigning a grade to them at the end of the semester.

For these reasons, I feel really proud to be a part of their learning process.

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On Post-Colonial Rage and Not Being Mad at Big Brother aka US Imperialism

 

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First of all, let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR, President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” is unconscionable. Thousands of people and innocent bystanders have been slain in the name of “cleaning up” the Philippines. Without due process, the Philippine National Police have become the prosecutor, judge, jury and executor of Filipinos who may or may not be involved with drugs. Its deplorable and I hope mounting national mass movement building and international attention and criticism can pierce the presidential halls of the Philippines to cease extrajudicial killings.

Okay? Okay.

The headlines regarding the Philippines this morning is deeply connected to the aforementioned extrajudicial killings. But it seems to me, it is also about a resounding slap on the postcolonial wrist of Duterte. So what am I talking about? Duterte went on (yet another) controversial tirade a couple of days before maybe meeting with President Barack Obama. When prompted by a journalist about talking with Obama about the extradjudicial killings happening in the Philippines right now related to the war on drugs, Duterte got fired up and using his best Pinoy patriarchal voice (yes, I’m being sarcastic), said, “I am not beholden to Obama, my master is the Filipino people.”

Ohhhhhhhh. Burnnnnnn.

When I was watching the press conference, I was like, “Daaaaaamn. He really went there.”

Why?

Because a little known historical fact is that past Philippine presidents were not only chummy with US presidents—but actually, many (and by many I mean, ALL) have been puppets to US political will, economic intervention and military occupation. See below chummy, puppet examples below of recent chummy, puppet presidents getting chummy with past US imperialist presidents:

 

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Obama is in Laos right now at the ASEAN meeting (which btw is such a problematic group prioritizing neoliberal reforms that seek to cut the potential of SE Asian countries to develop with self-determination) and he basically heard about Duterte’s comments and canceled their pending meeting. Which in fairness (that’s a Filipino phrase for, “Duterte was asking for it”), Duterte was out of pocket swearing like a Pinoy patriarch whipping out his ego for the world to see—so ain’t nobody talkin to you with that potty mouth, even if you are head of the state. (Update: Duterte is regretful. Good job GPH media relations.)

But that’s not what I wanted to get at here in my morning pages. I think there is a certain shock and disbelief running through the American media (I listened to NPR this morning, read the NY Times, even took a peek at CNN) that a president, much less the Philippine president, would say such distancing comments about the US.

Underlying this shock is a sort of assumption that the Philippines, Filipinos and especially the head of state should remember the history of benevolent coloniality and current-day “help” US imperialism provides in the Philippines by way of military, aid, Justin Bieber tours, etc. What I read in today’s headlines was an aversion to a post-colonial state disavowing US intervention. How dare Filipinos be mad at the US? How dare Duterte say that his only master is the Filipino people? How dare he show anger at his American Big Brother whose only showed kindness, fairness and benevolence?

Yo, people are straight mad that anyone who has been shown US kindness (read: military aid, money, disaster aid, money) have feelings that are not of subservient gratitude—much less rage.

Don’t get it twisted, my people. I think Duterte should be held accountable for a police force and armed forces that has gone rogue. (Haters, see the opening paragraph before you come for me in the comments.) Not only the extrajudicial killings from the “war on drugs” but also the slain community leaders of the Lumad tribe in Mindanao. Duterte must stop killing his so called “masters”.

However, the shock wave that Duterte’s comments have made in the international media demonstrates that no matter how long its been since colonies have been signed into sovereignty on paper. They are still considered colonial projects, that should be grateful, passive, non-confrontational and dutiful. The Philippines as a former US colony should never be angry about US intervention, they should only have the utmost respect for a past-colonizer/neo-imperialist occupier.

Duterte’s comments regarding his accountability to the Filipino people is refreshing. Ain’t no president before him had the gall to put the Filipino people first. Now, the challenge is to see if he really is for the Filipino people.

Enough with them fightin words, Duterte has to ensure that outside of press conferences and big international meetings—he revokes the fetters of US imperial powers on the Philippines. He must terminate unequal agreements between the US and the Philippines such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperating Agreement (EDCA).

4 Reasons Why Filipinas/os Should Support Black Lives Matter

I have been struggling the past few days. Here, I’ve put my words down again to implore my community to join in solidarity and support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

4. Anti-Black racism has plagued our community.

As a young darker-skinned Filipina, I was often taunted as “Black Beauty” and told never to go under the sun so that I wouldn’t get darker. What that meant was dark = not good, black = bad. My grandfather always warned me about watching the show, Martin, and having Black friends because they were no good. Instead of seeing the commonalities between our communities, our elders and families have bought into the American racial order before they even got to the US. They swallowed the pill that white was good and Black was bad. Colorism is just a small part of the consequences of this type of internalized racism.

Much more toxic is our rejection of mixed race Filipinos/as in our community. Much more dangerous is that Filipinos/as think that our histories are completely separate and that the consequences of anti-Black racism can not touch Filipinos/as. But it does. Everyday it does. White supremacy recasts Black and Brown bodies (I consider Filipinos/as as Brown) as lesser than white, in very different and relative ways. But my point is that we will never be assimilated into whiteness. And as long as we continue to front like we can be white by rejecting Blackness, we are part of the problem.

3. Black and Filipino solidarity is historical.

David Fagen deserted the American imperialist forces to join the Filipino independence forces at the turn of the 20th century. One journalist stated, “the negro soldiers were in closer sympathy with the aims of the native population than they were with those of their white leaders and the policy of the United States.” Filipinos were openly called the n-word and caricatured as “little brown brothers”. Well, it was Black people who stood up for us against US empire. It was Black soldiers that took up our mantle, put it on their backs and fought for our freedom. Our liberation was bound together then, and it is even more so now.

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2. US empire in the Philippines relied on anti-Black racism at home.

The encroachment of US empire in the Philippines was imbued with anti-Black racism. Imperialist cartoons show Filipinos as dark skinned savages in need of saving. This was set in the backdrop of increasing racial repression against Black people in the US via Jim Crow laws and segregation, not to mention continuing settler colonialism and cultural genocide of indigenous people in the US. The American colonial project got its fire from the racialized oppression of Black people. It gave them moral logic and the state-sanctioned practices to go abroad and subjugate Filipinos. Caricatured and racialized as Black people in SE Asia, Filipinos were made to swallow this racial ideology even before we were being exported for profit.

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It’s about damn time that we reject these two interlinked racial ideologies. And its about time that we step up to acknowledge that both are not the same in egregiousness but they work together to divide and subjugate

1. It is the right thing to do.

In the past 3 days, two men (and perhaps more (men, women, trans people) who are under the media radar), Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were murdered by police officers. Sadly, they were not the first nor the last Black people whose lives will be taken by police. These men were complying. These men were simply living their lives. They were doing nothing that deserved death. Their humanity was sacrificed in the name of institutionalized racism, the internalization of Black criminality and acceptance of Black death by police officers.

Filipinos/as cannot stand by while Black people and the Black community are clamoring for a stop to these killings; this crisis in human rights violations. Our community has been fed the idea that if we work hard enough, we could buy into the institution of whiteness. Well guess what, y’all? We can’t. We  will never be part of that institution. So if you are standing still, silent and inactive during this epidemic of Black death by police, then you are finishing the project of white supremacy. You are holding up white supremacy.

Instead of being silent because its not happening to the Filipino community, we have to gather our resources, our organizing experience and join in the national and international movement to value Black lives by holding police accountable and demanding a STOP to the killings. We must challenge white supremacy as it continues its centuries-long reign and attack on Black lives.

We have to stand on the right side of history here, ya’ll. We can not be silent. We must act with and under the leadership of Black people. Its the right thing to do. Its the only thing to do.

The Problems with “The Problem With Filipinos”

So, an article called “The Problem With Filipinos” has been posted and shared on social media over the last couple of days. A friend and colleague, Dr. Akissi Britton, shared and tagged me and a Pinay kasama-sista-scholar, Dr. Johanna Almiron-Johnson on it to get our takes on it.

First of all, especially, as tribute to the fake ass Philippine independence day, an article that spells out all of the problems of our community is such a tired and misplaced start. C’mon. Let’s get our lives and start in the place that’s most vibrant, exciting, thrilling, hopeful–the revolutionary mass movement in the Philippines. As Dr. Almiron-Johnson said and I quote

Deep as colonial is deep but it misses the FACT of Filipino history–namely our revolutionary resistance against imperialism and colonialism. It erases the fact that the Philippines continues to be one of the few countries in contemporary history to overthrow its own government not once, twice but three times by People Power. It’s easier to perpetuate the notion that we ain’t woke than that we always have been woke but the violence of white supremacy aka. American imperialism is as relentless as it always has been. What the article does get right is that the damage of colonialism is so far reaching and so deeply internalized that Filipin@s have figured out how to enjoy it. Our colonialism is so queer it hurts.

Ain’t nobody forgetting the travesties under the Marcos dictatorship. While the author states that we are “quick to hate and quicker to forget” but I think she is the one forgetting a mass movement’s continual projection and strategies to avoid re-electing a Marcos to vice presidency. Girl, it was us, it was our people: Filipinos were in the forefront telling the Marcoses to have several seats.

I mean, I could go on but really I wanted to write this because the problem with the identifying Filipinos as the culprit in all of our struggles is:

  1. It doesn’t give Filipinos enough credit for the movement-building that’s happening in our homeland and in the diaspora. I mean Filipino/a-American youth are spending their summers connected to people’s organizations learning about indigenous people’s struggles in Mindanao! Not on that Gawad Kalinga-blame-the-poor-for-being-poor mess, but actual organized youth caring about what organized youth movements are like in the Philippines!
  2. It takes American empire and monopoly capitalism off the hook for the conditions under which Filipinos “don’t know who we are”. We don’t know who we are?? Girl. Bye. We definitely suffer from colonial mentality and often over-value American pop culture but these are vestiges of American colonization and current neocolonialism and cultural imperialism (not just in the Philippines, either!). And as Dr. A-J has said up above, Filipinos have always been “woke” and there’s an unforgettable history and a vibrant movement TODAY that continues that legacy. Peep the list within my list below:

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As the author Sade Andria Zabala predicted, yea, I’m mad. Why? Not because of

Pride

Pride

Pride

Because for someone who is “airing out” dirty laundry of the community, I hold dear and LOVE, I’m mad that she didn’t even take the time to research the deeply passionate, committed and revolutionary people who make up our community: the migrant worker leaders trailblazing the way for other Filipino/a migrants who are rendered silent because of a broken immigration system. The daily community organizers using their ivy league degrees to make Filipino/a immigrants lives better. The after 40-hours a week volunteers who are meeting until the wee hours of the night to coordinate campaigns to take back SoMa Pilipinas as Filipino/a American geography. The teachers from K-12 to the college classrooms making ourselves visible in the pages and history of the “United” States of America.

We are ALWAYS standing up for our rights. We are ALWAYS standing up and showing up for each other.

So the problem isn’t Filipinos. It isn’t ourselves.

The problem is the system that undervalues our migrant worker mamas, papas, titas and titos, kicking our our elders from SoMa blocks, militarizing our schools (right here in the Bay and in the Mindanao), pouring billions of dollars into political and economic occupation of the Philippines.

Now. The real problem is if you ain’t with the Filipinas/os working tirelessly everyday to upset the set up.

#MyAsianAmericanStory

Jason Fong, a high school student in California, created the hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory in August of 2015 in response to Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, referring to Asian children as “anchor babies” that undocumented Asian immigrants count on for status. A storm of stories that represent the diversity of Asian America followed. In my SJSU Asian American Studies 33-B course, I wanted to populate this hashtag with the important stories of my Asian American students as we connected their daily lives to the course material–the history of Asian Americans in the US and the role they play in the development of the US.

The semester-long project #MyAsianAmericanStory was a process-oriented pedagogical tool that engaged students in multimedia technologies such as images, video, audio recording, creative software apps such as Storehouse, Adobe Slate, Adobe Voice, iVideo on iPads. They collected stories from their elders, friends, communities, classmates to examine present day issues in Asian America.

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Students at work at Little Saigon: Oscar Candelas, Christopher Nguyen, Kyle Wong

In our class, course content is centered on studying U.S. history in the 20th century through a race, class, gender, sexuality lens and with special attention on Asian Americans in the U.S and the role they play in the shaping U.S. politics and the American racial order. When I asked students to explore their own first, second or third generation Asian American experience, I challenged them to situate them in longer historical arcs in the Asian American experience in the US. We used Shelley Sang-Hang Lee’s new text A New History of Asian America to explore themes of imperialism and diaspora leading to Asian migrations (not only just to the US), strategies of survival and thriving and histories of racism that has linked Asian Americans in this country.

Helpful to the project of learning about Asian America was our backdoor sites (literally SJSU was a site of evacuation during Japanese internment!). I encouraged students to connect course materials with the racial and ethnic geographies in San Jose.

IMG_5546 Richie Chan, Kyle Wong, Darien Yong, Christina Cao and friend exploring the history of the Issei Memorial Building

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Discovering a Filipino Community Center, Cindy Yorza, Jonnel Alcantara and friend

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Dylan Truong, Janelle Duong and Peter Reyes discover a local desert shop owned by Japanese American SJSU professor Steven Doi

The ethnic geography of San Jose at times obscures the long history of Asian Americans  and the indelible mark they have made on the culture and ethnic communities of this city. The story telling project allowed students to venture outside of the classroom and note sites and experiences of Asian Americans in San Jose. Although most of their projects did not directly relate to their ethnic background or history, they were able to learn and deepen their understanding their narratives of Asian Americans and immigrants in their projects.

Video producers: Alyanah Alcantara, Janae Ajel, Janelle Duong, Peter Reyes, Dylan Troung

Sites such as San Jose’s Japantown and Little Saigon became place rich with stories in which students could examine the cultural and practical uses of this ethnic spaces and what types of meaning-making processes occurred there.

Video producers: Oscar Candelas, Richie Chan, Kyle Wong, Darien Young

Yet others, took to their own friends and networks to recast the narratives of young people win Asian America. Battling the model minority myth, students created projects that offered a different view of their racial identity in the American racial order.

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The full video (below) highlights different leadership positions Filipino American students hold in the university and their motivations for taking up those roles despite the normative narratives about Asian Americans.

The digital story telling project exceeded my expectations for students and the learning objectives for the class. These creative projects brought Asian American history to life in their projects. They were immensely thoughtful and really fun.