Category Archives: Race and racism

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.

david fagen

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.

FilipinosFirstBath

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:

GAB - defendGAB-USA-third-world-4-black-power-pic-3IRMA-third-world-4-black-power-pic-2SOMA

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.

The Presentation of Dave in Everyday Life

chappelle

 

Two nights ago, R and I, along with some friends in Portland, went to go see Dave Chappelle on his new comedy tour. It was my first time seeing a comedy show live. I’d followed Dave’s career from The Chappelle Show and was always inspired by the way he kept it real about race and racism. This show, probably reflective Dave’s whole tour and definitely reflective of Portland’s demographic, was sold out with lots of seats taken up by white folks. At some moments, I felt awkward about white folks laughing at Dave’s racialized experiences (especially went he went IN on Hartford, Connecticut). Then, I felt relieved that Dave was talking about whiteness to white people. I started to relax with the thought that perhaps, Dave way of talking about race, could be subversive. What does it mean for white folks to consume Black culture and Black lives? What does it mean for me, as a Filipino American woman, to be in the same audience? What does it mean to Dave?

He’d probably retort, “I just want a pool, man.”

I’m cool with that.

Pedagogy corner:

As I wrap up my lessons on symbolic interaction and Goffman’s dramaturgical model with my 101 students, I appreciated seeing/laughing with Dave at the front stage/back stage dynamics for all the world to see. For my lesson on social interaction I use The Chappelle Show skit on Vernon Franklin to talk about front and back stage, but also to make clear that those dynamics are mitigated by race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Talking to my Immigrant Parents about Trayvon Martin

On Saturday, in the midst of celebrating my cousin’s freshly pressed MBA, I received a text message from a comrade informing me that George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering 15-year old Trayvon Martin. My heart felt heavy and light–heavy in despair for Trayvon’s lost life, his parents, his family and his friends; and light as my family of immigrants who strove to thrive in a new country celebrated my cousin’s accomplishments. The contradictions of America were all too certain in that moment.

Trayvon Martin

On the car ride home, my husband and I were talking about the sadness we felt about the injustice done to the Martin family, the injustice done to all of us who know that Zimmerman is guilty; and perhaps the injustice done to us who thought justice could be feasible in the American judicial system. We felt betrayed. We felt played. Like we played ourselves. We know that Lady Justice is not blind nor colorblind. She is and has been built on racist ideologies and white supremacy. Native people and people of color in this country have never been “created equal.” But in some fog of hope, we though that Trayvon and his family could at least get some semblance of peace through this legal battle. We were wrong.

My father asked me, “What are you guys talking about?” I was careful to address my immigrant father from the Philippines (who is sometimes progressive, other times conservative–somewhat typical of Filipino immigrant fathers). I told him that we found out that Zimmerman was found not guilty. Surprisingly, he knew details about Trayvon’s case and life and death. I asked him what he thought about the acquittal. He replied, “Zimmerman killed that boy because his black. Just like why Oscar Grant was killed. No good.” My mother, a hard-working and often, apolitical person, chimed in, “Its too bad that the court doesn’t see how racism killed the boy.” These two, the ones I love the most, are also people who have internalized racist ideologies, repeated racist rhetoric about other communities of color and swallowed a whole pill about the American racial order even before they left the Philippines. These two, the ones I love the most, are certainly part of the contradiction of race relations in the US. They understood the wrong that happened to Trayvon Martin while also inculcated in the “distancing” that has happened between other racial and ethnic groups and Black Americans in the US.

In this moment, our whole car sent out a vibration of mourning and strength to the Martin family, what in Tagalog we call, “nakikiramay.” Honoring someone who has passed, even if that person was a stranger, even if that person was miles away.

But more importantly, my immigrant parents articulated more clearly than I could, the staunchly racist ideology of America. They found Zimmerman guilty. They found America’s racism, its white supremacy guilty. As immigrants in the US, they often cannot articulate how racism affects them. Both of my immigrant parents only see “hard work” in their success in the US. They don’t identify race or racism as a salient part of their daily life. This is something I’ve always been irritated about when talking to them about race in the US. I thought they had no “race analysis”. But here, they so accurately depicted what went wrong. They identified contemporary individual and institutional racism as the culprit and they despised it. “There will be a rally, Val,” said Papa (a generally anti-rally kind of dude), “they should rally.”

As I’ve continued talk to my immigrant parents about Trayvon Martin, I talk about how the legal system in the US has always upheld and maintain white supremacy–a set of ideologies that needs to “occasionally” kill Black men in order to keep the rest of us safe. It requires Black women to lose their sons, brothers and friends. It normalizes the murder and disappearance of Black people.

I talk to them about how Trayvon’s case also matters because the racism that allowed Zimmerman to murder Trayvon with impunity is also linked to the shrinking set of rights of native people, people of color, queer folks, women, poor folks and immigrants have in this country (i.e. Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, abortion rights, immigration reform).

But I also talk to them about how Trayvon’s life is not in vain as so many people are taking to the streets, starting conversations with their immigrant families about race relations in the US, getting out and doing something to honor Trayvon’s life, indicting Zimmerman the people’s way.

And although, some immigrant parents, like mine, aren’t always race-conscious, they still understand that there’s something wrong with this verdict. We all experience race and racism in different ways, but as my parents taught me, it is still real. Real enough for two immigrant parents to know what happened to Trayvon’s family is “no good”.

As I try to understand what really happened, here are some articles that have helped:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/175260/white-supremacy-acquits-george-zimmerman

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/07/questlove-trayvon-martin-and-i-aint-shit.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonny-singh/zimmerman-verdict-racism_b_3600964.html

http://feministing.com/2013/07/16/white-womanhood-protectionism-and-complicity-in-injustice-for-trayvon/

http://occupydemocrats.com/watch-martin-bashir-sum-up-the-trayvon-martin-travesty-in-under-4-minutes/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/07/obama-gives-unexpected-speech-race-trayvon-martin-could-have-been-me-35-years-ago/67391/

Tagged