Have you experienced racism?
As an Asian woman, I have. Many times.
The first time, I remembered my reaction. I froze in my place. It’s like an electric shock. It comes out of nowhere.
You couldn’t quite recover from your day anymore. It’s not that easy to forget. You go back home, sneak into your bed, and in a fetal position, repeat the event over and over again.
It takes a while to get over, and you don’t really talk about it.
It’s humiliating and dehumanizing.
But somehow, you can’t forget the incidents. I can still remember the instances I felt racism and xenophobia: mostly in restaurants; sometimes in the streets. Once in an airport lobby. Once in the bus. In the US. In the UK. In Italy.
The first few times you experienced racism, it hurts so much.
Three decades later, you still experience it. It’s either the slurs are less painful, or you’ve just learned to adapt. You now know how to act when you’re with, um, more privileged people. When I experience yet another racist in my path, I just brush off the derogatory remark the Karen said and just tell myself: ‘Sucks to be her, she probably hasn’t left this neighborhood all her life.’
You thickened your skin. Now, it doesn’t sting as much anymore.
But it’s still dehumanizing.
It’s stories you don’t openly tell people because it’s still humiliating. It’s still dehumanizing.
But the whole can of worms opened up again: this time, in the form of George Floyd.
I could not take my attention off the news. George Floyd just wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes. But he was suspected of paying with a counterfeit $20 dollar bill, the cashier called to alert police–that put out a chain of events that caused his untimely death.
8 minutes and 46 seconds. That’s a long time to be deprived of air.
People are angry and protesting, taking a public stance on the death of George Floyd.
“But why are you so affected? You’re not black.”
Yes, I’m not black.
I’m an Asian woman, Filipino to be particular. I could be racially profiled as being: good at math, or bad tipper, or the worst being a green card hunter. I am hardly dangerous in the eyes of the police.
I could not speak for being black. I would never know how it feels to be black.
But I do know what people talk about blacks.
Heck, I do know what my fellow Filipinos talk about blacks.
Talking about Racism and George Floyd in the Philippine Context
Filipinos, too, experience significant racism. Others have been racist to us. We are familiar with these stories.
But we have our own biases too. Our hands are not entirely clean.
We grew up in a largely homogeneous society (in terms of race, culture and religion); so a person of a different set is always a novelty to us.
City people make fun of the country people. Filipinos mock other dialects and their accents. We taunt people for speaking perfect English. We make fun of flat noses, and we taunt people with curly hair. Filipino kids in the playground are most savage.
Most of all, we make judgments based on skin color.
The issue of racism and colorism is prevalent in our country. We worship white skin and mock dark skin. It’s all over our TV and media–a plethora of mestiza actresses in our TV shows, and our advertisements promoting skin whitening and bleaching products.
These are markers of class distinction: rich and successful means having white skin, glossy straight hair, aquiline nose, and American English twang.
Our prejudices often in the form of jokes and taunts in casual conversation. Derogatory slurs are casually mentioned: unggoy, kulay tae, bombay, inchik kwakang…
Filipinos are quick to call foul when we are being prejudiced, but we don’t even notice our own biases.
Mentalities are a hard to break, but fixing that starts with awareness of this issue: we are prejudiced too and we need to change that.
“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”Sheryl Sandberg, Lean in
It starts with being more responsible with the words we choose to release from our mouths.
George Floyd, however, is more than the issue of race.
It was a glimpse of a larger systemic problem: racism, xenophobia, gun violence, police misconduct, and white privilege (because it does exist).
If the video of George Floyd was not filmed, he would’ve been another black guy forgotten.
If Christian Cooper had not taken a video of Amy Cooper, the cops would’ve believed the white woman’s false accusations.
So continue filming racists.
Document people on office misbehaving, or taking advantage of their positions, or organizing mañanitas.
Call out people for wrongdoing.
Criticize the system if it’s wrong.
We need to hold people accountable for their actions.
This blog is not a political blog, but we want you to be proactive.
Because being not racist is not enough–you need to be anti-racist altogether.
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