Saturday ∗ 17 Mar 2012

on racism, in the meantime

it seems that we are in a bind, and are in over our heads, about this whole discourse on racism. and yet we seem to be trivializing it really, by invoking racism when we don’t understand it, when we do not even discuss it on the level that makes it dangerous, we make it even scarier than it is. so we invoke it against Arnold Clavio’s opinions about the Azkals, we invoke it against Jimmy Sieczka who did the 20 reasons i hate the philippines video. both will be discussed at length soon. but this must be said about the former: oh honey, we just missed out on the humor that was in that one.in the meantime, this piece resonates. written for Metakritiko in May 2012, salamat kay Carljoe Javier for forcing this one on me.

Filipinos failing their race

Let’s begin with the fairytale.

Because as far as literature’s misrepresentation of life, as far as questionable stereotypes and archetypes that inform our lives, as far as falsities and political incorrectness are concerned, I point a finger at thatstory.

Elsewhere in the discourse of representation though, the spotlight is on race. And while I understand its value, the reason third world Philippines is even part of this discussion is because of the ill-informed, and the not-well-read, it’s just sad.

Because in the context of this country being well-read is key to speaking about representation, which is to say that very few of us care for it. In fact, we are a minority that problematizes it, which means we are part of the same minority that reads and buys literature, the same one that’s removed really from those who suffer the stereotypes that are created by texts, about us in the Philippines, all over the world.

For example, who has really cared about racial slurs against Filipinos? Half the time, it’s a minority from the minority, i.e., it’s government that takes such offense, demanding apologies left and right, as if those slurs aren’t credible, or true. Case in point, when Teri Hatcher’s Desperate Housewives character wanted to make sure that her doctor didn’t get a diploma from some med school in the Philippines, was that not a valid concern? Do we not know of diploma mills in this country that churn out students, of medicine and otherwise year-in year-out, where skill and learnedness isn’t at all the point?

When BBC’s Harry and Paul showed the character of a Filipina maid doing a lap dance for her employer, what should’ve been offensive was the show’s portrayal of women, instead of the truth of the Filipina maid, yes? Had that been a Chinese maid or an African-American maid, would the Filipinos have stood up against that racial sluras a nation? Would the Filipina woman even care?

Of course not. Because in fact, Filipinos choose their battles, and can only deal with the easy misrepresentations, the more obvious (maybe more truthful?) jabs at our race, and we go crazy, demanding an apology, as if that is ever equal to respect. In fact, what we fail to see is that these things that offend us? We practically set ourselves up for this.

Because when Alec Baldwin said he’s thinking of getting a Filipino mail-order bride, he was obviously joking. But instead of laughing at the joke, we become the joke. After all, the most credible Senator-actor Bong Revilla aka Onyok Tigasin, said that there will be mayhem if Baldwin even thinks of visiting the Philippines. Revilla’s point? That the mail-order bride industry is illegal in this country. Why true, Mr. Senator Ben Delubyo, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t happening. Google it, dear Alyas Pogi, and you will see that the truth ain’t at all pretty, though some of those Filipinas are.

The truth is our issue with these racial representations of us by creative minds elsewhere in the world isn’t so much about what they say, but about what is. It is true that there are Filipina mail-order brides accessible online, there are Filipina maids all over the world, we have horrible schools in this country. And when we are unable to deal with why these exist and actually move towards changing it, we set ourselves up for these jokes.

Because even when we’d like to forget that Chip Tsao had in fact written something very funny, and we’d like to say that we are protecting the industry of domestic helpers that we send out to the world with pride, in the back of our heads what we remain to be offended by is the fact that we do this at all. Which nation in her right mind would be proud that her main exports are her people, that her new heroes are blue-collar workers doing unskilled work elsewhere in the world?

Does this mean letting the world write/speak/create perceptions about us as a race that are untrue? Does this mean just living with the stereotype of maid for the rest of our lives? Not at all. It means being more truthful about the myths we believe in, because once we call someone hero, that person is so up for scrutiny. And given the things we celebrate, we seem to be predisposed to failure in the face of that.

So Adam Corolla talking about how the Philippines is way too crazy about Manny Pacquiao? We have to admit that it’s so true, it can only be crazier to ask for an apology; it’s absurd if we don’t even think of the possibility that all that boxing hasn’t gotten his head all messed up. Or us all messed up. Look at that, he’s now a member of Congress.

Now if we can’t laugh at this sorry state of affairs, then soon enough some foreigner will.

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3 Comments/Pingbacks

  1. Andy
    March 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    To add, we insist that to laugh at select instances means “good humor” while to attack other means of representation is to be nationalistic, not knowing the difference between the world laughing with us and the world laughing at us.

    There are also the many telenovelas and movies that continue to use the OFW reality as narrative (how the poor strive to be better, how the once-poor, now-able through overseas work triumph over the evil rich…)

    What was it J.K. Rowling said again about foolishness and poverty? Oh right…that only fools romanticize it.

  2. Raul Ylanan
    March 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    So you are telling us that we shouldn’t be upset when Alec Baldwin cracks a joke about Filipinas because that’s “just the way it is”? And Arnold Clavio’s “opinion” shouldn’t be upsetting since that’s “just the way he sees it”? So how is this attitude of “that’s not offensive, that’s just being truthful” supposed to do anything for the Philippines we both obviously care about?

  3. April Boy
    March 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Deep inside, I know you want your 15 minute of fame. I know you are bored with your desk job and tired of being a nobody. If given a chance, I know you will trade your boring career for a cooler career hahaha

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