Filipinos and Racial Discrimination: Are we victims or perpetrators?

Filipinos and Racial Discrimination: Are we victims or perpetrators?

By Paolo Benitez


Racial Discrimination: Are we Filipinos victims or perpetrators?


With the current global political climate, we’ve seen a lot more incidences of people acting as figures of hate and backward mentality. The presidency of Donald Trump has given the green light for anti – immigrant sentiment and intolerance, which has reverberated around the world. Hate graffiti and racial slurs have become commonplace on the internet what with developments like the Charlottesville protests and racist violence in the UK post-Brexit last year, among other incidences, fanning the flames of unrest.


A few months ago, a Las Vegas woman’s racist remarks referring to her Filipino neighbor as “orange savages”, has gone viral. Even in Canada, a country known for embracing diversity, anti-Asian graffiti shocked residents in Neepawa, a town in Manitoba. Tagalog teacher Myla Ignacio, a resident of Manitoba said that they were “hurt a bit, and horrified”. On the bright side however, the community has banded together in an effort to stop the spread of hate speech within the area.


As third culture kids, most of us have learned to tolerate, appreciate and integrate with various cultures. Growing up surrounded by a diverse range of people gives us a head start on the road to tolerance, as being different is the norm.


Still, in these times, and even as cultural hybrids, we are not impervious to racial biases.  You can either be the attacker or victim, predator or prey, oppressor or oppressed. Based on what you have learned, what you have been taught, and what you have experienced in life, you can have a negative opinion towards someone off the bat, without any reason.


So how do we Pinoys fit into this?


Pinoy Stereotypes


We are particularly proud of being a diverse and globalized nation. We have 11 million Overseas Filipinos scattered all over the world while also having countless ethnic groups back home. Pinoys on the whole are also some of the happiest people on earth.  Add to that, we’re also known for being resilient.  Unfortunately though, it is undeniable that we still often the targets of prejudice. Some common denominators surface when we are being looked at in a negative way.


For one, Pinoys are generally associated only with the middle to low class – i.e. service workers, domestic helpers, cleaners, and easy women. Hence, in a place like the UAE which is a melting pot of cultures, “Hello mamsir, welcome to Mcdonaaaaalds!” is a pretty common joke to hear.  Because Pinoys are mostly an agreeable lot, they are also often mistaken as easy to take advantage of, and as “yes men.”  Another popular notion for a lot of people, as well, is that Filipinos will settle for anything.


“Come on, show us that Filipinos don’t belong in the toilet,” Richard Paul Noveno, a Filipino university student in Dubai recalls his experience when being encouraged by non-Filipino peers.


“You don’t wanna work at Mcdonalds?” – is one example of a joke towards Filipinos at my former international high school.


Jesus “Jan” Turla, a resident of Australia describes his job hunting experience – “I was sending out my resume for months and I didn’t get even one interview. It was only when I changed my name to Jan on my resume that I started to get attention. Now it’s true it could just be a coincidence that I only got attention when I changed my name into a western sounding one, but I truly believe systematic racism exists where they don’t consider you just because of your name or what you look like in your LinkedIn profile picture. Sad but true.”


Racial Discrimination: Are we Filipinos victims or perpetrators?


Being the subject of racial discrimination or stereotyping is like being thrown into an open cage and being told that we’re not allowed to go out. Prejudice isn’t good, but not doing anything about is much worse.

Filipinos and Racial Discrimination: Are we victims or perpetrators?

The Flipside:  Pinoy Pride


Then there is the reverse side – Pinoy pride, which exists for a reason, and that is for us to be proud of our country and its people. We have a lot of talents, achievements, as well as love, to share with the rest of the world.


However, Pinoy Pride gets the best of us sometimes, as well. We have created our own demons out of it. And sometimes, these demons work against our very own compatriots. Through all the love we uphold our country with, we have also subconsciously created a very specific image of what a Filipino is supposed to be.


As a TCK not fluent in Tagalog and who is not used to typical Pinoy practices like “mano po”, I have also been judged and made to feel inadequate by fellow Pinoys, too. While this may not exactly be on the same serious lines as racism, the lack of understanding and acceptance for Filipinos who grew up differently, also smacks bias.


In the few times that I’ve gone back to the Philippines, I have also noticed that there is a fixation with westerners or light skinned individuals.  Mestizos have the upper hand versus ethnic minorities, and being fair is always equated to being rich.  Then there is the battle of the bloods, north vs. south, the Tagalogs versus the Bisayans, and how, instead of seeing ourselves us one, our people segregate themselves according to geography.


Making Sense of it All


As shocking as these are to others, what’s more concerning is the fact that these are so deeply embedded in our minds that they are considered “normal.”   It is imperative that we rise above both our stereotypes as well as our own biases for the sake of our evolution, especially with the younger generation being prone to emulating what their elders tell them.


But why the younger generations specifically? They’re the most innocent and free-spirited. But, they are also the most programmable generation to exist – millennials and generation Z. We currently live in the most pivotal age of human development, where technology has set the standard and when positive activism is needed more than ever. Jokes and memes run wild on the internet, and they can program our children to think that “certain ways of going about things” are acceptable. Let’s undo our mistakes for their sake.


While the world gets even more agitated with racial unrest, we must endeavor to push towards tolerance and understanding. Let us learn not be spiteful of our own differences as people, as human beings.




Paolo Gabriel Benitez 

A visual communications student, junior contributor Paolo is an aspiring artist, seeking to make his mark in the world of cinematography and the performance arts someday. When not dancing in the living room in the middle of the night, he functions as a perceptive young man, seeking to learn how things are the way they are and providing insight on the various issues that plague his generation.


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