Racism in the Philippines

The subject of racism in the Philippines comes up in discussion threads now and then. Recently I opined that I think racism exists here, but it is fairly benign. It is rather odd because it often favors those of us who are white of skin.
I said it is benign because I view the obsession most women have about being light skinned as a form of racism. Not a big deal. Indeed, some say it is just a cosmetic choice. So I concluded that racism was benign,
But now I’m not so sure.
I’m starting to think . . . always a dangerous condition . . .
I read an article the other day that suggests racism is not benign, at least as it pertains to the Filipino sons and daughters of black American servicemen. American soldiers fathered about 45,000 children in the Philippines during the time bases in Subic and Clark were active. Many of these kids were abandoned by their fathers when they returned to the States, and many were cast off by their mothers who had no means of support after the servicemen left. Most of the mothers were employed at bars or in other ways provided . . . um, personal services.
As they grew up, the half-black kids were routinely taunted in school and stared at as if they were space aliens when going anywhere in public. They were often greeted with condescending sneers or catcalls. Now they are young adults. They have a difficult time getting jobs so they have no means of support.
In one of the most heartless legal judgments ever, the Philippine courts determined that the Philippines has no State responsibility to care for these kids because the mothers were most likely engaged in the illegal activity of prostitution. In other words, the Philippine State joined those who stare and catcall and otherwise tell children they are somehow worthless.
As if the kids had anything to do with this.
Truly, this nation is missing a whole lot in the compassion department.
So the article opened my eyes. It also contained enlightening information about how the fascination with white skin began before the Spanish arrived. The “superior” peoples were of light-skinned Malaysian ancestry and the “inferior” peoples were dark-skinned Indios. When the light complexioned Spanish arrived, the empowerment of white rose even higher. Then the Americans arrived . . .
Then the cosmetics companies and “stars” jumped on the white gravy train.
Now I wonder if racism is indeed benign. Or if it is so pronounced that those discriminated against have no voice. Perhaps it is because they have no voice that I am not aware of the racism. Maybe these “lesser beings” have zero opportunity to get out of the barrio. Perhaps they are forced to endure poverty assigned to them for the offense of being born in the wrong tint of skin.
Racism is a trap that confirms the bias. Even in the U.S. the poor remain poor and uneducated because the schools in their areas are overcrowded pits of anger and danger. Poor education tends to confirm for bigots that Blacks or Mexicans are “stupid”.
So perhaps we simply don’t hear about active racism in the Philippines because those discriminated against are forced to submit by stares, taunts and being hounded out of the mainstream community. Certainly there is no Civil Liberties Union sticking up for people without power. After all, this is a country that thrives on power and winning, personally, at any cost. In that regard, it is not exactly a kind nation.
I wonder, what is the percentage of dark-skinned Indios in the Philippine population? Let me guess that it is 10%, or about the same as the black population in the United States.
And I wonder what is the percentage of Indios in, say, the student enrollment of the University of the Philippines? What do you figure, less than 1%?
So assuming that the numbers are reasonable enough to make a point, we could conclude that the social process . . .  a process that cuts off opportunity and suppresses voices of protest . . . holds 9% of the Philippine population back? “Discrimination”. That’s the big word for racism, and Bubba, it ain’t benign if the real situation approximates the guess.
If this is true, I smirk ironically at the notion that the nation that hates abortion doesn’t mind throwing away 9% of its Filipino kids. Live kids.
Clearly, I need to rethink this racism question and perhaps work up some statistics. For now, please remove from the record any hint that JoeAm said racism in the Philippines is benign.
14 Responses to “Racism in the Philippines”
  1. AJ says:

    Even history taught in schools somehow discriminates against dark skins, and maybe a little against light-yellowish skinned people.From what I remember about the history of our native peoples:a) The "Aetas" (dark skinned people) walked all the way from Africa to get to our country, the earliest settlers.b) Then came "Indones", lighter skinned, yellowish according to one of my professors, who drove the Aetas futher into the forests while these Indones occupied the the plains.c) Finally came the "Malay" dominating over the Indones and Pushing them into the forests. In effect, the Aetas were pushed further into the mountains because of this.Of course, I can't say if this version is true or maybe it looks like that since it was probably written during or after the Spanish occupation.However, there had been a chance to rectify these out of our textbooks and portray the dark skinned Aetas in a better light but even after I finished college, there were no changes to this story.Maybe I'm just over-analyzing this, but the dark skinned are pre-judged as weaker inferior people, and the kids who learn this will remember that their lighter skinned ancestors are stronger, more powerful, superior to the dark skinned ancestors of today's Aetas, and because they don't know better, the kids of African Americans.

  2. Anonymous says:

    "Then the cosmetics companies and "stars" jumped on the white gravy train."And thus the birth of the horribly tacky billboards featuring grossly-Photoshopped (half)Filipinos that would make Hitler blush.Meanwhile, Joe this is a funny story. Ever heard of that American star that got harassed when he arrived at one of our airport terminals? The one that was threatened to be shipped back to Japan because of some snafu with his passport?Behold:"Philippines denies Hollywood star Kitsch's airport tale"On the Late Show with David Letterman, Canada-born Taylor Kitsch, 30, had also alleged the unidentified officer demanded that he be given an iPhone."I feel confident that Mr. Kitsch was mistaken in saying that his bad experience during his travel was in the Philippines," Biazon said in his report, published on the website of local television station ABS-CBN.Authorities had found no customs or immigration records of Kitsch's visit, Biazon said.This is the best quote:"Unfortunately, the damage was done…. In the meantime, Mr. Kitsch, perhaps you can help us redeem our lost pride," Biazon wrote.#IT'S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!-patrioticflip

  3. Attila says:

    I agree with you that the Philippines is a racist country. As a tall white man (and gwapo as they call me) I'm the beneficiary of this type of racism. Should I say anything about it since I don't suffer from it but enjoy the privileges it gives me? I'm not trying to complain I'm just sharing my observation. The Irish man I visited in Bacolod in his beautiful home in Bacolod called it UTOPIA because he is the beneficiary of this racism also. He was telling me that sometimes girls come to him asking to have a baby with him. That happened to me also. They need the mixed baby to "improve the race" as I was told by one Filipina. Just think about it Joe: Improving the race? Messed up in the head for sure!I don't think this type of thinking started with the Spanish. The Aetas (look like Africans) were in the Philippines before the Malays took over. I'm sure they discriminated them based on race as they still do today. I visited a remote Aeta village in Negros for my photo project and I heard their stories and I know how they live.

  4. Attila says:

    One more thing: My fiance who has dark skin told me that sometimes she is called or referred as a "negra". That happens when she gets in to an argument or conflict. This a way to put her down and hurt her feelings. That is their version of "nigger".

  5. " . . . our lost pride . . ." Christ, what a load of shit. What a self-sorry, low esteem, crybaby representation of the Philippines.

  6. I've heard the term used, usually with a snicker. It makes me feel sick, that people can be so insensitive.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Philippine version of the NCAA is a racist organization. A Nigerian student from San Beda has already filed a complaint in the Commission on human Rights. Right now, the NCAA is planning to ban all foreign students to participate in college sports. Is this racism or what?

  8. The Philippines considers foreigners a security threat. That is why dual citizenship is discouraged, no foreign investment is allowed, and foreigners can't be allowed to dribble all over Filipino courts. We are all colonizers waiting to pounce again on this poor insecure little country.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The Philippine NCAA even had the tenacity to call the Racial Slur hurled against the Nigerian student of San Beda as a non-racist. According to the NCAA "unggoy" is non-racist. It just so happen that the Nigerian student, who understands Tagalog, mistook it as RACIST SLUR against him.Funny really. So now it is the victims fault for mis-interpreting the "UNGGOY" word thrown at him.

  10. Fanny says:

    Hello Attila,I have been reading your blog very carefully. I believe that you are trying to be objective and not judging the History or the people of Philippines there. As a black African, I grew up in France, I do actually live in Malaysia. I find the racism very hard here. I though that it wouldn't be so obvious, but Malay are definitely very racist. They are racist against white people but pretend to respect them because they are suppose to carry money, whereas they are even worse with black people, supportingly poor and dirty. I cannot blame them at some point, the three communities (Malay, Chinese and Indians) are fighting against each other all the time; but this is another story. I have find a position in the Philippines and I don't know if I should accept it because the reality in Malaysia really hurt my feelings. I grew up in a small village in France, where I have always been the only black person for years, but I have never suffered from racism. I do not say that it didn't or do not exist, but it never hurt me so much that its manifestation in Malaysia. Even in China, people were more curious that scared or discussed by me, and I really felt safe everywhere. In Malaysia I really feel in danger. Do you honestly thing that your fiancée or any other black or dark skin person living in the Philippines feel the same?And I totally agree with you when you underline that it s not about where we come from, it is really a consideration of black color as a sign of weakness and dumpiness. People in Asia in general do have issue with "race" and tones of skins. It is something I really don't understand because in France any distinction of race is ban under statutes, and you find mixed blood babies everywhere. Look at our Football team 😉 Thank you for your reply.

  11. Anonymous says:

    wow they called him an unggoy which means monkey. I its like calling black people, ape and Macaca. NCAA is racist.

  12. Indeed, strange and insensitive position by the NCAA.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I feel that it is ironic that any filipino person would discriminate against a darker skinned person. I have heard stories of filipinos being treated like dirt in China and the middle eastern countries. Not all filipinos are racist but you have to take into consideration that many are ignorant and have low IQs

  14. Yes, ignorance, generally from lack of exposure to people of other races who are kind and intelligent, and lack of the tools of introspection that allow one to set aside biases hammered in by others.I think that most Filipinos are respectful of others, maybe too much so of whites, because they have been on the receiving end of bias, as you point out. Biases here don't seem to take the form of brutality necessarily, as they did in the US, but shadings of respect, or lack of respect.

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