Jessica Sanchez and Racial Profiling

Congratulations to Jessica Sanchez on her marvelous achievement, beating 69,998 other contestants to reach the final stage at American Idol. One guy topped her in the wild and woolly 132 million vote final contest, and so let’s also extend our congratulations to Phillip Phillips.
A lot of Filipinos are upset that Jessica Sanchez did not win American Idol. She was out-polled by a white guy with a guitar.  Here’s a sampling of some readouts:
  1. “Phillips is the American, Jessica the Idol” said one.
  1. The jokesters at ABS-CBN news were chuckling that since Jessica’s father is Mexican and her mother is Filipino, why is she on American Idol? And when Pacquiao fights another Mexican, which national anthem will she sing?
  1. Another Filipino commented that racial diversity in America is a joke, or Jessica would have won.
  1. “Heartbreaking loss” roared the newspaper headline.
Well, let’s parse this a bit, shall we? It is instructional in our cross-cultural dialogue.
First of all, let’s deal with points one and two. If the Pacquiao fight were in Las Vegas, as most are, Miss Sanchez would sing the American National Anthem. What stage of denial are you people in?
Before getting to the point on racial diversity in America, let’s go to the math.
Miss Sanchez is 50% Filipino by heritage and 50% Mexican by heritage. She is 100% American by nationality.
Now it is odd that Mexicans did not go wild voting for her. But Filipinos did. There are a bazillion Mexicans in the U.S. at last count, or maybe two bazillion if you include the illegals, some of whom may have cell phones, undoubtedly stolen. Filipinos, on the other hand, have been going nutso on Facebook to rally voters, and Ms. Sanchez’s pretty face has been all over the place in the Philippines. President Aquino said he was rooting for her to win.
JoeAm, interestingly enough, is 93.75% German, and 100% racially Caucasian, by heritage. He suspects that German President Angela Merkel would not be rooting for him if he were a finalist in anything.
Now Philipp Phillips is . . . ummmm . . . let’s see now, no one knows and no one cares. He’s white. Some Filipinos appear to believe he cheats or has an advantage because he is not tinted of skin.
That view is reflected in comment number 3 on America not being culturally diverse because Miss Sanchez did not win. Boy, that is one quirky way to look at things. I’m sure glad we have a black President instead of some Abe Lincoln kind of white bright guy.
You know, race is completely irrelevant to anything, right? It is not as if one race is monkeys and another sloths and another zebras. It means our body structure varies because we grew up where there was sun, or there was not, or our butt muscles are well-developed because our ancestors did a lot of running fleeing lions in the grass, or our hair genes have blond in them, like some Samoan Islanders. Race is completely irrelevant to anything at all, except sun tans.
Citizenship or nationality means someone belongs to a different tribe, for security and sustenance. Nothing more or less.
Cultural values differ because different tribes arrived at their existing place through different wars and mountains and religions and other experiences. Communications and values vary a bit, culture to culture. It is a learned thing.
It seems to me this is one of those squirrely moments when a great many Filipinos somehow take second place as a personal insult. Race, nationality and culture get screwed up in a personal ball of twisted values. It is rather an upside down version of pride. Failing to win becomes an insult. Complainers start looking for people to blame. And obviously, America is to blame for Jessica’s “heartbreaking failure” by not really being racially accepting of Jessica.
Well, first of all, people who issue anything but praise for Miss Sanchez diminish her achievement. Why would anyone wish to diminish this kid’s brilliant achievement? Gripes and excuse-mongering suggest she should feel bad rather than good. It also denies her the growth she has achieved from her entry in the program as an insecure, stiff lounge singer to her winning style at the end, confident, bold, more emotionally attached to the song and audience, and clearly having fun. Why deny her the glory of that accomplishment which she earned through three months of hard work?
“I started thinking about how long the journey was, how far all of us had come — me and Jessica, Hollie and Josh and everybody. It’s insane, man. It’s not as easy as you think.”  Phillip Phillips on why, in tears, he could not finish his song after winning. Entertainment Weekly interview.
Yet the sense of Jessica’s “failure”, her “heartbreaking loss”, is palpable in the Philippines.
Never mind that Ms. Sanchez beat out 69,998 other contestants. Never mind that Filipino tastes in music may be different than the mainstream American audience that does the voting. That audience consists of a lot of women . . . a lot of white women . . . who like good looking white guys with guitars who can sing, and who, like Phillip Phillips, have a unique kind of showman charisma. And who, in a particularly sultry song, look right at the camera and invite all those women to spend the night.
That the guy beat Jessica, who had about 300,000 Filipino Americans dialing up their votes like crazy for four hours, is testament to the white guy’s popularity.
But many Filipinos would appear to prefer to take the win away from Phillip Phillips. Claim he did not deserve it. Claim there was a rat in the pantry. Jessica should have won. She was cheated. He was white.
Why, they almost sound a lot like Judge Corona on the witness stand.
Trust me, you don’t need to weep for Jessica. She won, and she won big time.  She’ll make more money than all of us, by far. She’ll be a superstar because she is that good. She may even visit the Philippines. Or Mexico. Or Europe.
Does Jessica resent Phillip’s win?
“I think America made the right choice, not that I don’t think I’m good, but he’s worked hard for it. He’s really, really put his heart and soul into it, and he’s pushed through all the health issues, and he’s done it. He did it.” Jessica Sanchez in an interview with Entertainment Weekly after the competition.
Why no resentment?
Because she thinks like most Americans do. The singers shared the journey together, an intense but friendly competition. Also because she was raised in a competitive culture that in the main respects both winners and “losers”. Sportsmanship is big in America. Competition and striving to do your best are big. A loser in a sports contest is a loser in a game. He or she is usually a winner in life.
Phillip Phillips will also be a superstar, of the mode of Bruce Springsteen or  Paul Simon or . . . Hell, Phillip Phillips, who is unique, as a white guy with a guitar.
Now as for American racial diversity . . .
Jessica is a model of American racial diversity. Mexican and Filipino heritage. Welcomed to the land of the huddled masses along with her fellow imports from Ireland, England, Spain, France, Portugal, name the African nations, name the Latin American nations, name the Asian nations, India, Russia, Iran, Israel . . .  Well, you get my point. NO country is as diversified, racially or tribally, as America. NO country has been as open at accepting immigrants from ANYWHERE. All citizens are 100% American, and almost all subscribe 100% to America’s values.
As for rooting for Jessica, no problem. That’s great. It’s good to have a favorite, whatever the reason. Looks, voice, style, personality, nationality, heritage. Good reasons to pick a favorite. Competition is exciting. Put some money on it next year, really amp up the juices.
If able to vote, I would have voted for Phillip. I like his musical style and electric charisma. But I would have smiled if Jessica had won. And Phillip would have smiled, too, proud of what the young American girl achieved with her really big, really expressive, WORLD-CLASS voice and style.
If I a may be allowed to assume a grandfatherly pose now. . .
I think Filipinos would do well to see themselves as racially blind, secure in their nationality, respectful of all tribes, and culturally broad-minded.  They need not judge themselves or their nation a failure because someone they cheered for lost. They should be secure enough to never ever take away a winner’s glory. Or the glory deserved by someone who competed well.
For sure, nothing should be taken from Jessica Sanchez, a 16 year-old wonder kid, citizen of the entertainment world. How can an achievement that was so uplifting be heartbreaking? It was a glorious achievement.
21 Responses to “Jessica Sanchez and Racial Profiling”
  1. J says:

    Pinoys should not fret. That white guy with a guitar has Philippine connection too. He's name sounds like Philippines. Not once, but twice!

  2. Ha! Phillip Phillips in the Philippines. I figure about 2015.

  3. Anonymous says:

    From: Island jim-e rocking chair (aka: the cricket)1. Article well said/done….! I wish I had the eloquence and skill to say it sooo "good"! Note: With all due respect to the wonderful contents and observations expressed by the essay, I would like to submit the following comments:2. I would like to make the observation that if only 30-40% of the ph-island population would use the same energy they have expended on 'THE JESSIE" or "THE JUDGE" ISSUE….use it to produce constructive, positive uplifing results (solutions/fruits) for our families… then we would wake up tomorrow in a tropical PARADISE. (with plenty of DON PINOY (vs Don Pee-U..) to drink! But what do we get..? (Waiting for a serving of Jim Jones Pink Lemonaide!).3. I would prefer drinking a quart of PH-JUICE vs. MANILA SUNSHINE (see the drink recipie-CO2, CM and road-rage stirred well with flood water!).Oh..just wishing/dreaming/screaming….with hopes of a better "daze" for everyone!

  4. jim-e, thanks. Glad you appreciated the write-up. Yes, misappropriations of energy are as pronounced as misappropriations of money.

  5. Anonymous says:

    this is good. this is so good Joe, i'm really chuffed that you wrote this. if anyone argues with me, i'll show them this article and hopefully they'll get the point. i'm very disappointed in people who think she lost because she's not american, america is not culturally diverse, blah blah blah. these people are missing the point about why she lost, she got beaten by the better performer, that doesn't mean that she put up a hell of a fight. i think that these excuses come up as a result of the Filipino perception of no real worldly contribution, so they just cling on to whoever just happens to be filipino and makes it onto the world stage( Sanchez, Jason Day(fil-aus golfer), etc.). it shouldn't matter. just put your head down and do the work you need to do. be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.on diversity, i think we filipinos are just jealous to a certain extent of the success of other cultures, so we'd rather just keep everything to ourselves, no mixing with others. your suggestion towards the end of the article is an excellent one to all filipinos, that they don't need to be insecure of anything. what happens , happens. other people want to take part in this culture, accept it, embrace it. i'm as much filipino as i am black, as i am american. there's even some spanish ancestry in there, too. most people around here though just look at me funny and never think twice about considering me as one of them. it's a great appreciation that i think we both have about our (other) country we call rant is over. sorry it took so longYbanez-Anderson (Andy)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think a large part of people's disappointment about Jessica not becoming American Idol 2012 is that with Pacquiao on the wane (in age ie) Filipinos need another hero of sorts.

  7. Well, Jessica's future is ahead of her, and I am sure she will be very popular here. Good for her. Fine for the Philippines if people understand she is not singing for THEM, for their nation. She is singing because she loves to sing.Pacquiao has lost a few fights, too, I might note.

  8. Andy. Nice rant.I take pride in the fact that I am different, and I trust you will, too. No organization or nation or person owns my soul and brain. I give my soul and brain willingly to my two countries, and to my family. God, I trust, will prove to be deeply understanding and compassionate. He can judge me by my deeds on earth. Fine. Fair enough.

  9. Attila says:

    Joe: I was talking to Filipinas in New York who admitted that her and her friends were able to vote 1000 times for her. It seems they really did everything they could to get the extra votes. I bet they would not even care if they would have to cheat to get extra votes as long she wins. They are hopelessly trapped in the "associated pride" mentality. You will never ever see a Hungarian cheering for a half Hungarian or American Hungarian contestant. We don't have low self esteem issues and we don't have to prove anything to anyone.

  10. Attila says:

    A good example how associative pride works among Hungarians. Zsazsa Gabor was denounced by the Hungarian community for her embarrassing behavior around 1989. I think the last straw was when she slapped a police officer who stopped her for speeding. I remember listening to the Hungarian radio announcements saying that she is not representing us and she is no longer part of us. She was basically disowned. We don't give a shit is she was born and raised in Hungary and she had become a successful women. We are not proud of her and she has nothing to do with us.Funny but her name lives on in the Philippines by Zsazsa Padilla. It seems that in the Philippines a women like Zsazsa Gabor probably would be liked by many. Go figure.

  11. Yes, that "always proving" is exhausting. Like a noisy kid who won't shut up. I attribute it to underfed self esteem, people always being shunted aside by parents, schools, government officials, oligarchs. The untoward effects of the power pushing that goes on hereabouts.Nice perspective on that whacky Gabor, below.

  12. brianitus says:

    Joe, it's just one of those days when you want your "neighbors" to be more "classy." It is what it is. I won't really call it a national sentiment since a lot more are probably ignorant about who Jessica Sanchez is, much more a Philip Phillips.What's disturbing for me is how people got into it. Most stupid was congress and Malacanang even having statements about this. Icky behavior, if you ask me. Nothing else to report on the news.

  13. Ha! Icky. I'll ad that to my dictionary. You are right, given that so many people don't have access to tv, or if the do, only 2 channels. Jessica's performance ought to be of interest to some, but not a national passion.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Actually, Jim Jones served Grape Flavored Kool-Aid…

  15. Interesting. I thought it was orange. Hmmmm. Who served ORANGE?

  16. J says:

    Wow, I should have been killed by a Grammar Nazi. "He's" should have beein "His"

  17. I ban nit picking Grammar Nazis. Slang and error are just a part of style. And I myself am very stylish, in that regard.

  18. Attila says:

    I was talking to my Filipino friend here and he told me that the Filipinos believe that Fox network can't be trusted. the network has a history of not being fair and the general belief among Filipinos is that they also manipulated the votes. He told me that a Filipino group is asking for exact votes cast in ‘AI’ you ask me I think this is ridiculous. I don't like Fox news and I agree that they are not balanced but believing that they would cheat the votes is something else.

  19. Incredible. Bordering on psychotic. Now if they would put this kind of passion behind the HR or divorce bills, they might build the kind of national character that would get rid of this kind of neediness.

  20. SRVfan says:

    I do have a slight bone to pick on teenyboppers who do not necessarily dictate the most talented singers but rather the most good looking *ahem ahem* white guy with guitar. With that kind of voting system even Beethoven would lose against him.But that's okay. It's after all, American Idol. It's a fun contest, that's all. AI has yet to produce a legend in the likes of Queen, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Van Halen, Roxette, and Patty Smyth. AI gauges performance, not necessarily original composition, not necessarily a soul, not necessarily a legacy. In ten or twenty years, nobody would care about Beiber, or Philip, and yes…even Jessica, unless they'd be able to pull off a lasting contribution to music — THAT IS NOT A COVER! In AI, Bob Dylan would be shown the door. This "ugly" man who sings badly has contributed a legacy much grander than all AI contestants put together. About racial profiling, hmmm…we can't really prove if majority of voters are actually the same teenybopping white women who made Twilight or Justin Beiber famous. But suppose they have been exposed and enjoyed substantial and soulful music of the true legends we adored in our teenage years, would the outcome have been different?

  21. "In AI, Bob Dylan would be shown the door." Indeed he would, like first round. Nasal twang, droopy dog look. He just won the Freedom Medal, the top civilian award in the US, last week. Along with I think 12 others.Last question. Yes, I think so. The blues enriched me and make me much more comfortable with black attitudes and soul. That and "Huck Finn".

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