A whiff of racism rising in the Philippines

Nations and their leaders define the attitudes of their peoples. Leaders do lead. [Photo from sputnicknews]

By JoeAm

Racism is one of those double edged swords. If you write about it to gain insight, you can be accused of racism for writing about it. It’s like walking on egg shells on top of thin ice.

But write about it we must because we are not ostriches and there are increasing signs of racial conflict rising in the Philippines. We see it in social media, case examples of affronts to Filipino norms by Chinese visitors and residents. The complaints are about babies being allowed to poop where they ought not and Chinese cutting into line as if bearing special privilege over lesser Filipinos waiting patiently. We also see reactions from the Filipino-Chinese community expressing concerns about being unfairly criticized for simply being of Chinese heritage.

Well, who is the racist? The person cutting into line, the person complaining, the social media person posting the complaint, the person objecting to the complaining, or the blog writer writing about it?

It seems to me that racism is a hostile act or thought whereas recognizing differences is analysis. All racists are racists, some analysts are racist, and a lot of analysts are just reciting what they observe or deduce.  I suspect most don’t like racism but want a more harmonious co-existence.

Some people are biased by lack of knowledge or bad experiences themselves. They go from a specific incident to a generalized conclusion easily. Then, if they keep witnessing incidents, it may build to become overt racism. The line of thought is generally fallacious and dangerous because it risks painting perfectly good, fair, and kind people badly.

Way too many white Americans are racist, which is astounding considering the violent social convulsions that wracked the nation in the 1960s and 70s as whites joined with blacks to break down long-held racial biases. But you could tell that the cure was only superficial for a lot of whites because the hostility that greeted black President Barak Obama was blatantly racist. I mean, photos of monkeys that looked like him? And President Trump is bringing white nationalism back into mainstream government, and into the streets as his supporters are emboldened by his injudicious remarks. It is ugly, in my view.

Several news networks refused to run a recent Republican political ad because they deemed it racist. Most governments would be ashamed if top networks refused to run racist political ads, but not the Trump Administration. Rather, Trump paints the press as biased. The whistleblower becomes the criminal. Rather like why Senator De Lima is in jail and Rappler’s Maria Ressa is being persecuted. Tyranny comes in many races, I suppose.

The Philippine “whiff of racism”, if it is not recognized, can become a serious problem. The origin comes from China’s governmental policy that is driven by long-held resentments that Chinese have been treated so badly by other nations. And they have been. For centuries. British opium wars. American harsh use of Chinese laborers to build railroads. Japan’s “Rape of Nanking”.

Now, with rising Chinese power, wealth, and influence, her officials are using those resentments to bind citizens emotionally to China’s authoritarian methods and aggressive expansion into the Pacific and around the globe. China righteously claims things as a birthright. Seas and the foods within them, islands and the military defense that can be built on them, and any technology secrets that can be spirited away from lawful owners. China writes unbalanced laws that permit China to buy overseas companies but restrict foreign ownership in China, and she pursues unbalanced trade restrictions.

The righteousness is the problem. It is not right. You can google “Chinese racism” if you wish. I will just cut to the chase and state that Chinese governmental policies have long had racist overtones. The resulting superior sense of self is taken up by some (a few? many?) Chinese citizens when traveling or working abroad. Wikipedia has a section about ethnic issues in China that shows it is not just an external problem, but one within China, too. Ask the Uyghurs about that, preferably before they go through the formal brainwashing program.

The Philippines has recorded a rapid influx of Chinese mainlanders working and living in the Philippines. Some three million Chinese have entered the country since 2016. A great many are concentrated in Makati where they work for online gambling companies serving the Chinese gambling addiction.

The reported incidents of rude behavior in which Filipinos believe their customs or rights were not properly respected by Chinese nationalists are warning signs. Isolated incidents or an ugly trend?

We don’t know.

But it seems to me it falls to China, and Chinese residents and visitors, to make sure they are respecting Filipino laws and customs. Courtesy and respect are the best antidotes to racism. It further falls to Filipinos to try not to generalize the acts of a few rude people to an entire nation or an entire people – in other words, to do their own respecting in return – and to teach the unaware when possible.

But the primary burden of harmony falls to China and the Chinese residents and visitors. If the visiting Chinese truly think they have superior rights, character, and skills over Filipinos, they are racist. And racial harmony in the Philippines will erode. Or explode.

NOT BEING RACIST requires actually believing that others are equal to us and equally capable to us. Only our experiences are different. That is the starting point for mutual respect.

I do wonder if citizens of a bigot-nation can rise above the discrimination built into their government’s national policy and deeds.

Could be hard . . .

 

Comments
33 Responses to “A whiff of racism rising in the Philippines”
  1. arlene says:

    I do agree JoeAm, courtesy and respect are sometimes lacking in the way we communicate and deal with other people. Some think they are more superior and privileged than the rest of us. Some think they have the right to act the way they do.

    • Good morning, arlene. Yes, our inherent tribal biases, I suppose, from when we lived in cave communities and didn’t like or trust anyone else. It takes a mighty step of self-awareness to accept others. I watched my parents go through the process in the US. It took many many years.

  2. Francis says:

    I think Filipino-Chinese have reason to be concerned—an emotional public and all these incidents involving mainland Chinese is a potentially dangerous brew.

    They’ll get caught up in the crossfire—that is increasingly a matter of “when” rather than “if” at this point: one should acknowledge the “us vs. them” logic that permeates a good deal of our society.

    Also—the temptation of an easy answer.

    That being said, it is sadly true that China’s strategy involves using overseas communities as a tool in their intelligence and foreign affairs apparatus. And it is true that in many nations—China has thrown its immense resources behind pliant puppets in these communities, and has inversely suppressed any dissident voice in these same communities.

    The Philippines should take steps to have an independently organized Filipino Chinese community (not to mention a resilient economy that is not overly dependent on China) that can withstand these intrusions.

    • I like that last suggestion. The Filipino Chinese community would be the best teachers for newly-arriving Chinese.

      • Alyas Lorelei says:

        I’m not really sure about the effectiveness of this. The local Chinese don’t really speak Mandarin well enough (they speak Hokkien with a few who speak Cantonese up in the Cordilleras) and many new mainland immigrants don’t speak Hokkien.

        And there really is a large cultural gap between the two despite both being of the Chinese ethnicity. Most mainland immigrants, unlike the old immigrants, are less receptive to integration and there has been a rift between the local Chinese and new mainland immigrants decades before the WPS issue explodes.

    • Alyas Lorelei says:

      I think to avert any Indonesia-like scenario (1998 and the Ahok controversy), the local Chinese community need to be really vocal about the China issue. The taipans may not like it, but the larger local Chinese community are not taipans – they are professionals, and SME owners.

      It’s not the “ideal” situation but I think it is their best option so that the Philippines won’t descent into 1998 Indonesia.

      At least to make a bold statement that they are local Chinese, norlt foreign Chinese.

  3. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Thanks, as always, Joe! I fully agree with “that last suggestion.” I always remember what Nelson Mandela says in one word of his language: Ubuntu! (freely translated: “I am because we are”).

    • Ah, wonderful quote. Indeed, the challenge of being a community is one that Filipinos need to center on, I think. Ending racism is just one aspect of the difficulty of fitting different origins into a whole that is kind and makes sense.

  4. Vicara says:

    Few Filipinos are aware of how government-controlled social media in China has been used by the powers in Beijing to whip up xenophobia against foreigners seen as resistant to Beijing’s agenda–including Filipinos. This was especially the case during the presidency of PNoy and the leadup to the arbitration case in the Hague over the West Philippine Sea.

    Xenophobia propagated through Weibo and other social media sites is useful also for tamping down internal opposition to the Communist Party, whose perennial fear is the loss of any centralized control over such a vast country. By uniting the populace against external threats (real or only imagined), the Party strengthens its hold on power.

    A Hongkong-based friend noted that following Duterte’s ascension to the presidency, Chinese state media has been careful to refer to the Philippines as “partner” in contrast to its earlier bellicose threats and insults.

    But it’s difficult to cast off the default arrogance of centuries as the self-proclaimed Middle Kingdom. Deep down, other Asian nationalities are perceived by Chinese leaders as lesser forms of life.

  5. Great article.. many points to think about..

    1) Generalizations.

    a) Arab men (North Africans mainly) harrased German women on Christmas Eve of 2016-17. Two separate rape cases involving Syrian refugees in Freiburg – one rape/killing of a female student jogging outside by a man, one gang rape by 7 or more men outside a disco. One killing of a 15 year old German girl by her Syrian ex-boyfriend, also 15, after they separated. With the number of refugees that came in, this is no surprise. Can one generalize that they are all bad? No, the generalization that is valid though is that they grow up with another attitude to women, that can be hard for Westerners to deal with. Australia has also had its experiences in that respect. I watched the German parliament debate on making consent laws more explicit as a lesson learned from New Year’s Eve 2016/2017, where many could not be prosecuted because the law wasn’t clear enough.

    b) some methheads are really dangerous in that they rape and kill. How many real cases of that in the Philippines? Strange that they had to take a picture from Brazil during the 2016 elections. Probably the cases are as few and far between – as bad as every individual case is – as the cases in German that I mentioned. But pinpointing the individual cases would destroy the propaganda. Nobody is calling to put Syrian refugees in the train to Dachau while turning the gas back on again. But a lot of Filipinos are justifying killing drug addicts with similar arguments Nazis used back then. Modern media can distort reality by making individual cases look like a major pattern, sowing fear.

    2) Humiliation/Revenge. The Karpman triangle.

    a) Germans and French went through that for centuries before learning it isn’t worth it. Napoleonic troops had Germans shine their shoes. Bismarck defeated Napoleon III and had his Prussian King crowned German Kaiser – in the French palace of Versailles. The Versailles treaty after World War 1 forced Germany to pay reparations that paved the way for Hitler. The long road to working together was started by De Gaulle and Adenauer after the war. Eastern Europeans never went through the process of normalizing relations with neighbors, so you have Orban and Poland’s PIS over there.

    b) Some Filipinos treat Moros and Lumads similar to the way their own ancestors were treated by Spaniards or Americans. Duterte mocks the ICC prosecutor for being black.

    3) Superior attitudes. Imperial presumptions.

    a) Ordinary Germans who suddenly felt they were the master race became the worst occupiers in Eastern Europe. Not in France, after all one did have an inferiority complex towards their culture. But “inferior” Eastern Europeans were fair game. Poles were classified into those of German descent, “Germanizable” persons based on features and fitness, better and worse Poles, then at the “bottom” you had Jews and Gypsies. Hans Frank’s brutal occupation regime in Poland was based on what Germans called “cyclists”: those who bow upwards and pedal/kick downwards.

    b) Spaniards of course divided people according to racial mixtures. “Indio y negra, nace lobo. Indio y mestiza, nace coyote”. Even pure Spaniards born in the Philippines were “just” Insulares while those from Spain were Peninsulares. The term “blue blood” BTW, I have been told, comes from the fact that the brown-skinned Iberians were ruled by Germanic Visigoths nobility for a while, who wer so white that their veins shone through their skin, bluishly. Spaniards were looked down upon by Northern Europeans. “Das kommt mir Spanisch vor” in German (that looks Spanish to me) is a term for “this looks like a con”. OK, what Solicitor Calida does looks Spanish to me, maybe that is the Spanish legacy in the Philippines. Moro teacher Ahmad Ibn Parfahn from Cotabato wrote BTW a book about “Sex Gangsterism” as a Spanish legacy. Did he know Mayor Duterte?

    Finally the people of the world are like billard balls, the energy that hits one gets passed to the next one which happens to be in the way. This applies to both good and evil I think.

    • I suspect there are as many people who get drunk and commit crimes as do shabu and commit them. Duterte has successfully stigmatized drugs so that users are scoundrels, not people with little else going for them. I am amazed at the OFWs and others who think it is proper that they be shot. I say, okay, then shoot anyone with a beer.

    • Vicara says:

      I’ve wondered about OFWs taking such a hardline stance. About your billiard ball theory, Ireneo: Could it be that those Filipinos living and working for years in repressive states that execute criminals–Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries–take on something of the mindset of their host nations? Are these OFWs more in favor of the heartless summary execution of “drug suspects” here than, say, Pinoys in Scandinavia or Canada?

      It can’t simply be because these OFWs deeply resent having to remit funds that support–among others–the more “unproductive” members of their extended families, including drug addicts–but feel compelled in equal measure to send the money anyway. Or could it?

    • https://joeam.com/2015/12/03/chinas-stealth-invasion-of-the-philippines/#comment-150313
      I remember our initial talk about Mr. Parfahn, Ireneo. Here above ^

      “Moro teacher Ahmad Ibn Parfahn from Cotabato wrote BTW a book about “Sex Gangsterism” as a Spanish legacy. Did he know Mayor Duterte?”

      This book I’m interested in. I know he was pan-Malay, anti-West, but did not know he wrote about sex and Philippine culture. Do you have a link?

      “Could it be that those Filipinos living and working for years in repressive states that execute criminals–Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries–take on something of the mindset of their host nations?”

      Vicara, do you really need to leave the Philippines to learn the above?

      As to Ireneo’s “Sex Gangsterism” , I’d like to add that when Magellan’s crew went on port , they were seduced by local women of Cebu , who themselves wanted the mirrors and shiny trinkets the Spaniards brought to give and barter.

      When Magellan and his men lost the battle of Mactan, they went back to Cebu (20-30 minutes by bangka ride) to get massacred a 2nd time by their new “allies” , which I’m sure also the local seductresses partook w/out batting an eye.

      My point is the Philippines is already a pretty violent place. The Middle East wasn’t as much, though it rested on a particular kind of balance, when tipped to one side or the other, hell is unleashed.

      Though the other violent place similar to the Philippines is Spain (it originated the word guerilla , lit. ‘small war’ , the proper guerillero is the person pursuing small war tactics ). And the rest of Europe for that matter, ex. Eighty Years War. I’m sure that war has more to do w/ why the Philippines is, than current immigration & emigration patterns.

      Hence, my interest in “Sex Gangsterism“, if not only for the title. 😉

  6. andrewlim8 says:

    Duterte: ” China, tell us what route shall we take.”

    China: “Ok”.

    Memo to Duterte:

    1. Surrender your sovereignty. (almost done)

    2. Surrender all your resources in the West Phil Sea (getting there)

    3. Surrender your internet and telecommunications security.(done)

    4. Shut your mouth if we do not honor the terms of the ” joint exploration” and claim it all for ourselves. (for future application)

    5. Never bring up the issue in any global body like the UN.

    6. Chinese nationals are to be given priority over Filipinos in queues or lines.

    7. Chinese nationals are exempted from basic decency and hygiene and can poop anywhere they want in the Philippines.

  7. edgar lores says:

    *******
    1. Racism may be the oldest prejudice in the world. It is also the most persistent and widespread.

    2. It has taken millennia for the notion of human equality, which is the antithesis of racism, to be recognized as an enduring truth. It was only 242 years ago that the US was founded – “conceived in Liberty,” as Lincoln put it, “and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

    3. The birthplace of the notion has been tested by civil war and to this day continues to be wracked by racial tension. And so is the entire world.

    4. As I scan the globe, the greater racial hot spots appear to me to be China, the Middle East, and Africa. But there are lesser hot spots all around – for example, in Western Europe due to African migration, in Myanmar due to the Rohingya crisis, and in Australia due to the boat people.

    5. Racism is fear masquerading as hate. At the personal level, although I believe I am intellectually imbued with the spirit of equality, I am aware of smoky wisps of racism in my being.

    6. It is a bit strange. I look at racism in America and feel admiration for the American people and disdain for the individual Trump. I look at China and feel disdain for the government and its people. Perhaps more than any government in the history of the world, China has institutionalized racism to the highest scale.

    6.1. And, whereas before I was filled with respect for Israel – especially after reading of Jewish pluck and courage in Leon Uris’ “Exodus” – I am now deeply bothered by their oppression of the Palestinians.

    7. It is one thing for the leader of the people, as Xi Jinping is doing, to institutionalize racism with respect to Tibetans and Uighurs.

    7.1. It is another thing for a leader of the people, as Duterte is doing, to allow his own people to suffer the humiliation of racism… in their own country… from a foreign country and its migrant hordes.
    *****

    • 5. Fear masquerading as hate, yes. Or ignorance masquerading . . .

      As for Israel, when I visited Australia in 2004, my guide who led me up the rain forest mountain to the spires of Pieter Botte in Daintree national forest had a raw hatred for Israelis. It rather shocked me. He said that did not apply to American Jews, but only Israelis. I didn’t understand but started observing things with a skeptical eye, and for sure, Israel’s leaders are not interested in peace or harmony. One has to give to get, and there is no give.

  8. Kalayo says:

    the Philippines do not really have a history of pogroms, but who knows pag napuno na ang salop? it ain’t gonna be pretty

    • Yes, that is the ugly upper end of bad management of the scene.

    • Vicara says:

      In May of 1998, in Jakarta and other Indonesian cities, riots broke out in which ethnic Chinese businesses such as shopping malls were burned, and ethnic Chinese were killed (lowest estimate places these fatalities at 1,000). Eighty-plus cases of rape of Chinese women were reported. The total death toll was much higher than 1,000 (but reportedly the majority of victims killed were ethnic Indonesians who were trapped in the mall fires). Thousands of ethnic Chinese and expats fled the country.

      Some reports state that these riots were directed more towards looting the Chinese-owned malls, as there had been food shortages; some say that the military elite had a hand in it, as part of a plan to spark a political crisis (and in fact the Suharto government resigned soon after). Whatever the cause, the riots happened. And this was at a time when the Beijing government was not pursuing its current expansionist occupation-by-any-and-all-means policy.

      LIke the Philippines, Indonesia had well-established ethnic Chinese communities in different cities going back generations. And like here, Chinese have been seen as a wealthy class. It’s not often spoken of, but the Philippines has a decades-long history of extortion as well as kidnapping-for-ransom of Chinese-Filipinos. This has happened in the NCR and in Mindanao.

      These facts have to be considered in the light of growing tension felt by many Filipinos over the growing presence–and influence–of the PRC and its nationals in our country. The blame for which tension, one should emphasize, should be assigned both to (a) Beijing for its arrogant stance and territorial aggression, as well as its push to fill other countries with its nationals and its state corporations; and (b) greedy Filipinos–from local business partners and compradores, to local and national officials and certain personnel in the Bureau of Immigration, DOLE, Customs and other government agencies–who are willing to accommodate the PRC and its nationals for a slice of the money pie, however detrimental PRC activities might be to our country.

  9. Alyas Lorelei says:

    I have Fil-Chi friends and they can be more racist/discriminatory towards the mainland Chinese than the non-China. In fact, even before the row with China, there has been a friction between the local Chinese and newer mainland immigrants.

    That said, I am afraid that many non-Chinese cannot distinguish local Chinese from mainland Chinese, and that the larger non-Chinese population are not criticizing enough the government for what had allowed the SUDDEN influx of mainlanders.

    • Alyas Lorelei says:

      *non-Chinese

    • Vicara says:

      This seems to be happening in other Asian countries–including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hongkong–where “established” ethnic Chinese familiar with the rest of the world’s norms are worried by the influx and/or growing influence of mainland Chinese (raised in the bubble of a totalitarian state) coming over and upsetting the status quo: Muttering these worries among themselves only is of no help in the situation.

      One thing that Filipino-Chinese or Malaysian-Chinese or Canadian-Chinese should consider doing is to monitor PRC social media and news media, to see how PRC nationals see other Asian countries, including the Philippines; and to take pro-active steps to ensure greater understanding and harmony between mainlanders and the people of host countries. Ethnic Chinese–family associations, business associations–that sort of group–s well as Fil-Chinese community leaders like Teresita Ang See–could look for ways to inform and educate PRC nationals who are working or migrating here and other parts of ASEAN. If nothing else, this will help to lower rising fears and misunderstanding on all sides.

      At the same time, ethnic Chinese should make it clear that the Philippines is their sovereign country–not a vassal state of the PRC–and that they believe its sovereignty, rule of law and dignity should be observed by PRC visitors.

      Ethnic Chinese here should take a more open and firmer stance with regard to China GOVERNMENT actions that threaten the Philippines Tall order, I know. But in the end, it is they–Filipino-Chinese along with PRC nationals–who will likely get caught in an angry backlash. So it is in their interest to do as much as they can to prevent that.

      What a pity that people should be forced to choose between identification with one’s ethnic roots and loyalty to one’s country. Shouldn’t have to be that way. But it is the PRC government that is putting them in that vise.

      • Alyas Lorelei says:

        The PRC, unfortunately, is using the ethnic Chinese to achieve their geopolitical goals without even considering how vulnerable they are in many host countries.

        This is why I think the Southeast Asian Chinese have to be vocal or else we will see a repeat of the 1998 Indonesian riots in the region and people will head Sionil Jose’s call to suspect the Tsinoys.

        The sudden increase of Chinese nationals to the Philippines since 2016 is quite abnormal. It feels like the Philippine government made a deal with the PRC to send Chinese nationals.

        • Over here, Trump’s trying to close down the southern border for similar influx, though asylum seekers. At least, if the same applies as China’s Africa strategy, these Chinese you speak of that China is sending there will have money and are skilled.

          In Africa, Chinese and African marriages are up,

          Under Trump, birthright citizenship and refugees will be curtailed, which I think is good. The flipside is Trump wants to increase skilled and moneyed immigrants coming here (which makes plenty of sense).

          These Chinese are skilled and moneyed immigrants, so why not see this as a win-win. The bigger issue I know is the sense of invasion , but like Africa (poor), the Philippines doesn’t really have a choice (or do they?).

          Most Americans and Europeans there, moneyed and skilled, are retirees just waiting to die. Chinese are young and primed.

          Filipino halo-halo culture will I think win in the end. but the influx needs to be managed directly, how about making mandatory that these new Chinese live in bad parts of town or the provinces, so their money and skills can be put to use?

          I’m sure they’d love to go where there’s no competition either, but local haciendero families. The Philippines needs a jump start of money and skill, what’s to lose here?

          • Alyas Lorelei says:

            Most mainlanders that are sent by the PRC are not really that skilled, except for speaking Mandarin. Many mainlanders sent take jobs (legally or illegally) like waiters, miners, gamblers, etc. Jobs that many native Filipinos will be willing to do. No, the Jack Ma’s are not moving to the Philippines. It’s the lower-skilled workers and gamblers that are being sent. Alternatively, the PRC could have just tapped the local Chinese and train them in Mandarin. The young local Chinese are educated. They just don’t speak Mandarin very well because the language of the community is Hokkien which they call Lannang-oe.

            As my Fil-Chi friend said “The mainlanders coming to Manila are not the sophisticated city-bred folks”, but the “promdis” or hillbillies of the mainland.

            And the mainlanders hardly assimilate even into the local Chinese communities. This is why there is friction between the two that the non-Chinese don’t see or ignore. Yes, the mainlanders are a source of irritation among the Southeast Asian Chinese.

            Meanwhile, the jobs that immigrants from Latin America usually take are jobs that US-born people don’t want to do. I have yet to see a white or black person pick up veggies in California. Most of them are indigenous Mexicans and Central Americans and first-generation immigrants.

            It’s asinine to compare the Latin American influx to the US and the sudden influx of mainland to Manila.

            • “It’s asinine to compare the Latin American influx to the US and the sudden influx of mainland to Manila.”

              Now that you’ve confirmed non-skilled/no-money Chinese are going to the Philippines,

              I ‘d say the comparison is very apt— non-skilled/no-money Latin Americans coming here. As for farming and dairy industry, there are Americans willing to work it, the problem is the pay is too low (no benefits), hence the farmers and milkmen prefer illegals.

              The Chinese in Africa come with money (ie. import/export, restaurants, etc.) and skills (construction, etc.). Maybe poor Chinese won’t go to Africa, but prefer the Philippines. But the question now is,

              if these Chinese in the Philippines are simply Latin Americans coming into the US, ie. no skills, no money, why is the Philippine gov’t allowing it? I’m thinking Australia back in the 18th century, stuck with Great Britains best and brightest.

              If this is truly the case, there should be protests now, take to the streets!!! Now , not later. Filipinos should not allow this!!! At least, most immigrants go thru airports over there, over here they just walk on thru.

      • That last paragraph is a humdinger.

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