“We cannot educate white women and take them by the hand. Most of us are willing to help but we can’t do the white woman’s homework for her. That’s an energy drain. More times than she cares to remember, Nellie Wong, Asian American feminist writer, has been called by white women wanting a list of Asian American women who can give readings or workshops. We are in danger of being reduced to purveyors of resource lists.”—
Feminism needs to be authentically intersectional, or nothing at all. This speaks volumes
aaaahh re: the "it's complicated being flilipino" post, I feel u so hard. I grew up in the philippines and one time my cousin (who has significantly lighter skin than I do) and I went back home, and one of our bruha aunts complimented her on how much prettier she had gotten and then to me she literally was like: "oooohhh, you... got...even....darker...."
uuugh, that’s terrible. i’m sorry. it truly sucks when our own families make us feel that way about ourselves. that’s how you know white supremacy is pervasive as fuck. internalized racism is too real.
After seeing several submissions from fellow Filipinos, I thought I’d share my own experience growing up Filipino in America. Some of this may become ranty and incoherent, but hopefully I can reach those of you who have experienced something similar or at least can relate.
I remember when a Korean-American classmate in my orchestra class asked from what country in Asia my family came from. Of course, I said that I’m from the Philippines.
Lo and behold! His treatment of me changed from pleasant to utmost disdain. At the time, I did not understand why he suddenly didn’t want to interact with me anymore.
You see, back then (this was when I as 14/15 years old), I was very naïve and I thought Filipinos are just as Asian as all other Asians. I thought this way because both my parents instilled in me that we ARE Asians because of language, cultural, and political influence.
I did not know about the unspoken hierarchy that Filipinos were at the bottom of the Asian Hierarchy. Or were seen as “the wrong kind of Asian.”
And so, I wanted to really make friends with the other Asians at school, but I was often frustrated and ended up becoming a loner because I was often told these things:
“You’re too dark to be Asian.”
“You’re Pacific Islander because Philippines is an archipelago.”
“Your people do not have a clear cultural identity.”
“Filipinos are ‘Hispanic’ because they were colonized by Spain.”
Well, it did not end there. The worst part was when it came to dating and I saw my Asian-American schoolmates dating fellow Asians (most of the ones who dated their fellow Asian Americans were the pale-skinned ones) and/or white people.
I thought, “If they can date other Asians or white people, so can I!”
I was wrong.
So very wrong.
As a matter of fact, these guys, whether they were white or Asian American, won’t even look at me or see me as someone attractive, interesting, funny, and intelligent because all they saw is this dark-skinned girl from the Philippines.
At first, I couldn’t articulate why I was always felt so frustrated and dismissed or just seen as a place holder until they get their “Dream Asian Girl.”
Japanese girls were always at the top. Chinese and Korean girls were always a close second.
But I noticed Filipino girls were always some kind of “consolation prize” for these guys who can’t get a girl from the “East Asian Trifecta.”
Then it dawned on me that this is happening because I’m the “wrong” kind of Asian. I do not belong in the hierarchy that was established by whatever powers that may be out there.
I completely resented it. And for the longest time, I hated being Filipino because my heritage is always the butt of jokes!
Why is being Filipino such a bad thing? Why is having a deep tan such a bad thing?
Why is having dark skin disqualifies Filipinos from being Asian?
Why is it so bad? Why do people hate us so much? Why do people not want us?
Even our own selves; we hate ourselves.
Growing up in the Philippines, the media that I saw had fair-skinned movie stars, news casters, and models. There were some dark-skinned actresses but they were few and far in between or they’re often type-casted as the punchline for the fair-skinned protagonist.
Then there’s an abundance of skin whitening products! How can we escape from this madness when we are deeply mired by our own self-hate?
I even hate myself to the point where I do not go outside in the sun, slather SPF100 and wear big sun hats so that I won’t become “too dark.” I am also very guilty of being flattered when relatives tell me “Oh, you’ve become so fair-skinned, you’re so pretty!”
I’m a full-grown woman now but I still find myself being petty about not disclosing my cultural background to people and doing my best to look East Asian as much as possible.
And going back to interacting with white people, they just see Filipinos as “good servants.” Is that how we all are? We just exist to merely serve?
I’ve encountered the question “No, where are you REALLY from?” followed up by a mangled version of some Tagalog phrase they try to use on me to impress me?!
Oh, here’s another “classic” pick up line from white men. They’d tell me they were stationed in the Philippines for quite a few years and talk about how the hospitality of the people and how “docile and submissive” Filipino women are. Then they would even go as far as talk about how they were offered a Filipino bride to take home to America!
That truly annoys me to the Nth degree!
It’s really irritating, frustrating, and tiring battling my own self-hate, discrimination from white people, and then discrimination from fellow Asians.
It is really complicated, being Filipino. I see myself and identify myself as an autonomous Human Being and yet I am always reduced to a caricature of my culture and heritage—not just by other people, but by my own self, too.
This post really resonates with me and when I read it the other day I actually cried, because it triggered a lot of memories of experiences I had growing up. OP mentioned a lot of problems that are familiar to me, but I’m only going to comment on one since they pretty much laid out all my feelings for me.
Shadeism is VERY real in Asian communities. I remember realizing at a very young age that light-skinned Filipinas are considered more beautiful because it’s seen as an East Asian quality, and after all, Filipinos are the “blacks” and “Mexicans” of Asia (several strangers have told me this while I was growing up, and I hear it way too often as an adult, so basically it is an identifier for PEOPLE I NEVER WANT TO FUCKING HANG OUT WITH BECAUSE THEY ARE RACIST AS FUCK—ALSO, FUCK DONALD GLOVER AND LUCY LIU FOR THOSE COMMENTS). I distinctly remember hanging out in groups of other Filipino kids and the darker Filipinos I knew were ALWAYS made fun of for their skin tone. I knew this was fucked up logic, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why; I didn’t know that shadeism was the term I was looking for.
The desire to distance oneself from their own racial identity is the basis for white supremacy succeeding. The Philippines has such a rich, complex history, that it’s really no surprise when Filipino kids with parents who immigrated to the West have a difficult time figuring out their racial identity. Shadeism creates a divide in our communities. We need to work on putting an end to it, so we can unite and work to dismantle racism all across the board.
White people get so angry at the phrase, “You cannot be racist towards white people.”
I will never understand why.
Why are you so angry that you are being treated as actual human beings? You are not reduced to caricatures, but portrayed as characters. You are treated fairly, judged not by your skin tone, but by the ways that you carry yourselves, by your actions.
Why do you want to experience racism so badly? It is not fun to be mocked, dehumanized, attacked, killed, incarcerated simply for daring to exist. It is not fun to know nothing of your history or family because it was torn apart, whether through distance or death. It is not fun to hear, at every turn, comments reminding you of your lesser status as humans.
Do you really want to turn on the tv, open a magazine, watch a movie, play a video game, and not see yourself? Or, even better, to only see yourself as a criminal, as a drunk, a mocking stereotype, or as someone to be killed off? Or would you rather see fleshed out, well-written characters with lives and personalities and feelings? I know which I’d rather pick.
If I were a white person, the phrase, “You cannot be racist towards white people,” would be the best thing I could ever hear.