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Opinion

Racism here and in the world

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

In the 1960s I started reading about racism because of my admiration for American civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. My thinking about racism has evolved throughout the next decades. I have come to be aware that racism is not just about prejudice against blacks and that it is not limited to the United States.

Two distinct events made me aware of the global nature of racism even today. First, I had a student from Kenya when I was teaching in the MBA program at De La Salle University. In one conversation with her, I told her that at least in the Philippines she will receive minimal incidents of racism. She then told me that whenever she traveled to the provinces, even children would openly make fun of her skin color and her hair. I realized that she was being racially identified with the aetas or the black indigenous tribes.

I have also been reading about the vigorous sales of skin whiteners among women in the Philippines. I have always been conscious that whiteness of skin color is one requirement to be considered as beautiful in this country. Even now, the overwhelming majority of our beauty contest winners are mixed race or mestizo with one common characteristic – fair or white skin color.

Racism is also a global phenomenon. I have read several articles about racism in China. Bonnie Girard wrote: “China is not unique in having a problem with racism. It is a worldwide scourge and nowhere, it seems, is immune. In every society there are those who act and believe in racist ways, and those who do not at all. China, like most places, is full of both types.

What makes the issue different in China is how easy it is to encounter racist behavior and beliefs. It can be strongly argued that this is not because the Chinese as a people are any more or less racist than any other nationality. Quite simply, racist sentiment may seem prevalent simply because it is so blatantly and matter of factly expressed when and where it does exist…And where racism is found in China, there can be little argument that no more group is racially targeted and maligned than persons of sub-Saharan African descent, which means black Africans.

Since last year, the Black Lives Matter movement has spread outside the United States. A few days ago, 27-year-old black activist Sasha Johnson was shot in the head. Her group said that the attack happened following numerous death threats as a result of her activism.

Discrimination is based solely on skin color. Racism is more broad in the sense that this is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits and can be divided on the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean that prejudice, discrimination or antagonism are directed against other people because they are of different ethnicity. In this sense, racism is not limited to skin color.

There is cultural racism that manifests as societal belief and customs that promote the assumption that the products of a given culture, including language and traditions of that culture, are superior to those of other cultures. In effect, cultural racism can be characterized by the belief that one culture is inherently superior to another.

Michael Gonzales, professor of History and Anthropology at City College of San Francisco, wrote:

“We are at an unprecedented historical moment. In the middle of a pandemic, social inequities exposed a long history of denial of human rights and the resilience of systemic racism in the United States… While we are also often victims of discrimination, we also harbor racist views of other people, particularly of Black Americans. “

Before the colonial period, the ideal beauty was a native woman with golden brown complexion the Tagalogs called “kayumanggi” and the Spanish later called “morena.”

During the three hundred years of colonial rule, Spanish Manila was segregated. Bloodlines were carefully measured and classified in a graduating scale of whiteness.

One of the most interesting and enlightening discussions on racism, here and in the world, was sponsored by Asia Society and hosted by Manila House last July 2020. Among the panelists were former US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas, an African American; former UNESCO Philippines Secretary General Lila Shahani, Vicente Rafael, professor of History at the University of Washington, and feminist leader Laura Verallo de Bertotto.

Shahani stated: “All the countries I’ve ever been to have their own way of racial othering and xenophobia.” Laura Bertotto agreed, saying that many systems of oppression are inter-related, a different manifestation of the same kind of evil. There is the caste system in India, slavery in the United States, colorism in the Philippines and many more around the world. She said: “A lot of these ‘other-izations’ are related. What changes is the target.”

The perpetuation of racism will continue so long as society accepts that there is “someone on top.” And a different group of people are at the bottom.

Professor Vicente claimed that the Filipino revolution against Spain was an anti-racist revolution. The war was a response to the racial exclusion felt by Filipinos.

Finally, racism may be defiant actions of a previous privileged class that are seeing their power and influence erode, like the anti-Asian phenomenon in the United States. The three largest Asian groups in America are Indian, Chinese and Filipino. The median incomes of families in these groups are higher than that of white Americans.

Racism comes in many forms, but this is an evil that must be exterminated where it exists.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

RACISM
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