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Opinion

Ethnic pride or prejudice?

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Last Thursday, my column was on racism here and around the world. I wrote that racism is not just limited to colorism, but refers also to cultural racism. I immediately received some comments from some of my readers, including two that I felt were worth sharing with my readers. One letter was from a Chinese Filipino.

Letter from Annalyn Cheng

Dear Mr. Cruz,

Your column touched on something very real to me, in every day of my life here in the Philippines where I was born and raised. And so as my family seven generations back.

Racism here is merely not based on skin color nor facial features. I have many times over expounded and decided on the conclusion that racism in the Philippines is based largely on bloodline.

Filipinos mostly express racism innocently, if the other person does not have a Filipino bloodline. Others are just plain mean to the person.

Simultaneously, Filipinos embrace a person as soon as they know this person contains an iota of percentage of Filipino bloodline. Even if that person no longer embraces Philippines as their motherland nor the immediate relatives’ own country.

All our commercials paint that picture, dugong Pinoy, lakas Pinoy, iisang dugo. Heck, even our Ako’y Pilipino clearly states royal blood; we were made to sing that in school just so we can show our immediate neighborhood we are Filipinos.

Sir, I sincerely hope that one day, that as Filipinos, global as we are touted to be, we will be able to embrace all races that love the Philippines, as Filipinos.

No more placing heavier importance if a trickle of blood is from an ancestral Filipino, but more on adaptation and adoption of each one loving the Philippines as their own. Where they’ll be happy to be born, to live or chose to die here as their country.

Best regards,

Annalyn Cheng

Proud Philippines passport holder

This letter was an eyeopener for me. I remember that when I was teaching at the MBA program at DLSU, I had a student from Kenya. When she told me about her daily experiences especially going to visit provincial areas, people would make fun of her skin color and curly hair. It was then that I realized there was racism based on color here in our country. Being white was one standard for beauty even though we, as a people, belong to the brown race. Skin whiteners are doing a booming business even in the midst of the pandemic. Our beauty contestants are predominantly mixed race and have relatively white complexion.

This letter from Annalyn Cheng has made me reflect more deeply about the Tsinoy community in the Philippines. I have always thought that for Tsinoys who want to integrate, there would be no problem. My own mother’s family – Sicangco – have Chinese ancestors; but nobody in our whole extended family speaks any Chinese dialect.

On the other hand, I know that there are many Tsiinoys who want to retain their ethnic identity. They prefer that their children marry from the same ethnic group. They send their children to Chinese schools, join some clubs or organizations which are exclusively for Tsinoys and retain two names, one Filipino and a second, a Chinese name.

I have never found anything wrong with that because I think of my daughter and three grandchildren living in California. I am sad they no longer speak Tagalog. But I notice that in school most of their friends are also other Pinoys. I went to visit a two-week summer camp for Filipino children in northern California. Here the children are taught to speak Tagalog, dance Filipino dances, learn Filipino stories and other cultural traditions about their Filipino heritage. I attended an inter-club boys basketball tournament in Northern California and the teams were ethnically divided. Teams were either mostly white, African American or FilAmericans. My grandson’s team was predominantly FilAm with a few Asians and one white member.

For me, there is no conflict between ethnic pride and being a good citizen of one’s country. Annalyn’s letter, however, has opened my eyes to the existence of ethnic prejudices. It is a subject I will explore in the future.

Letter from Bonnie Girard

I received the following letter from Bonnie Girard which I thought was also worth sharing with my readers.

Dear Mr. Cruz,

I received a Google alert this evening that my name had been quoted in a new article, and to my pleasant surprise, I was redirected to your fine piece in Philstar.com today.

Thank you for addressing the important and sensitive topic of racism in such thoughtful terms, and for including some of my comments into the body of your piece. I am very honored to have been a small part of your overall message.

Late last year, Brown University in the United States approached me, on the basis of my The Diplomat and other writings on racism in China, to write a long-form piece on the subject for The Brown Journal of World Affairs. The result has just been published, and if I may be so bold, the link is here should you find it of interest:

https://bjwa.brown.edu/27-2/racism-a-challenge-for-an-increasingly-global-china/

Again, thank you so much for quoting me in your article today. I found your discussion of cultural discrimination particularly powerful. I look forward to reading more of your work going forward.

Kind regards. Bonnie

Bonnie Girard is president of China Channel Ltd. She has lived and worked for half her adult life in China beginning in 1987 when she studied at the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing. She is a freelance White House correspondent.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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