It’s June already? Time flies! I think I’m beginning to see my blogging pattern that I have been blogging only once in every two months since the beginning of 2020. When you are on lockdown and have to stay home for pretty much every single day, 1 there’s nothing much you can do or write about, except probably with what you discovered in the net you weren’t aware of, 2 write about what I learned from coding/data science bootcamp courses, 3 or even my beginner art lessons. 4 I still love my J-Pop boys along the way through coding bootcamps and art classes, but other than that? That’s pretty much it.
This Sunday is my late father’s birthday. He would have been 72 this year. However, with the chaos going on right now here on home soil, I started thinking about my dad again.
Growing up as an immigrant Filipina at age 10 here in America, I did learn a lot of lessons from him that were never taught by any “good Filipino parent” to their children back in the Philippines or pretty much anywhere: Racism and diversity.
The lessons Dad taught me about Racism and Diversity
During my dad’s wake/Novena last year, the day before the funeral, my family and I didn’t expect that so many people would come to share their sorrows and goodbyes to my dad. We all knew he was a very popular man because he knew how to communicate with people without any form of judgment or prejudice. The chapel gathering then were a good mix of different colors of skin: Filipino/Asian, white, black, Hispanic, Middle Easterners, you name it, they were all there. He met so many friends that sometimes we lost count on who’s who and where they met. He was heavily active with our local diversity community, namely the Asian-American Community. As a treasurer of these organizations 5, he worked with so many different people representing all the peoples who share the same hometown as us, learned a lot about diversity, cultural eclecticism, educating youth about diversity, and most of all, just being a true American. There were a lot of people that I’ve never met before and were open to share their stories about my dad and what kind of person he was to them. I shared my own stories about him as a father and somehow, their stories and my stories connected and gave us a whole picture of the type of man my father was.
Even on the next day at the funeral, the colors were balanced among those who came. We really didn’t expect a huge turnout (considering that it is on a weekday), but the same people from the previous day, as well as more people who didn’t come to the wake, all came, all the way to the cemetery. We shared more stories again after the burial reception. Rather than shed more tears again, the entire luncheon was filled with smiles and laughter.
Of course, at that time, I’m already at a close-to-mid-adult age. When I was a kid coming to America, it was completely different.
Back in the Philippines, my dad’s side of the family were all about local politics. My late grandfather was a Barangay Captain 6 of their hometown, one of the uncles I’ve never met were in law enforcement, my aunt and uncle (Dad’s siblings) were teachers. Bottom line, they were a family of leaders and motivators.
I remembered watching Filipino children’s shows and even shows coming from a country whose language I never really understood 7 and there were some scenes from those Filipino children’s shows, and even with some commercials, that promoted that “dark/black skin” is a symbol of something evil, something demonic, something dirty. Even until today, there were even Filipino whitening soap commercials that “guarantees” the user of having lighter skin if they were naturally dark. 8
Growing up, I loved playing outdoors with my brother and with the neighborhood kids. It wasn’t my mom or my dad, but the nannies they hired to take care of us who kept scolding us to not play with the “squatter kids” or else we’ll end up becoming “dark/black-skinned” like them. Some relatives even taught us that if we “turn black,” we would be punished by God and then go to hell. At that time, we were “brainwashed” to see Blacks as something “demonic and evil.”
Things changed when my family and I decided to move to America. A few months after settling down, I was enrolled in the neighborhood middle school. I was only 10, and I never finished 4th grade in the Philippines, but after taking a placement test at the local elementary school, the counselor then suggested for me to enroll in middle school instead because of the results of my placement test. It was around April, and there were only 3 months left after the end of the school year.
My first encounter with a Black person was in middle school. My ESL9 teacher was Black. Mrs. Webster was very gentle, patient, and really helped me get through my English speaking problem. She encouraged me that I can learn how to speak when she saw how high my grades were in written and reading English. I recently learned that she passed away four years ago after keeping in touch with some classmates on Facebook. But I was grateful to her.
I told my parents about Mrs. Webster and how she became my favorite teacher. It wasn’t just for the English fluency, but she also made me feel as if I really do belong there. My first few weeks, I finally faced my first taste of racism. The funny thing was, it wasn’t just a few whites who discriminated against me, but by a lot of American-born Filipino kids. The white kids who were friends with them just joined in the jeering. They jeered at me for two things: A “FOB” 10 and an “uncool Filipino” because of my lack of (fluent) English speaking ability. I didn’t tell my parents about the jeering and bullying because I didn’t want them to feel ashamed. It wasn’t until I got to 6th grade that I finally told my dad after watching a local news of some gang violence between a Black gang and a Latino gang.
Integration and surviving this sudden culture shock really took me awhile to get used to. I didn’t have any friends during fifth grade and not so much sixth grade. It wasn’t until seventh and eighth grade that I finally started to have friends from other races: Black, white, Latino, non-Filipino Asians such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. It wasn’t until high school that I finally started making friends of my own race. Funny how that turned out.
It was in high school that I started to finally understand the realities of living in America. I knew how big America was and California was just that one large state all the way to the West Coast. I felt some unity and diversity in my hometown that I thought that the Bay Area is some kind of a sanctuary for all peoples regardless of origin, background, or color.
Some years later during college years, my dad started getting involved into local politics and volunteering in our small suburban community after meeting a random passenger at a BART station decades ago learning they both lived in the same town. Turned out that the person he met was a city council member and really introduced him to the many projects and community organizations that our hometown has to offer after learning about my dad’s past of being a community leader, born from a family of community leaders and motivators, and how he was interested in getting involved in a community organization apart from being a husband and father and a manager of a county office of education. From his job, 11 he learned a lot more about American diversity through working with schools. His first job was at Berkeley, home of one of America’s (world’s?) top universities 12, and is also one of the cities that have a long history of civil rights, free speech movement, liberal movements, and more. It was from this new environment, as well as learning more about America’s ongoing issue of racism and cultural and ethnic diversity among all races through his colleagues, that got him motivated to be active in his community.
I am not as active or as outgoing as my father was, but I did watch him growing up from the sidelines of the way he communicated with everyone and was also patient to listen to voices of those who aren’t as fluent in English as many. There were at times in which he and my mom would argue 13 about ongoing social issues, and racism and diversity is one of them. My mother, who grew up in a somewhat conservative upbringing, was one of those types of Asians who don’t know a lot what diversity even meant. Unlike the rest of her family who grew up in the rural provinces, 14 she was one of the few of her siblings who grew up in the city. You would think she would have a more open mind considering how urban cities can be highly diverse, but it’s not true. There were at times where she would make some side comments or reasoning/assumptions as to why Blacks today are still being looked down upon, such as their upbringing or their “culture,” which were the “safest” excuses that any racist would say. 15
My dad argued with her many times that she can’t have that kind of attitude and behavior as an immigrant in America. Everyone here (whites included) were immigrants or are descendants of immigrants, so in short, we are all the same and have gone through a lot of struggles. The only differences is that certain races have privileges and others don’t and it has nothing to do with class, but by the color of your skin. That alone already defines racism. After all, the Philippines as a whole had an upbringing of what we call colonial mentality, 16 where white/fair skin is beautiful and black/dark skin is not.
There are other stories and experiences that I had with just the issue of racism and diversity altogether, but there are too many to count and too many to account, so I’m going to cut the entry short.
What I learned from my dad may sound silly to many, but this was what he advised me: There are times that you have to treat every single item you possess as a person. In every item, there is a spirit of a person inside. You have to treat your car as a person, your computer as a person, your CD player, your bed, your light, everything that you own as a person. If you’re able to do that with something inanimate, it shouldn’t be any different to how you see and treat other humans regardless of how they look or how they behave and every other characteristic you can think of.
My dad also advised me that there are things regarding other cultures that we still may not understand, however, if that’s the case, we have no right to say any form of opinions regarding their issues unless we take the time to learn their history and understand how it still applies today. Being vocal about them isn’t enough. It’s best to go out there and do some action through volunteering in local diversity groups, read books and other reading material available about there about these issues, and instead of being completely silent about all this, just writing about it and sharing it with others would also help.
Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He would have been 72 if he were still alive today. If he were still alive right now, he would simply go out there and join the protests along with the diversity groups he’s part of. He had been part of some protests before decades ago back in the Philippines, so this was nothing new to him. But even as a senior citizen, I think he would go out there.
He wasn’t the type to influence us based on his own beliefs because he believed that instilling everything he believed in wouldn’t really help us form our own individuality, therefore it was up to us on what action we would do. For me, I would sign petitions and donate to charities and organizations. I also care about my safety, so this was the best way that I could help.
The movement still continues today, even if the trending stopped on SNS. It wasn’t supposed to be trending anyway knowing just trending them on Twitter, etc. isn’t really going to help much without any form of legit action. I really wish that the unrest here around the world would end soon, though that’s just wishful thinking. Either way, I really want this period of injustice among all POCs to end.
And to those who don’t live in America or any other country where unrest due to racial inequality and injustice aren’t present, and would like to support the movement, please visit this site. Thank you very much.
Some people who don’t understand the movement have been going around saying “all lives matter,” but if Black lives don’t matter, then no lives matter at all.
On the sidenote . . .
- The only time I leave the house is when I have to go grocery shopping and/or when my brother comes for a visit with his 1-yr-old toddler son. I walk with my nephew around the neighborhood because the little boy loves walking and enjoying nature. More on this some other time…
- probably something boring for most people…
- That’s on my tech blog…
- That’s on my art and stories blog.
- Friends of Sister Cities and the Asian-American Federation of Northern California
- I don’t know the exact translation, but “barangay” is kind of closely equal to a “district”
- American TV shows with the dialogues in English
- Those “whitening soaps” only dry up your skin. Don’t try it.
- English as a Second Language
- Derogatory term for an immigrant Asian. It stands for “fresh off the boat” — go read about the Vietnamese refugees and you’ll see where that term came from
- he was an accountant who worked his way up and eventually became a manager and a director from Berkeley Unified School District to the Alameda County Office of Education
- University of California Berkeley
- like many other married couples
- as land/farm owners that is…
- She’s not directly racist, but she would make racists remarks against any other race besides Filipino/Asian behind their backs. She’s also (indirectly) racist against whites too. But that’s beside the point.
- The Philippines became a Spanish colony for over 300 years, then became an American colony after the Spanish-American War, then briefly became a Japanese colony for a few years until the end of WW2.