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Sep 22nd
Home Columns Op-Ed Page Post Script to "Laughing at the Ugly Face of Racism" Column of Jesse Jose
Post Script to "Laughing at the Ugly Face of Racism" Column of Jesse Jose PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Thursday, 20 September 2007 02:51

"Racism Is a Product of Myopic Understanding of the People Around Us" can be the title of an exceptionally-good feedback from a reader, who requested, however, that his identity be withheld. The writer of this Op-Ed feedback of an article is a good friend of the MabuhayRadio editor. This piece can also be titled, "Confession of a Former Filipino-American Racist." If other readers missed Mr. Jose's column about racism, they may go to it at this link

QUOTE. After reading Mr. Jose' column, I came to an admission of a nagging guilt that I have been having for a long time. I have a lot of Black co-workers and I do not have a problem integrating with them, some of them are even close friends.

It was however, my initial impressions of the Hispanic people, that makes me cringe with shame, whenever I remember it.

I came to the United States and Los Angeles in early 1992, and barely three months at it, the infamous Los Angeles riot broke out. That fateful afternoon when fires, looting and shooting broke out, I saw so much, so vivid images as we drove up Wilshire Boulevard on our way home from the Westside. The 45-minute drive turned into a two-hour bumper-to-bumper traffic. We saw Black youth stopped by the police and made to lie or sit in the pavement. In the nearby Thrifty store, Blacks and Latinos, and a few Asian-looking guys carted anything they could grab. It went up in smoke an hour later. Meanwhile in the apartment compound we lived at that time, the Filipino families huddled and debated what to do. Some suggested going to friends or relatives outside the city (we have relatives in San Fernando Valley) but after so much debating, we decided to stay put.

Anyway, I mentioned this fact because during my dramatic initiation to "American way of life," the closely-knit Filipino families within our physical neighborhood, acted very much like a cocoon that sheltered us. The area where we lived at that time was a predominantly working-class Latino neighborhood. The first couple of months I was exposed were very much different from the postcard-pretty USofA. Men in beat-up cars honk their loud horns when they pick up their kids from somebody's home. I thought it would be more polite if they would just park their car in the curb, ring the bell and get the kids. And oftentimes I have to weave in the narrow streets because a certain Juan happened to see Pablo drive by. So Pablo parks his vehicle in the middle of the street and the two of them start chatting.

I did not hate them though, I thought, heck they ruled the neighborhood, so be it! But what bothered me endlessly was a major faux pas when I wrote to my friends back in the Philippines. In two separate letters, take note TWO, I related to my friends what had happened before and after the riots. Having had my experiences in the Latino rather than a Black neighborhood I jokingly peppered my letters with references to SMs. SMs being, now I hate to admit it, meant "stup... Mexi...s"! Whoa... don't crucify me now...! It might just be me, but I could sense some sort of "feeling" among the Filipinos I know. For instance, I heard someone say a certain Filipino woman married a Mexicano in the same tone they described their kids make friends with gang-banger Black peers.

Eight years hence, I came to know more about Latinos. Aside from the fact that they are not exactly always Mexicanos, they may be from El Salvador, Peru, Guatemala or Nicaragua, they are among the hardest-working people I have ever known. Many hold double jobs so they can save money and send home. They go to church. They take great efforts that their children learn their language and culture. In short we share a lot of things with them. But the most fascinating thing for a Bicolano like me is to feel an affinity with them because of shared Spanish influence. As you may have noticed, the Bicol language is rich with Spanish words, which was in common usage before the advent of "Biclish" (a combination of English and the Bicol languages). As a small kid I listened with intense wonder when the old folks spoke Spanish. I still get the same kick listening to Anggi (Tigsikman) and his brother George converse to their father en Español. Today I find learning conversational Spanish is a very rewarding experience professionally and personally.

Looking closely into the issue of racism, I would say it is a product of myopic understanding of the people around us. I can be as guilty as any person of other color who judges other people's acts, appearance or attitude by the specific norms of his own culture. Until real "globalization" is reached racism will always be there . . . like death and taxes.

Mabalos ("thank you" in the Bicol language) for bringing up the issue. UNQUOTE. # # #

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2007 03:06

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