I’m a pacifist at heart. My aim with this column is to entertain. However, it seems that my Apr. 2 column “Don’t judge” did offend at least one person by making an unintended jab at an ethnic community. And for that, I’d like to make a couple of clarifications.
In the column, I made a flippant remark about “downplaying my heritage” and “straightening the ethnicity out of my hair.” These comments were meant in an entirely tongue-in-cheek manner. Me making fun of myself – all in good humor, right?
By one response I got, my comments obviously didn’t come across as such. Whether that is the fault of any subconscious views I have or indicative of the improvements I need to make as a writer is up for debate.
In any case, when you have a surname as obvious as my own, it’s nearly impossible to hide any evidence of being Filipino. And, as I’ve learned, it’s difficult to run away from the responsibilities that come with being a published writer with an obviously Filipino last name, even in a medium as seemingly small as a college newspaper.
I never considered the source of my need to “[straighten] the ethnicity of my hair,“ as I claimed in the column. (Although, when it really comes down to it, all I wanted was some stick-straight hurr). And I sure as hell never considered that these feelings were a cultural phenomena of sorts.
This is where the term “colonial mentality” comes into play.
Colonial mentality among Filipino Americans is defined by U. of Illinois psychology professor E.J.R. David as “a form of internalized oppression, characterized by a perception of ethnic or cultural inferiority that is believed to be a consequence of centuries of colonization under Spain and the U.S. It involves the automatic and uncritical rejection of anything Filipino and an automatic and uncritical preference for anything American.“
To get a better grasp of this term, one needs to know the basic history of the Philippines. Aboriginal groups first inhabited the lands, and trade relations were established with China and other Asian countries. In the 1500s, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu. By the later part of the century up until 1821, the country was governed by the Viceroyalty of New Spain. From 1821 to 1898, Spain obtained direct administration over the P.I. In 1935, the U.S. established an American government there. Six years later, the Philippines were invaded by Japan. In 1946, the country gained independence from the U.S.
In other words: There were all kinds of turmoil in those there parts.
And all this political turmoil had even direr consequences for the psychological mindset of its people, possibly even affecting today’s generation of Filipinos and Filipino Americans. Colonial mentality is why skin whitening products have such a huge market in the Philippines, why “FOB-ier” Filipinos are looked down upon and why Westernized beauty is held to a way higher regard than talent within the entertainment industry.
(But tell me, is it why Rob Schneider – the man best known as “Deuce Bigalo” – is arguably the most famous person of Filipino lineage in Hollywood? I digress.)
Still, though my claims from last week are of no support to the fact, I like to think that I haven’t taken my heritage completely for granted.
And thanks to the rich history of the P.I. and my family’s own history of mixed marriages, I’m my own melting pot in one little ethnically ambiguous package. Basically, I can wear a Tokyo t-shirt, dress up as a chola and still try to get attention from someone with a resounding “Pssst!” In all seriousness, of course.
RACHEL FILIPINAS would someday like to reach the ranks of other famous Filipinos such as Rob Schneider, the lead singer from the Pussycat Dolls and Manny from “Degrassi.“ Reach her at email@example.com.