Indifference is ignorance:
Why Filipino cooperation is needed for racial equality
by Jenna Lam
Jenna Lam was awarded the 2022 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship for Leadership Excellence – Honourable Mention based on high school GPA, a group interview, and an essay in response to the question, “How do racial biases in the Filipino community manifest in your daily life and in what ways are you complicit?” The following was the essay submission.
After the death of George Floyd, the world opened its eyes to racial injustices. We began having conversations about unjust treatment against Black individuals and how they have been discriminated against, racially profiled, and murdered for their skin colour. As I began discussing these issues with my family members and friends, I was often met with indifference. The common response was that the issue was “not happening in Canada,” and it didn’t matter because “we were not Black.” I was even met with anger, such as how Black individuals need to “work harder” as Filipinos do. The model minority myth often affects Filipino individuals in many ways, as we are viewed to be “hardworking and quiet,” especially within the workplace (Chung). Meanwhile, stereotypes surrounding Black individuals include being “dangerous” and “uneducated.” When people believe these harmful sentiments, they become complicit in the oppression of Black individuals. We cannot achieve race equality when minorities are pitted together.
Many Filipinos have encountered racism within their lifetimes. For instance, due to my half-Chinese and half-Filipina heritage, I grew up looking quite different compared to my Filipina mother. She was often assumed to be my nanny by teachers, parents, and my classmates. The COVID-19 pandemic has also become racialized as the “Chinese virus,” leading to a dramatic rise in anti-Asian hate crimes within Canada (Chung; Crabb). In Ontario, Filipina-Canadian Marnie Manalo was told by a harasser to “go back to China” (Manalo). Is it too much for Filipinos to ask to be treated with respect because we are more than just stereotypical labels?
If it is unacceptable for Filipinos to be treated this way, it is certainly unacceptable for Black individuals as well. As human beings, and as peoples of colour who understand what it’s like to be racially profiled, it is our moral responsibility to support the Black community. When we tolerate anti-Black racism outside of our circles, we enable dangerous and racist behaviour.
We must recognize ways that culture can be complicit in bias. The prevalence of colourism within our community is an example, a stain left from colonization. Fair skin is a sign of beauty; the popularity of skin-lighteners is a testament to this notion. I’ve heard comments from Filipinos who believed their dark skin was shameful rather than a symbol of pride. It is our duty to recognize these damaging notions and reclaim equality for all skin tones.
Once we identify complicity in racism and colourism, what do we do next? It must begin by dismantling these harmful notions. We must confront our own implicit biases; have difficult conversations regarding racism; educate ourselves rather than hide behind tolerance, and support and empower other minorities. The change will not occur in one day. However, each time we refuse to be complicit in racism, we plant a seed of justice that will soon bloom into an equal society for all races.
- Chung, Amy. “In 2021, Asian Canadians Document Hate Crimes To Be Believed.” The Huffington Post, 1 Mar. 2021, https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/anti-asian-racism-canada_ca_603d08cdc5b682971502118f.
- Crabb, Josh. “Report on anti-Asian racism during pandemic urges government to take action.” CTV News Winnipeg, 23 Mar. 2021, https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/report-on-anti-asian-racism-during-pandemic-urges-government-to-take-action-1.5359528.
- Manalo, Alfonso R. M. “‘The China Virus’ Anti Asian Discrimination during COVID 19.” YouTube, uploaded by Alfonso Manalo, 27 Mar 2021, https://youtu.be/Y9BPwNc_KAA.
Jenna Lam graduated from St. John’s-Ravenscourt School and entered her first year of studies at Western University. Stay tuned to find out about the 2022 ANAK Liwayway Scholarship recipients. Visit www.anak.ca to learn more about ANAK programs, opportunities, and ways you can get involved or support our youth.