Saturday, January 18, 2014

White Privilege in the Philippines
When it is worse to be Filipino in your own Motherlan

Written on: My Own Desktop, Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
Composition: 7AM here. Have a cold. didn't sleep all night.
Previous Post: "Confessions of a Third Culture Kid"

In another post, I remarked about how in the Philippines, it is entirely possible to be treated worse for being Filipino, than for being a "Foreigner"*.

Then of course, typical me, I did not follow through after writing that teaser. I had the idea of proceeding with narrating this trip of mine in the order it happened, thinking that "I'll get to that chapter eventually". But I had already flash forwarded here, here, and here anyway by talking about how difficult re-entry was into dry, barren, Post-Winter-but-not-yet-spring, Calgary, Alberta, so why bother with keeping order? ...especially when there is an opportunity to make a point via the things I come across online, such as in here. (Hell, I have even ventured into pure social critique and observation, far removed from the narrative of this trip, as seen here, here, here, and here)

That said, let us go back to that first linked post, that of "White Privilege" in the Philippines.

I don't often point out "White Privilege" because I don't really see it here in Canada. That, and I'm afraid of being accused of pulling the race card. I love this place, and - in general - it has been kind to me, so I cannot really complain in that aspect.

The ironic and tragic thing however


...The ironic and tragic thing however is that it's way more rampant in the Philippines - where I was born - a place where I can pass as "one of them" whenever I visit. In that place where I am part of the majority, I actually have a higher chance of being treated as a second class citizen**.

It's not often that visitors to the Philippines really get to know how extreme this White Privilege can get, because it does come with some caveats. You also get the "White Tax", for instance - that value added cost usually applied to those easily identified as "Foreigners" (eg. Caucasians) by unscrupulous merchants and other dishonest Filipinos in the service industry. Victims of these then think it's evidence of pure discrimination of the negative kind against whites. "It's Racism!" they complain. And I agree! It's disgusting! It's cheating, plain and simple.

But what they may fail to notice (or acknowledge) is how the same service industry that overcharges and swindles them for being "Foreigners", also overcharges and swindles Filipinos anyway. All while treating them more rudely than whites, as though being Filipino equals lesser status.

The only reason white people get cheated a lot in the Philippines is because they are easy targets, and not necessarily for simply being white. To the scammers, it's more of a 'sure thing' that a white person does not know what's going on, so they are more likely to pull their shit. I, for one, do not get a free pass. I, as someone who travels incognito and blends in, can also be cheated and was cheated a LOT.

If anything, Filipinos have this love for whiteness and white people in general.  

If anything, whites get preferential treatment in the Philippines.

And if you really wanted to get into it, perhaps an argument could be made that the prejudice and discrimination white people experience in the Philippines is not "Racism" in the academic sense of the word (ie: prejudice + power***) because whiteness there still holds so much power and status. This isn't the 'classic' case of a powerful majority oppressing a weaker minority, but rather a case of an insecure population reacting against the power, clout, and status of an outsider.

It's a contradiction, I know - how can whites be regularly cheated yet at the same time also be given preferential treatment? How exactly does being targeted for overcharging and other scams square with a higher status?

I've never been here to provide answers, just raise more questions and to narrate my observations. And from what I have seen, there's a certain kind of vindictiveness about it all, mixed in with equal parts envy of the idealized beauty and internalization of inferiority. Oh! Don't forget respect! After all, this is where the privilege comes from - Filipinos still tend to flatteringly assume that we 'Westerners' are all educated, have great jobs (what with the money we throw around), and have life figured out. I've mused about this before, in part, here. Better yet, do explore academic writings about Colonial Mentality (like this) if you want a better explanation.

And if you want a really good first hand account, read this!

       " Laurel Fantauzzo tried to become a Manila local, and in this essay, she explains what it means to  be charged 'dayuhan tax' (foreigner tax) "

When I read this essay, I was SO GLAD that someone finally wrote about it from the perspective of being "white", that I just had to share it with all of youse (she's a halfie, but ambiguous enough to be just white in the Philippines). It's not often this gets pointed out, and I feel this grotesque part of Philippine culture needs to be aired out. I also feel that it's important to hear this issue coming from someone who actually is seen and treated as a "white" person by Filipinos, instead of coming from "just another butthurt and race card pulling Person of Colour****".

Next Post: This Modern Hilot: New Spin on a Traditional Practice

Related Posts: Dear Filipinos, Stop Claiming that You're Spanish!,
                           Last thoughts before going to bed tonight: Pinoy Citizenship
                           Chalky and Unpalatable: Unscrupulous Roadside vendor tactics
                           Social Hierarchy, Menial Jobs, and Fastfood in the Philippines
                           White Privilege in the Philippines, Part II
                           White Privilege in the Philippines, Part III
                           The Town Centre's Fiesta, Part II 

*Foreigner = I put it in quotations because I am using "Foreigner" the way Filipinos do: as a very loaded term. Same with Westerner - another loaded term.

**Second Class Citizen = While in the previous post I had mentioned, I actually talk about how I am NOT a Filipino citizen anymore, do note the distinction: I am not Filipino on paper, but I still am at heart and, obviously, appearance...  I am not contradicting myself here: Concerning the Filipinos I met during my travels, I appeared and presented myself as just another Filipino, just another local resident. As well, Second Class Citizen is used as a shorthand, as a literary device, to describe my having been treated as lesser than some white people.

***Prejudice + Power = I for one do not restrict my usage of racism as that. Racism is Racism, period. I just thought that I would widen the discourse a bit for people who do subscribe to that definition.

****just another butthurt and race card pulling Person of Colour = Done for comedic effect. Also, I have this rant I have been working on, about how in so many ways, the "race card" has become the new race card... how it is now used to silence any issues concerning racism by labeling the person raising it as simply pulling the "race card", no matter how legitimate the claim may be. Again, this is why I am so thankful that someone who was treated as "white" by Filipinos finally came forward with their side of the story...

Even Further Reading:

Inferiority Complex: A Filipino Malady? - Barth Suretsky
Racism Among Filipinos -
Racism in the Philippines - The Society of Honor by Joe America
Is Racism Alive in the Philippines? - Peter Vandever 
Brown and Proud - Racism in the Philippines - aiokona 
Are Filipinos Racist? - Philippine Star 
Philippines, one of the most 'racially intolerant' countries, survey shows - GMA Network's most and least racially tolerant countries - Washington Post
Da Pilipins is one of the most racist countries on Earth - Da Coconut Repablik
My Boyfriend's Parents were Racist - Contessa Schexnayder
Being a "Westerner" as VIP badge in the Philippines - The Gauntlet 2009 Travel Supplement
Filipino Taunts Black Basketball Player as "Monkey" -

Telling Quotes from Short Comments:
"I agree with you that the Philippines is a racist country. As a tall white man (and gwapo as they call me) I'm the beneficiary of this type of racism. Should I say anything about it since I don't suffer from it but enjoy the privileges it gives me? I'm not trying to complain I'm just sharing my observation.
The Irish man I visited in Bacolod in his beautiful home in Bacolod called it UTOPIA because he is the beneficiary of this racism also. He was telling me that sometimes girls come to him asking to have a baby with him. That happened to me also. They need the mixed baby to "improve the race" as I was told by one Filipina. Just think about it Joe: Improving the race?
Messed up in the head for sure!
I don't think this type of thinking started with the Spanish. The Aetas (look like Africans) were in the Philippines before the Malays took over. I'm sure they discriminated them based on race as they still do today. I visited a remote Aeta village in Negros for my photo project and I heard their stories and I know how they live.

...One more thing: My fiance who has dark skin told me that sometimes she is called or referred as a "negra". That happens when she gets in to an argument or conflict. This a way to put her down and hurt her feelings. That is their version of "nigger"."
- Atilla

"[A]s a foreigner who lived in the philippines last year when i was 25, I thought that people treated me like a king because I had money. I realised quickly it was because I was white and young. If I was black and had double the spending power, I wouldn't have been treated with any amount of wonder or admiration. Look at the plastic models and posters in your malls, all white people. You all have umbrellas in the sun and use face whitening cream. Your footballers and actors are half white. It's not quite racism, but about skin colour. White people are considered top of the pile and people originating from Africa are the lowest, with yourselves in the middle, which is odd. Feel sorry for your negrito tribes. Think filipinos don't admire curly hair either..."  -Alistair Dymock

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Blogger Jingle Dela Torre said...

Hi, Randy. I came across your comment on Rappler on the article about how Filipinos abroad are sometimes accused of being mayabang. I followed the link that you posted and here I am perusing your archives. Needless to say, you gained a follower. I am glad I am not alone in the world We share many similar opinions on social issues about our country, and I too live abroad- in the USA.

I am glad that you explored the issue of White Privilege in the Philippines. This is a topic that has been rolling in my mind for some years now. I have wanted to write an essay about this but could not quite find the time (busy schedule). You mentioned how Filipinos in the Philippines treat white people very differently than those their own. I am with you in this observation. Growing up very dark was a painful experience for me. I often hear adults who would say I would look a little better if I had a lighter skin. And almost everyone wants to be white. Needless to say I grew up very insecure of my own skin.

I do not know if you have explored the topic of colorism. I have read your comment on "Stop Claiming that You're Spanish!" in reply to someone and you talked about internalized racism- yes it exists. And it most definitely exists in our country, too. And colorism, which is discrimination based on skin color, is an offshoot of internalized racism. We, in the Philippines, discriminate on our own people (generally speaking). Want to become a saleslady at the mall? Must be fair skinnned. Prepare a ton of whitening products before you even try to show up for interview. It is rampant.

This is not only happening in the US among Blacks and not only in the Philippines among Filipinos, colorism exists in every country that has been colonialized by White people- India, some parts in Africa, even in S. Korea that hasn't been colonized by Europeans.

Personally, having gained understanding of this societal illness from studying history, I am both empathetic and saddened. The oppressors who colonized us called us savages and removed from us rights from our own land. They have stripped our ancestors of their identity. We can say the same happened to Africans who were brought as slaves to the Caribbean, Jamaica, and North America. The difference is that our ancestors were not put on boats to sail to Spain to become slaves. They made slaves out of them in our own land. They pitted us against their physical appearance. We were less because we were not white like them, we were not beautiful because of our skin color, our big flat noses, and short heights. 300 years of this enslavement created a mentality of wanting to be white. Whitness is the standard of beauty to this day wherever we go.

And this is why when White people visit the Philippines, they are treated like royals. This is why the entertainment industry there is full of Filipino celebrities who promote whiteness via whitening products- Vicki Belo products, whitening soaps, whitening lotion, whitening injectables, whitening tablets, bleaching, etc. There is even this vitamin to make short people grow taller (which I think is as fake as homeopathy) because short is not ideal.

And then there is the bullying that I experienced from being dark-skinned. Adults perpetrate this idea of whiteness is beautiful and anyting less is, well, less, which, then, of course, is transferred over to their chidlren. And the cycle of colonial mentality never ends. It is sad and it hurts many people not just on a personal level where a person is teased "lagum" (Visayan pejorative word for dark-skinned). This mentality spreads in society- in businesses, institutions, etc. Rampant discrimination in hiring because of skin color is just one of the many hurtful results of this mentality. This needs to end. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening soon. The Philippines has a very long way to go.

Sorry for my rant.


12:17 PM  
Blogger StrayDog said...

Hi J,

Thanks for the comment.

"Colorism!" That's a new word for me, actually! Thanks for the heads up. I'll go use it whenever appropriate from now on. Right now, I've only been using "Racism", even though I have always found it lacking since sometimes there's what I would term as "same race" hatred - where class, skin tone, and other variables thrown in order for some good ol' discrimination, even towards someone technically of your own "race".


10:21 PM  
Blogger Red Butterfly Productions said...

Does anyone know when internalized racism started in the Philippines?

6:18 AM  

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