Filipinx for #BlackLivesMatter: Fighting Anti-Blackness in Our Own Community
June marks Filipino Heritage Month here in Canada and I want to honour our community by combatting the anti-Blackness that is so pervasive in it, that is hurting Black people and each and every single one of us.
I ask you to honour our community by having these really critical conversations about race and injustice with those who are closest to us, those with whom it is often the most difficult to have these conversations with — our Nanays and Tatays, Titas and Titos, Lolos and Lolas.
We must remember that the revolution starts at home.
What Anti-Blackness Looks Like in Our Community
If you’re Filipinx and you’re reading this wondering what I mean, then let me count the ways.
You know how your parents were always trying to get you out of the sun so that “hindi ka umitim”? So you don’t “become Black”? Yeah, that’s anti-Black.
You know how your Titas and Titos gossip about so-and-so’s boyfriend being “itim” and how that’s no good? “Puti na lang sana,” they might have/probably said. “She should’ve found someone white.” Yeah, that’s anti-Black.
You know how when you go back home to the Philippines and you see all of the whitening creams lined up at the grocery store and advertised in giant billboards or cute commercials? Yeah, that’s anti-Black.
You know how you and your cousins are obsessed with basketball and hip hop culture and speak like your favourite rapper and maybe even drop the N-word here and there, but haven’t once spoken up about or stood for #BlackLivesMatter? Yeah, that’s anti-Black.
All of these examples are what we call the colonial mentality. This is called upholding white supremacy.
As a people colonized first by the Spaniards for 333 years and then the Americans for 48 years, we suffer from a long and hard case of the colonial mentality — that is, the thinking (often without even realizing it) that our colonizers, a.k.a white people, are superior to us and that we should aspire to their whiteness. Hence, our people’s rejection of anything close to being Black.
It is going to take a long time for us to unlearn these behaviours and this thinking but we need to start doing the work now. We need to break free from this line of thinking that oppresses not just Black people, but each and every single one of us. And it is our responsibility to support each other, our own family and community of loved ones, and call each other into these tough conversations around racial injustice.
Filipinos are the “Blacks of Asia”
You must have heard this refrain to describe our community before and I want to know, what does this mean to you? What does it mean when people say this about us?
Many of us in the Filipinx community have latched on to Black culture as part of our identities, largely because it is the closest to ourselves that we could find in mainstream media. Black culture was the only thing we saw that wasn’t white. As a community that desperately lacked and continues to lack representation, Black culture was and is the closest thing we have that resembles our own.
Think about how we cling to pieces of Black culture, especially around music and dance and sports. What music predominantly plays at our fam jams? Soul. Funk. Hip hop. R&B. What do we all gather around to watch as a family in the evenings? Basketball. When those of us from the younger generation speak, what words come out of our mouths and what affectations do we take on? African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) or, as we often just call it, “slang”. Who did we take our fashion cues from growing up and to this day? Black musicians, entertainers, and athletes.
I’m generalizing a lot here for the sake of brevity, but you know what I’m getting at. As a community, we pick and choose the parts of Black culture we like, the parts that we deem to be “cool”. The parts that elevate our own social status and boost our own appearances. But we actively dismiss all other parts of the Black experience that do not serve us.
We have enjoyed the sweet fruits of Black excellence and labour but we have rarely, if ever, stood up for the rights and lives of Black people themselves.
What does it mean for us to not take action against the brutalization and murder of the very people we are being likened to? The very people whose culture has informed so much of our understanding of ourselves?
But ultimately, what does it mean for us to not take action against the brutalization and murder of people? Full stop.
Start Learning and Take Action with these Resources
It is time — it is long overdue––for us to step up and stand in solidarity with Black people. To quote the great Audre Lorde, “I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.”
And so I’ve put together the following resources for us to begin this long and messy journey of learning and (un)learning our colonial mentality, our anti-Blackness.
I am glad you are here and I am glad we are doing this together and that we are doing it now, regardless of how new or far along we are on this journey.
Please note that these resources are media that I have personally consumed and have learned from. This is by no means comprehensive, but rather it is meant to be a living resource, an ongoing work-in-progress — just like I am, just like we all are. If you’d like to engage with me further or have questions, let’s connect over Instagram at @justineabigail.
The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward. –Ijeoma Oluo
Understand what terms like allyship, solidarity, anti-oppression, or anti-racism mean.
- Read through the resources provided in the Anti-Oppression Network.
- Follow these Instagram accounts to start: @theconsciouskid, @rachel.cargyle, @ohhappydani.
- Listen to these podcasts that address racial inequality and culture: Code Switch, Pod Save the People, and 1619.
- Check out the following films, TV shows, books, and articles compiled by South Asians 4 Black Lives.
Learn about the model minority myth and how it is a tool to divide minority groups.
- Read What Is the Model Minority Myth? by Sarah-Soonlng Blackburn of Teaching Tolerance.
- Read ‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians and Blacks by Kat Chow.
- Read 30+ Ways Asians Perpetuate Anti-Black Racism Everyday by Michelle Kim.
Listen to Black voices and get a glimpse of the Black experience.
- Read books by Black authors including my personal favourites Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Homegoing by Yaa Gyassi, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.
- Read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
- Diversify your social media feeds by following Black activists and different people outside of your usual bubble, in general. Just as we talk about the need for representation from Black, Indigenous, People of Colour in movies, television, books, etc. so too should we reflect that in who we follow in the digital spaces we spend so much of our time. These are some Black-run accounts to begin following @blklivesmatter, @ibramxk, @iamrachelricketts, @feministajones, @ijeomaoluo, @rachel.cargyle, and @audrelordeproject.
Understand how the police and criminal justice system disproportionately targets Black people and then advocate for change on multiple levels.
- Watch Ava Duvernay’s 13th, a documentary that explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.
- Read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, a call to fix the broken system of justice in the US.
- Understand the merits of building a police-free future from MPD150, an independent community-based initiative in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- Learn the racist history of the police by @theslacktivists.
- Understand how racism in the police is also connected to and affects Filipinos by reading through Mila Astorga Garcia’s working paper on the Jeffrey Reodica case in Toronto.
- Read The Pandemic is the Right Time to Defund the Police by Melissa Gira Grant about how activists have successfully defunded police campaigns in various cities and the positive outcomes of doing so.
- Read The answer to police violence is not ‘reform’. It’s defunding. Here’s why by Alex S Vitale.
Bear witness to Asian and Black solidarity in history.
- Expand your reading list with these books on Black and Asian Feminist Solidarities from Black Women Radicals.
- Read about David Fagen, the African-American soldier who fought for Filipino liberation in the Philippine-American War.
- Learn about the Buffalo soldiers and their role in the Filipino fight for liberation from the Americans through @beyonkz’ zine.
Learn about decolonization and anti-Blackness in the Filipinx context
- These Instagram accounts have been integral in my own learning of what it means to decolonize ourselves and fight anti-Blackness in our communities. I encourage you to follow too: @the.drtherapinay, @decolonialbulaklak, @babaylanstudies
- Read Beyond Earth, Wind, and Fire: The Elements of Filipinx Allyship.
Look inwards and ask yourself the hard and critical questions.
- How have I, as a Filipinx-American[/Canadian], clung to whiteness throughout my life? Do I still? Why?
- How have I stolen from Black culture to boost myself?
- How was I taught to get closer to whiteness to succeed, and in turn, hurt myself and the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour around me?
- What inside of me is still colonized? What inside of me is white supremacy?
- Since there is anti-Blackness in me and my culture, when Black people say, “Hey white people,” am I listening? Do I truly know they're talking to me too? Am I acting on what they’re saying?
Practice allyship on an ongoing basis.
- Watch Rachel Cargyle’s Public Address on Revolution using her three-pronged approach of Knowledge, Empathy, and Action.
- Follow these 5 ways we can be better allies in social justice movements from @the.drtherapinay.
- Learn how to be an ally to the Black community through these helpful suggestions from Gelaine Santiago.
- Take these 5 ways to take action from @theconsciouskid on an ongoing basis.
Talk to your loved ones about these issues
- Find these very helpful tips for talking to the people in your life about anti-blackness from South Asians for Black Lives.
- Use these prompts from @the.drtherapinay to drive discussions within your Filipinx family and guides on how to respond to racist comments.
- Share this letter translated in Tagalog from Letters for Black Lives to help express to your family how you feel about this issue.
Finally and once again, please note that these resources are media that I have personally consumed and have learned from. This is by no means comprehensive, but rather it is meant to be a start, a living resource, an ongoing work-in-progress — just like I am, just like we all are. If you’d like to engage with me further or have questions, let’s connect over Instagram at @justineabigail.