Since the Ferguson decision, I have been reflecting on how deeply systemic racism has affected my own life, and it’s been a mourning process.
This might sound silly to some, but I’ve woken up on early mornings angry and sick to my stomach asking myself, what are the forces that led me to come to the United States, to learn the white man’s ways, and think in my colonizer’s language? Why did I have to come here to gain the skills and knowledge that I need, in order to try to make some small social change in the Philippines in the future? I didn’t have to come back to the land of my birth, but I’m glad that I decided to.
In Chile I studied the history of Spanish colonization and pre-colombian art and culture in Latin America, from which I gained an appreciation of Andean indigenous cultures and learned how European invasion has not allowed these cultures to fully express themselves, and still continues with the marginalization and exploitation of these indigenous groups. For the first time I have imagined somewhere down the line, my own indigenous ancestors from the archipelago the Spaniards named ‘Las islas Filipinas’ in honor of King Felipe II and how the Spaniards upon seeing them saw them as savages to “civilize.” I have thought about my great grandfather, a campesino from Asturias in Northern Spain who arrived in the Philippines in 1898, the connections between this and how growing up “mestiza” and comparably lighter-skinned in the Philippines, I benefited and still continue to benefit from a form of “white privilege” when I return. I have reflected on memories of my experiences with racism, traveling in Europe, living in Spain and being mistaken for a prostitute one time, how I came to be born in the United States and live here to receive what is considered a world-class education, only to put my trust under the nation that colonized “where I’m really from” for years and turned us into “Brown Americans” who continue to be a part of this system and this cycle of migration to the global hegemon that this country is.
Race is just a social construct and being perceived as ‘ethnically ambiguous’ to many, I have come to understand how it is so fluid but feels so real. It’s crazy to think that since European expansion, this global white supremacist patriarchal system (excluding was originally designed to oppress me, a ‘mixed-race’, filipino, woman of color of ‘American” citizenship (hahahahas). Regardless of this, I must say that I am so, so very privileged. There are so many great things about being an American.
I have hope that, and know that here, we are very gradually decolonizing our minds and our environments. There are movements to undo this ’empire’ mentality of the past. This week, through the events I described in my previous post and my conversations with others, I have been able to envision the dream of an “America” that is truly multicultural. Where diversity is not only tolerated but celebrated. Where we speak Spanish and aren’t afraid to invade peoples’ personal space bubbles with hugs and besitos (jajaj!). We should look forward to a ‘Brown America,’ – on an individual and on an institutional level. It’s difficult. We’re still figuring it out and I it isn’t easy, and it’s much more complicated than that (but I won’t go into detail). I am proud to be an ‘American,’ but I hope that one day I will genuinely be able to call myself an American. I hope that day comes before 2042.
In the process of reconciling with one’s ancestors while ending the semester, one should just refocus and enjoy a funny youtube music video about how the indigenous chief of the island where you grew up on killed Ferdinand Magellan.
Humanity has a long way to go.