A different kind of election issue
June 2, 2010, 5:52 am
Filed under: opinion | Tags: , , ,

As allegations of election anomalies rage in the Philippines and myriad issues for the survival of communities as well as layered concerns for the recovery of national integrity and respect assail its citizens, Filipinos in every part of the world follow unfolding scenarios with mixed feelings. Hope is high on the list but this is as fragile as spring blossoms that now lie like torn rags after the rains and winds. Concerns closer to home like racism have since taken over.

More than a hundred years ago since Filipinos started settling in almost all parts of the globe, most communities are still struggling with racism. In Canada where nurses and other professionals have settled since the 60s and where 97 percent of caregivers–in a change of professional demographics–practically raise Canadian children today, the issue remains a gaping wound as Silangan News and Views editor Ted Alcuitas wrote in his column, Magkape Muna Tayo, last March.

‘Adding salt to such wound’ is how he describes the Vancouver City Council’s rejection of a resolution to join the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. This follows on the heels of the Vancouver Olympics and its exclusion of minorities in its opening ceremonies and merely presenting the Four First Nations Host. His fire stoked like no other, here is how Alcuitas has unraveled the deepening imbroglio:

“To think that two Chinese Canadian councilors played significant roles in blocking the coalition’s approval is beyond me. In responding to the outcry, the two told the Georgia Straight that they wanted the resolution ‘vetted’ first by the city’s own multicultural committee.

But why did the two think of this issue just now? When we researched about the coalition, it turns out it was launched in 2005 by no less than the UNESCO. About 20 municipalities have since joined the coalition including Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Windsor and Montreal among others.

Why in heaven’s name does Vancouver choose not to join it after all these years?

The answer to my mind is a question of class bias. The so-called minorities in this city (by the way, if these councilors need to be reminded, we are no longer ‘minorities’) do not see any need to protect people from racism or discrimination. Even if they come from the Chinese community, they do not seem to see themselves as belonging to the ‘class’ that needs laws and regulations to protect them. Perhaps, these two councilors feel that the Chinese belongs to a class other than or higher than ‘minorities’. Maybe they have never experienced racism or discrimination in their lives, and that’s why they cannot empathize with the issue.

While I am appalled at the conduct of these two politicians—and joining it would have been symbolic at best—I have no high hopes for the coalition. In the 70’s, cities used to have race relations committees, which purported to ‘improve’ the municipalities’ relations with its citizens.

In fact, as it happened in the City of Winnipeg’s so-called Mayor’s Race Relations Committee, it was nothing but mere window dressing. It was an inutile body stacked by the mayor’s appointees who were more interested in their own than the interest of the people they were supposed to serve. In the end the committee died a natural death.

I have long ago accepted the fact that in the struggle against racism and discrimination, we in the minorities should not be fooled into believing that ethnic politicians will fight for our issues.

Years ago, when the federal government under the Conservatives took away the tax deductions for monies sent to help dependants abroad, not a howl was heard from politicians of ethnic backgrounds including a Filipino Member of Parliament. The same thing happened when the Conservatives started charging for immigration. You can hear their silence from sea to shining sea.

Ethnic voters should be more questioning when these politicians come around begging for their votes, never failing to remind them of their ethnic roots. Some non-ethnic politicians would even don a traditional Chinese dress or the Filipino barong in order to win votes.

True, they are not elected just for Filipinos or Chinese alone. We are not saying that they should only take up these issues, but if we cannot depend on them to speak for us, who will?”

Racism as an issue remains unchanged in most parts of Northern America. It is as New York-based Filipino feminist, activist, novelist Ninotchka Rosca says, “a monkey on our backs,” that no matter what Filipinos do, especially its women, such as study, work, even attain high marks as they are told, its grip seems tighter as decades come.

In a multicultural society, which Vancouver is turning out to be and where Filipinos have been pulled out as a now visible minority, racism as Alcuitas has presented has taken on a more complex nature–an invisible divide has thickened between Asians.

But would Filipinos rather go back home than stay and suffer through a persistent token-visible status? Random interviews have revealed indecisiveness among long-time immigrants. Nostalgia for “the free life back home” is a constant thought but when confronted with realities they have long left behind such as corruption in government and mismanagement of resources that have led to chronic unemployment, which have driven most to leave comfort zones for alien sometimes hostile grounds, they favor staying no matter the often unspoken feelings of denigration from racism.

NOTE: some names in the quoted text have been edited. filipineses09