Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Campaigns of the Week

"An invisible population stepped forward on June 15, 2012, to stake its claim to the American Dream. On that day, President Obama declared that certain undocumented immigrants — a group simply labeled "illegal" by many — would not be subjected to deportation, under broad-ranging conditions. Suddenly the logjam of immigration reform shifted, as more than 1 million undocumented young people who had been in the country for the past five years found themselves with new opportunities. What is more, the sympathies of other groups of people who have undocumented relatives — and thus are mindful of their plight — may have clearly shifted to a President on a campaign for re-election, as evidenced by the preponderance of Hispanic and Asian-American voters casting their ballots for Obama. Chastened by the results of the vote, the GOP has warmed to a legislative fix, increasing chances of comprehensive reform." - Howard Chua-Eoan

What this means is that the struggles of the undocumented immigrant will not only be recognized by a prestigious and reputable publication but that these struggles are given the same recognition that people such as Martin Luther King Jr. were awarded, further highlighting the importance and historical significance of their overcoming these struggles.

Read our post on The US's Obligation to its Undocumented Residents

Sign Petition here: Justice for victims of the Tampakan Massacre! Cut U.S. military aid to the Philippines!

"Hold the 27th Infantry Battalion(IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and X-strata accountable for the October 18th slaying of Juvy Capion and her two sons in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Mindanao.  This is part of a continuing pattern of intimidation and impunity used by the Philippine military, which is supported by U.S. military aid to the Philippines, to violently suppress the growing opposition to aggressive mining development in the ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao." - Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines

To learn more:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Perspective from the Side of a Discouraging Teacher

Facing a class of at-risk students of color is a daunting task.  Most of them can be found in low-income neighborhoods.  A lot of the students are disengaged from school and don't want to participate in class.  They get up from their seats, talk over you and don't respect any of the classroom guidelines given to them.

I've been on the other side of the classroom for about two months now as an authority figure within the classroom.  An untrained teacher can spell doom for all the students in it.

"You are going to amount to nothing!"

The frustration was evident in her voice.  A brief silence swept across the class.  The pause was so brief you could have easily have gone on without noticing it.  The chatter began again.

Seeing the scenario unfold before me was difficult.  On one side, I felt the frustration of the teacher.  The sounds of thumping, yelling and laughter always filled the room to the brim.  Insults were always constantly thrown across the room, alongside the occasional pencil or notebook.  Racial remarks were made on all sides.  The tapping of pencils echoed throughout the room as every insulting statement was followed up by "YOLO!"

I felt for the teacher.  These students needed a kick in the ass.  But I really felt more compassion for the students.  This teacher was not prepared to handle a class with the needs that this class did.  And for this, all the students had to suffer and be insulted and belittled back.  While the teacher is frustrated and has the options of finding a new career or teaching different students, the rest of these students' lives are steered by the classes they are taking right now, resulting in their success or failure.

Neither the teacher or students are at fault.  The teacher is suited for different students and the students need a different teacher that knows how to handle their needs.  It's like putting a teacher trained in math and expecting them to excel as an English teacher.  They have no idea what they're doing and in turn, the students have no idea how to learn or function in that environment, resulting in a disastrous relationship.

The educational system is what is at fault here and more often than not, teachers really have no idea how to handle a class like that.  And often these partnerships are a result of a white savior mentality where a white teacher of a higher socio-economic background has seen Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers one too many times.  They see themselves as the solution for these students of color's problems but don't really know where to start once they're in the classroom.

Teach for America is hugely responsible for promoting these thoughts to the white savior.  Teachers for TFA are more often than not, not from the same backgrounds as the students they teach, are not passionate about education, are unskilled and untrained, and have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

These students often want to see what they can become and more often than not, their teacher is not a person they can see themselves in.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Overt Racism

In my Ethnic Studies Social Science Methodologies class, one of my fellow classmates gave a presentation about how the Asian American pan-ethnic identity has transformed through the years. She acknowledged that "Asian American" was an identity that developed during the Asian American Movement of the late 1960s-early '70s, where Asian Americans united together through pan-ethnic lines in the fight for civil rights. Her research question centered around whether the "Asian American" identity could still be relevant today, and homegirl came to the conclusion that it was no longer needed because Asian Americans do not face "overt racism."

Wait, what?!

By "overt racism," she meant "institutional racism." You know, the type of racism that prohibits Asian Americans from sitting in the same section of a movie theater with whites, the racism that forced hundreds of Japanese Americans to leave their homes and become incarcerated in concentration camps. Just because there are no longer any laws that segregate and legalize the discrimination of Asian Americans, my classmate believes that Asian Americans no longer face "overt racism."

First of all, racism is racism. Whether openly shown or not, there's no denying that Asian Americans and other people of color are subject to violent and discriminatory actions everyday merely because of the color of our skin. Do y'all remember Alexandra Wallace? Some people argued that her video complaining about Asians in the library was not racist at all, that Asians are truly loud and there are too many of them in the university. Not only does this view reinforce and support Asian stereotypes, but it also promotes hate and condescending attitudes towards Asian/Asian American students and anti-Asian sentiments.

Secondly, institutional racism still exists today. For instance, if you were to disaggregate the Asian/Asian American category in university admissions, you would see that a number of minority Asian groups are marginalized and under represented. For instance, Pilipin@s only make up around 3% of UC Berkeley's undergraduate population, even though we are the second largest population of Asians in the United States. Even though there are no laws that explicitly say that Pilipin@s should not attend university, this country's refusal to establish affirmative action programs prevents Pilipin@s and other disadvantaged groups from pursuing higher education. This is institutional racism--the fact that institutions like the educational system do not support the recruitment of students of color into higher education.

Even though many Asian Americans have become successful in the United States, there's no denying the fact that racism is still a big issue in our community. Whether it's hidden under the guise of the model minority myth or openly visible like the racial slurs written on Jeremy Lin's Facebook page, racism is racism, and the more we deny our oppression, the more our tolerance for it grows.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No Matter Who Wins the Elections, the People Must Continue Organizing for Genuine Change—BAYAN-USA

Press Statement
November 5, 2012

Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA, email:

No Matter Who Wins the Elections, the People Must Continue Organizing for Genuine Change—BAYAN-USA 

As the corporate media zeroes in on the 2012 US Presidential election, which will determine who will assume the role of the main spokesperson and commander-in-chief for the largest imperialist superpower since the turn of the 20th century, people's resistance against the US government's foreign and domestic policies continues both around the world and within the United States itself. BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 18 Filipino-American organizations across the US working for social and economic equity, asserts that, no matter who wins this year's US presidential election, people in the US must organize and fight for real and lasting social change and not rely on traditional Washington politics.

On US Foreign Policy

In the midst of the worsening global economic crisis spawned by imperialism's neoliberal economic agenda, the two US presidential candidates and their political parties may represent different factions of the US ruling elite, but they both loyally serve the interests of the powerful 1%. Both have committed to intensifying the US neoliberal economic offensive abroad, through such tools as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which would aggressively expand a US-dominated free trade zone in the Pacific Rim a la NAFTA.

At the same time, both candidates intend to maintain or even accelerate US military aggression under the camouflage of national defense. Both support US drone attacks against innocent civilians and intend to maintain brutal US military occupations in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, while consolidating military control over the Asia-Pacific region. The two candidates antagonistically referred to China a combined 32 times during the last presidential debate’s 90-minute span, pointing to the increased importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the imperialist objectives of both parties.

For over 100 years, presidents from both the Democrat and Republican parties have used the Philippines as a reliable overseas military hub for the projection of US military might, a dumping ground for cheap surplus US goods, and a source of cheap labor and natural resources. From the Filipino people's perspective, both candidates will perpetuate the US State Department's goal of maintaining the Philippines as a loyal neo-colony in the Asia-Pacific. Under the guise of “military training and mutual support,” whoever wins on November 6 will still also adhere to Washington's pursuit of counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines aimed to suppress people's movements for democracy and genuine national sovereignty. 

On US Domestic Policy

Both candidates plan to maintain a war-dependent US economy and to continue funneling billions of public funds into defense spending rather than into domestic industrial job creation, education, healthcare, housing, and other social services. In the name of national defense, both candidates remain uncritical of a growing wave of repressive and unconstitutional legislation in the US, such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and state immigration laws such as Arizona's SB 1070.

By pledging to continue neoliberal policies that will drive more people to migrate to the US due to economic desperation, both candidates have abandoned any pretense about overhauling the US immigration system. The system as it stands seeks to divide the working class by creating a surplus of foreign and largely undocumented labor in the US to be exploited by big business for maximum profitability.

Filipinos comprise one of the largest and fastest-growing immigrant groups in the US. Most are new immigrant wage workers and one out of four are undocumented. Many cases of labor trafficking have surfaced in the Filipino community, including stories of migrant workers who arrived in the US with H1-B temporary visas but then were forced into undocumented status by their employers. Despite the optimism surrounding President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) initiative, it still leaves out significant portions of the undocumented immigrant population, offers limited reprieve, is a long and expensive bureaucratic process, and criminalizes immigrants.

Like the vast majority of those affected by the economic crisis in the US, Filipinos are part of the 99% fighting for greater socio-economic equity. In order to create change, this fight must continue past US elections and remain primarily based on the streets. 

People Power

History proves that fundamental social change is never borne out of the ballot box. Women's suffrage, civil rights for African-Americans, and even the defeat of the 2005 Sensenbrenner Bill all came from people's struggle in the trenches built by years of community organizing. If we want to realize our vision of all people--in the US and worldwide--having a decent standard of living, full employment, adequate and humane working and social conditions, and dignified standards for health, education and housing, we must continue the struggle against US imperialism.  Let us be inspired by examples such as the Arab Spring, the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, Latin American social movements, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, worker and anti-austerity strikes in Europe, and continuing people's revolutions of US neocolonies throughout Africa and Asia. Let us also build strong solidarity ties among struggles abroad, within the US and with the Filipino people’s fight for national democracy. Let us develop a people's platform for change that can unite our communities in the US. Let us embody the true essence of people power and keep up the fight in the parliament of the streets.


Friday, November 2, 2012

"What kind of Asian are you?"

"What kind of Asian are you?"

One of my students asked me this as she bowed her head down in shame covering her eyes.

She was ashamed.  She knew it wasn't right.  Her hands covered her eyes, attempting to hide her discomfort at the dreaded question.  Her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had to ask.

The white people at the table held a collective groan.

Her teacher tried to alleviate the situation.

"No, ask where your family is from."

"America."  I responded that we are from America.

The perpetual foreigner stereotype lives on as strong as ever today.  What is it about me that says I'm not from the United States?  Is it my slanted eyes?  Is it the brownness of my skin?  Why is it assumed that I'm not from here?

Yes, I was born in the Philippines, a country many people know absolutely nothing about despite having had American influence injected in it since the early 1900's and despite us being the second largest Asian immigrant group in the United States.  I've lived in this country for 19 of my 21 years and I'm still not accepted as being part of the United States population.

The perception of Asian Americans is that we are all still outsiders to this country.  We are all viewed as not belonging here.  There's something about being an Asian that makes people assume that you are not from the United States despite our presence in the United States since the 1500's.

"Are you permanent?"

My co-worker is on a student visa in the United States from South Korea.  In response I was asked if I was permanent.  Am I permanent?  I obtained my US citizenship when I was in 6th grade.  I have lived here for 19 years.  I'm here to stay.  I am an American.