Monday, June 1, 2020

What the brown community can teach you about surviving racism

If it were the Filipino community in the U.S. that had the black experience (history and contemporary times), what would we Filipino Americans be saying to each other, publicly and in private?

If it were a single Filipino family, let's boil it down to that. Say there were two teen sons in that family, one a peaceful, productive person, the other a, oh dear, let's call it what the older generation used to call it—a "black sheep" of the family.

Say the parents were baby boomers. (I have to imagine they are because I am, and I cannot presume to know what younger generation parents might say.) I could see the father warning both sons: Walk the line. Draw no attention to yourselves. Study hard or you'll end up like your great grandparents, building the railroad, working the fields, washing white people's children's butts, not that there's anything wrong with honest labor, but it doesn't pay doctor-lawyer-CEO salaries, and people here look down on the poor, and to be poor along with being brown will be a double strike you will bear all your life.

I could see the mother saying to them: Be home before curfew. Treat women like the queens that we are. Be respectful to your elders and to people in authority. Show them they are not better than you by making yourself better—not by acting out. And if you shame the family name and we have to bail you out of jail, you can spend the night in your cell thinking about how long you'll be grounded when you come home and how long it will take to clean the toilet with a toothbrush.

Now zoom out and go wide angle.

And here is where I pause to ask myself if I might be oversimplifying or overstepping as I make conjectures about a culture not my own.

I'm wondering: What has the black community been saying to each other and to those on the extreme margins, who over decades have acted out their rage about a history of oppression and dehumanization?

Because I distinctly remember quite some time ago seeing a short clip of a young black man about to be pummeled by authority figures when his mother steps in and takes hold of him. I saw how he deflated from a puffed up troublemaker into his mother's humbled son. I saw how the cops recognized that this mother had the power in that moment over her son.

Does the black community need clearer parenting? Does it take a village? Is there a village to speak of, or is there a divide between black marginalized and black mainstream? Do they even speak to each other across that divide?

Wouldn't it be better—less fatal, for one—to start with strict parenting rather than brutal policing?

Because we cannot only say to white people, "Treat blacks like you would treat whites. I insist" and think that's the solution. We cannot only say to the world, "Love our black sons. They may grow into 6-ft intimidating figures but we still see them as cuddly." We also need to tell the other side, "If you commit crimes you color the way people view the entire black community. It's what prejudice is partly based on."

"We" are not the ones to say the latter, though. The black community needs to hear it from their own. Maybe they've been saying it all along. I don't know because I'm not in that community.

Who needs to be educated here? Everyone.


UPDATE: It is the next day. I just viewed a video of black man pleading with rioters. "Don't burn down my business! All right, you mad at the white man, why destroy my business? Why destroy my truck? Why steal my computer? I tried to make it. I came from the ghetto like you. Could you understand that? I tried to make it."

My heart broke. 

By the way, this footage is from the 1992 riots, and it recently resurfaced. But his sentiments can't be far from those of black business owners this year.

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