Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Recycling my comments from FireQuinito

I admit it. I have a problem. I only seem capable of blogging when I've already responded to something at FireQuinito. I have excuses: I'm writing non-stop to finish this book, and will return to blogging in about a month. I hope. Until then, if there's anyone who reads my blog but doesn't read FireQuinito (message to this reader: Baliktad 'yan! You should pay more attention to Jaemark, who actually updates FQ.), here is a comment I posted there about racial prejudices in the Philippines as they relate to basketball and some other things. I was responding also to Howie Severino's blog. My take only scratches the surface, but I'm not expert enough to really get to the bottom of this subject.

It never surprised me that racial attitudes in the Philippines were a bit behind those in the U.S., since the Philippines has a much different racial history. Both countries have their baggage, but the States has to deal with the legacy of slavery, which is where racism against African-Americans comes from. There are relatively so few black immigrants or half-black Filipinos that it's not a surprise that the Philippines hasn't had to come to terms with that kind of racism.

You definitely see it in basketball, where imports are lauded as athletes but viewed with a sharp-edged paternalism, where teams spy on their black American players to make sure they aren't running wild like the O.G. Black Superman, Billy Ray Bates. When imports are in public, people try to touch their hair or ask why it's so curly, ignorant racism that most players graciously ignore. It's like because most Pinoys see relatively few black people, they've never had to update their dated, racist attitudes about them.

It's interesting that Howie Severino framed his blog in terms of Filipino-Americans, because of the generational divide in that group, where many older Fil-Ams exhibit the kind of racism Howie wrote about, but younger Fil-Ams identify with American youth culture, so much of which comes from black trendsetters. Plus, if they play basketball, their idols are black NBA players, and their teammates are probably black, too. I've heard young Fil-Ams say, sometimes with pride and sometimes with annoyance, that they're known as the blackest of the Asians, i.e. they're good at breakdancing, basketball, DJing, etc. It's a generational dichotomy that somebody who's done some real research will have to parse out better than I have here.


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