F. Sionil Jose’s dangerous racism
A critical challenge that Filipinos face today is how to confront an aggressive China without embracing racism, without getting blinded by a sinister worldview that would wreck us as a people and weaken our ability to face a belligerent superpower.
Sadly, National Artist F. Sionil Jose, a man I once admired, has become one of the champions of a new wave of anti-Chinese xenophobia. Last week, Frankie Jose took his incoherent anti-Chinese Filipino dogma to a stunningly dangerous level.
In his latest column, Can We Still Trust America?, it could appear that Frankie Jose essentially endorsed violence against Chinese Filipinos.
The piece begins by reviewing the changing geopolitical landscape in Southeast Asia, highlighted by China’s arrogant posture in the West Philippine Sea, which has threatened the Philippines and neighboring countries and diminished America’s once-dominant profile in the region.
Then Jose pivots to a sweeping pronouncement on Chinese Filipinos: “They came to the Philippines with nothing, and became wealthy through exploitation of the land and the people. The priority, therefore, is for us now to see to it that the economic power of these ethnic Chinese, whose loyalty to the Philippines is in doubt, should be emasculated.”
How do we do this? Jose points to Vietnam which, he said, “applied a simple solution to its China problem.”
“The Chinese were simply expelled and their properties were confiscated,” Jose writes. “Several Chinese establishments were set up through the following years, but during the riots some three years ago, when China set up an oil rig in Vietnamese waters, to which the Vietnamese objected furiously, the Chinese factories in Vietnam were burned.”
“Vietnam is a very good model,” Jose said.
I had hoped and expected that Frankie Jose would subsequently shift gears in his column, perhaps tone down the rhetoric, and state clearly and forcefully that he was not advocating violence against an entire community.
From what could be easily misunderstood as essentially an exhortation to violence against Tsinoys, Jose moved on to elaborate on his views on America’s shrinking role in the Asia Pacific and also stressed the need for the Philippines to “reject our colonial past.”
The National Artist for Literature also appeared to be calling on Filipinos to embrace a violently racist future.
It was the same rhetoric that led to the tragedy in Indonesia in 1998 when anti-Chinese riots led to more than 1,000 deaths and the rape of hundreds of Indonesian Chinesewomen.
I was then a reporter with the San Francisco Chroniclewhen I met one of the survivors, Ah Hua, who managed to flee to the Bay Area. He wiped away tears as he recalled how his mother and sister hid in their Jakarta home as angry anti-Chinese mobs banged on their front door with machetes.
Frankie Jose’s xenophobic rant follows the racist comments of Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod, who wrote late last year: “I have often observed, Reader, that a Chinese-Filipino will never ever state unequivocally that he/she is a Filipino first, and a Chinese second (meaning, his loyalty is to the Philippines).”
It was, yet again, another jaw-dropping pronouncement from a prominent intellectual. As I noted in a column, Monsod and Frankie Jose’s image of the unreliable, traitorous Chinese Filipino appear to be based on encounters with a small number of affluent and powerful Tsinoys who expressed the despicable views and displayed the disloyal behavior they now attribute to all Chinese Filipinos.
Here’s a suggestion to Frankie Jose and Solita Monsod: Clarify who you’re referring to. Name names. Who are these disloyal, sinister Tsinoys?
Solita Monsod actually did come up with one name — which quickly backfired.
In another column, she named Teresita Ang-See, the prominent Tsinoy leader and historian, among “the Chinese-Filipinos I have asked as to whether they will side with the Philippines or China in the event we get to the crunch” — and who, Monsod said, “equivocated.”
Ang-See herself clarified what happened in a column in which she said Monsod “tried to bait me in her show. When I said I would not support any war between the Philippines and China, she insisted on interpreting this as disloyalty to the Philippines. I was speechless by her belligerence and blurted out that she should not put words in my mouth.”
Monsod’s column also prompted a response from the activist Fides Lim, who spent years underground fighting the Marcos dictatorship. In a Facebook post addressed to Monsod, she said, “Despite my three-letter surname, I’m Filipino first, Filipino second, Filipino forever, and I’ve been a political prisoner twice over from the toughest years of martial law because I love the Philippines as much as you do.”
Academic Carol Hau has been among those who have consistently challenged the racist views of Jose and Monsod. She was quick to respondto Jose’s latest rant: “We do not need the likes of Jose–with his stubbornly held racial prejudices, antiquated views of nationalism, and armchair-commando machismo – to tell us how to be Filipino and what kind of country we deserve.”
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