A Filipina on Racism: ‘How can I be part of the solution?’
BOWIE, Maryland — I am a Filipina married to a Black man for the past 41 years. My husband has advanced degrees and is well-respected in his field. We have four beautiful, independent daughters. Each one is college-educated, successful in their respective careers, and together with their husbands, securely ensconced in America’s middle class. We have eight grandchildren. I marvel at their spirit, creativity and unabashed curiosity. I tell you this because I am very proud of them. I also tell you this because I have come to realize that in a blink, America’s current power structures will not see their educational degrees, economic success, and good works. They will only see the color of their skin. They are Black.
George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day and the mass protests that ensued bared open– once again– the racial cancer that continues to fester in America. It is bolstered by deep-rooted and long-entrenched social norms and governmental policies that pit one race against another. I am still grasping for words to express my emotional turmoil as I watch disturbing videos of his death. And much as I want to, I can’t bring myself to turn away.
As a Filipino American, am I part of the problem? Have I unknowingly allowed myself to be used as a prime-time ad for anti-Black racism by buying into the model minority myth “hook, line and sinker”? Did I convince myself that college degrees, good jobs, unaccented English and mild, respectful manners will somehow shield us from racism? I know I did.
How can I be part of the solution? I will start with me. I will constantly remind myself that as a Filipino American, I am a beneficiary of the social justice movements paid for with the lives, blood and labor of the Black community. Yes, Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others marched and died for me, too. I will continue to self-examine my own biases and prejudices and guard against micro-aggressions in my thoughts, words and deeds. I will educate myself and learn from Black and Asian social activists on the important work of coalition-building to dismantle societal structures that perpetuate racial disparity. I will continue to support causes that empower people from underserved communities.
Lastly, I will not use #BlackLivesMatter on my social media posts just to mollify myself. As one of my daughters succinctly pointed out, “as long as Black lives are treated as though they don’t matter, none of ours do.”
As I watch the peaceful demonstrations morph into chaos late into the night, I fear for my husband, my daughters, my sons-in-law and my grandchildren. I fear for me. I fear for you and yours, too.
Mencie Y. Hairston is founder of High Bridge Foundation, Inc., Bowie, Maryland.