The New Year—will Filipinos count in the US?
So I hope all is good this New Year, wherever your Filipino-ness finds you.
Unfortunately, in this time of American transition, the old equations don’t always add up in the impending Trump World. (It will soon be his world. Better get on Twitter).
As I hibernated for the holidays, we’ve had China take a US drone in the Spratlys to send a message to the world. It’s a simple message of force that says China can do what it wants without reprisal. Then it returned the drone.
At the same time the US revealed that Russia hacked the November elections, which leads to many questions, from cybersecurity to the legitimacy of the President-elect who lost the popular vote but won the antiquated electoral college vote.
Trump further upped the level of disruption by siding with Putin and casting doubt on American intelligence agencies. Then he tweaked the situation even more by praising Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose wholesale leaking suddenly became selective when it came to Hillary Clinton’s emails. Was it Trump’s way of saying thanks?
Oh, and as far as China goes, I’m sure the aforementioned drone episode was more than coincidental to President-elect Trump doing a phoner with the Taiwanese president, upsetting the notion of a “One China” policy.
The games being played on the world stage are being changed on the fly. That’s 2017.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, President Duterte, whom I like to refer to by my preferred rap name for him, Rod D-Dee (he is a gangster, after all), has sort of stunned the world on his own with his admission to having killed drug dealers during his time as mayor of Davao City.
The more startling admission to me, however, has been Duterte’s concurrent admission of using fentanyl for back pain.
In the U.S. fentanyl is one of the most abused drugs in a country that is suffering from a runaway opioid crisis. This prescription synthetic heroin is being prescribed by corrupt doctors going for the cash and is hotter than crystal meth, the relative of shabu in the Philippines.
Wouldn’t it be the height of ironies if our Rod D-Dee becomes a slave of his fentanyl abuse as he advocates vigilante extrajudicial justice against drug dealers in the RP?
Nothing would surprise in a 2017 where the con man Trump (he just settled a fraud case against him for $25 million) takes over as the leader of the Free World and all that we know is turned on its head.
What do you expect from a verified “pussy grabber.”
Already in the U.S. there is a sense of dread.
The majority of the electorate who voted for Hillary Clinton must now face a Trump presidency. And they’re wondering what to expect when the government looks to cut taxes and slash budgets.
Looking at the Filipino numbers will become more important in the U.S. in 2017.
Filipinos only count in America when we’re brought in under the broad umbrella of Asian American Pacific Islanders—20 million strong. We’re about 5 million, but we’re one of 50 ethnic groups in the U.S. that stand under the AAPI umbrella.
Sometimes the group obscures the individual community.
Despair looms ahead. Of course, in the peso world Americans all seem like pigs.
But this is the reality for the American Filipino. I know of one family in San Francisco that has 8 people in the home, all of them working, except for the baby.
Even at a modest $40,000 a year per worker, multiply that by 7 earners and it’s $280,000 of household income.
Are you rich? Not in America.
But statistics lie–unless you unpack them.
For example, when someone says Asians have a higher median income than whites, one can acknowledge that yes, that may seem to be the case.
We see that a far larger number of Asian Americans make less than the U.S. median of $60,000 a year than anyone thinks. We just don’t see them.
Filipinos still do well, but not when you consider how many Filipinos in a household it takes to access to the ATM machine.
Unpacking the numbers is also helpful when it comes to educational attainment, another Asian American stereotype.
“You’re so smart, you wreck the curve!” How many times have we all heard that?
It’s true that 51 percent of Asian Americans have bachelor degrees or better, much higher than the overall national population at 30.6 percent.
But unpack the numbers and voila. There are more Asian Americans than you think who don’t have even a high school degree. And look at where the Filipino numbers are relative to the group.
These are numbers taken from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which makes the case visually for the disaggregation of the stats so that policy folks won’t overly generalize and give us a lump of coal when budgets are carved up and distributed.
Without going deeper into the numbers, we’re subject to all sorts of chicanery.
For example, privatization folks will say just put our money outside of government for schools and services. That seems to be where Trump is going.
But there are many in the Filipino Asian American community who still have tremendous needs.
Privatization isn’t going to get us where we all need to be. See all the numbers here.
As we go into 2017, we can expect the unexpected with Trump at the helm.
Asian Americans of Filipino descent will have to shine a light on disaggregated stats to make sure we’re not lost under the AAPI umbrella.
Veteran journalist and commentator Emil Guillermo writes from Northern California.