APRIL 2021


By Jon D. Melegrito

jdmelegrito@gmail.com

Letter from Washington

"...Challenging the ‘Perpetual Foreigner’ Stereotype

"...Continued from index page"

In his novel, America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan wrote about white supremacy in action in the 1920s, of police brutality and racist mobs attacking Filipinos: “I came to know that in many ways it was a crime to be Filipino in California. ..I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And this crime is that I am a Filipino in America.”

 

In recent times, racial slurs against Asians have further reinforced a mainstream view that they are “perpetual foreigners.” Here are a few examples reported in the last 20 years:

 

ESPN posted a racially insensitive “chink in the armor” headline about pro basketball player Jeremy Lin, a point guard for the New York Knicks.
Boxing world welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather made a racially offensive and disgusting diatribe against Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather’s racially laced profanities brazenly crossed the line of decency and respectability.

 

John Rocker, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, maligned gays, Asian women, immigrants and other minorities in a hate-filled xenophobic outburst.
White supremacist Buford Furrow hated Jews, Asians and Hispanics. Like Rocker, he wanted them wiped off the face of this earth. So he went on a shooting rampage at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and later gunned down Joseph Ileto, a Filipino American postal worker. He thought like John Rocker but took it one step further.

 

Comedienne Joan Rivers made fun of Filipinos by calling them dog-eaters. An episode in a popular sitcom, "Frazier," caricatured Filipino women as mail order brides. In each of these instances, the networks apologized in response to the outpouring of condemnation across the country. And so did the producers of ABC's "Desperate Housewives," when they aired an episode disparaging medical practitioners who were trained in the Philippines.

 

MSNBC announced Tara Lipinsky's victory over Michelle Kwan with this headline: “American Beats Kwan.” Rep. Tom Delay couldn’t pronounce a Thai name and concluded that the person must be an alien. A talk show host in Houston advocated turning Panda bears into culinary delicacies, for a laugh.

 

Congresswoman Meng explains why Asians are easy targets. “A stereotype of the Asian American community is that we are taught to be quiet, to blend in and to fit in.

 

If we're nice enough, if we're quiet enough, you know, we will be accepted and seen as American enough. It's been a challenge to try to talk to our elders, people who are newer immigrants, to get them to speak up and to get them to understand that speaking up and speaking out will help make a difference for others.

 

”Despite being US citizens (and many of us were born here), we continue to be maligned with false characterizations. We don’t need to wait for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to engage America about who we are, to publicly challenge bigotry that perpetuates the stereotype of Asians as perpetual foreigners.

 

We are Americans, too, and America is our home.

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