POSTSCRIPT / August 29, 2017 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Pinoys abroad hit by racist remarks

THIS being a crazy world, it sometimes happens that a tourist, an immigrant, or an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) finds himself subjected to disparaging remarks about his country, ethnicity, or accent. How does he handle it?

The subject cropped up again after a Canadian woman yelled at an elderly Filipino couple on a Vancouver train last week to “Go back to the fucking Philippines” after hearing them, she said, talking in Tagalog too loud.

How would/should a Filipino react? It depends on the person and the situation. Many friends said they would answer back if the slur were directed at them, but would just give the offender a menacing look if the words were flung in a general way (“medyo padinig lang”).

But a Pinoy’s demeanor would likely be subdued if he had immigration concerns, like if he were a TNT (tago ng tago) in the US. The standard advice to newcomers intending to overstay is for them not to talk too much and to keep out of trouble, avoiding even traffic incidents.

This blessed meekness while waiting to inherit the earth is the opposite of the response of the uncle of a Batangueño colleague in California who called in his “barkada” and readied guns after white supremacists harassed his family that had just moved to a largely white neighborhood.

When the KKK-type gang tried to set afire a cross in his yard one evening, the “barkada” rushed out, firing over the heads of the scampering intruders. My friend’s uncle was never molested again, but he relocated after six months.

Some old-timers in the San Francisco Bay Area have told us that Caucasians usually do not want to tangle with Asians, especially Vietnamese, and that they are deathly scared of bladed weapons. We never bothered to verify this, but are ready to believe it.

We got to talking about racist slurs, not only because of the big number of displaced persons seeking refuge and of some likely havens, such as the US, putting up isolationist walls, but also because of that incident in Vancouver where a Filipino couple was insulted.

• ‘Go back to the fucking Philippines’

AS REPORTED in a HuffPost story by David Moye, the couple was told by a white Canadian woman to get off the city’s SkyTrain and go back to where they came from. The Filipinos and their tormentor were not identified in the news.

The story was accompanied by a video taken by Ashley Klassen, who posted it on Facebook and described the incident as “probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen. Unfiltered Vancouver racism.”

The woman who yelled at the Filipinos was visibly somewhat shocked when other passengers reacted and told her to herself get off. She insisted that she shouted at them because they were speaking Tagalog rather too loud.

The man had apologized, explaining that that was how they normally talked in the Philippines. The woman retorted angrily, “I was born and raised right here,” and added, “Go back to the fucking Philippines!”

A Filipino Canadian, Paula Correa, also posted on social media a video of the incident, because, according to her, she wanted her fellow Canadians to see what happened.

She told local radio station CKWX: “Social media provides an illusion that these things happen in other places, in other countries ― in the USA, for example. But it can happen in the very place we call our home and it does happen, and it did happen.”

In the video, some passengers were seen coming to the couple’s defense, including a teenager who told the woman yelling at them, “Get the fuck off the train! You’re racist!”

“I am not racist,” the woman replied. “I asked them to talk a little lower.” She got off before police officers, who were called, arrived. She was later tagged as a 75-year-old “known to police for documented anger-related issues in the past.”

Filipino are the third largest subset of Asian immigrants in Canada after the Indians and Chinese. One of the fastest growing groups, they number around 663,000. Btw, Philippine Airlines flies the Manila-Vancouver-New York route four days (M-W-F-Sa) a week.

• Is Pinoy chatter annoying at times?

NOTE that the woman said the couple was talking in Tagalog too loud. She could have been genuinely annoyed, although that was not an excuse for yelling racial remarks at them.

There may be no law fixing the decibel level at which a person should converse, but a good rule to follow is to be considerate when talking in a crowded closed area, especially with people of mixed ethnicity.

In 2012, a group of 69 Filipino nurses won a $975,000 settlement against the Delano Regional Medical Center near Bakersfield, California, whose officials allegedly mocked their accent and ordered them to speak only English – and not their native language – in the premises.

The lawsuit alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act. Hospital officials insisted they did nothing wrong, but settled the suit after two years only because that made financial sense.

The nurses complained that they suffered “constant harassment and humiliation” when they spoke, or talked with family members on the phone. They were allegedly banned from speaking Tagalog and other dialects in break rooms, hallways and the cafeteria.

Elnora Cayme, who worked at the hospital for more than 27 years, said: “They were always telling us, ‘Ssshhh. English only. English only.’ I felt embarrassed, ashamed… I was so angry we were being followed by housekeepers and security guards.”

Wilma Lamug, employed at the hospital for 10 years, said: “Sometimes, we were speaking English, but due to our accent and diction, they thought we were speaking something else.”

The hospital said its policy while providing healthcare was to use either English or the patient’s preferred language– with the goal of protecting patients.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 29, 2017)

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