Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Filipino Post Colonial Inheritance

Some interesting quotes I found while reading random academic essays that pertain to my identity as Filipina American...

"This issue opens with Vince Gotera's personal essay, which charts the itinerary of a US-born Filipino's self-awareness and cultural awakening.  Gotera's process of learning about Filipino American history is constitutive of his own trajectory as a writer.  Interestingly, he writes of the identity he had to come into, as an inheritance due to him, but denied him until he learned the hidden histories of the early Filipinos in America." 

I'm still in this process.  I've barely even begun.

"A sense of discontinuous history and cultural hybridization produced by a palimpsestic journey of imperialism, cultural imposition, diasporic movement, and assimilation."

Hits the nail right on the head here.

From Relocation of Culture: Post Assimilation Paradigms in the Immigrant Writing of Contemporary America, an essay by Carl Jenkinson, in which he writes of the Filipino American author Carlos Bulosan's novel America is in the Heart (1946):

"...newcomers to the United States [are] first-generation immigrants.  They are the new wave of pioneers, who come to America in search of economic prosperity, or political freedom, or gender equality, or simply family reunification.  Their children are at once second-generation immigrants and first-generation Americans.  As this naming indicates, theirs is the most confused immigrant subject position of all: pulled by allegianes to both lands but belonging in neither, they endure perhaps the truest of in-between states."

A very poignant perception of some of the difficulties of being a biracial Filipino American. 

"...the first ambition of the colonized is to become equal to that splendid model and to resemble [the colonizer] to the point of disappearing in him." Albert Memmi

This quote appeared as an epigraph within the same essay.  English is still the language of education, and helps to assimilate Filipino identity to that of what Americans deem "more civilized"...

"...education also symbolizes the American occupation and comes with 'hidden costs.'  Representing the faux-benevolence of the colonizer, the possibility of prosperity through education seduces the colonized into complicity with the colonizer.  Ultimately, this complicity leads to cultural erasure.

'Interestingly, though the effects of this process are insidious, the American government was quite open about its aims with regard to education.  President William McKinley openly declared the mission of the United States in the Philippines as 'benevolent assimilation,' a concept which, of course, contradict the democratic tenets the Americans were seeking to export.  As McKinley stated in 1899, to a congregation of Methodist church leaders: '[T]here was nothing left for us to do but take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and to uplift and civilize them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also dies.'  This declaration bears an unnerving resemblance to the infamous, and perhaps more brutal civilizing mission of the British in Africa, which also invoked the will of God as a mandate for both expansion and exploitation.  McKinley's desire to indoctrinate the populace in order to subdue it was clearly similar in design."

I consider myself privileged that I know where to look and have free access to these academic journal articles.  I wonder how other Filipino Americans navigate their identity to a satisfactory understanding?  Everything I find out makes me more and more disgusted with American racist imperialism.  Where are the Filipinos who are not complicit to this assimilation?  Is it possible to do so when they are raised in an environment that values American myths that not even America adheres to?  Is the writer of this essay correct in saying that dissent itself is what Americanizes the dissenters?  Is the Philippines still feudalistic, but under different guises?

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