Hey everyone! I’ve been following this tumblr for a while and I love it. Not only has it addressed problematic representations of Asian people in the past, I have also learned a lot on portraying other non-Asian people of colour. I’m currently working on an alternate universe-dystopian novel where the Cold War turned “hot” but with people of colour as the main characters. I have come across novels that portray this, but it’s often from a white person’s perspective.
While I am fully Filipina by blood, I identify as a Fil-Brit-Am: born in the Philippines, lived in England for 12 years and currently live in America. Below is what I have experienced and/or observed.
Just like what some people have said on here, whiter = more attractive. In the Philippines, walk into any beauty store and you’ll instantly see tons of skin-whitening products. With women, pale skin was a beauty staple; with men, being handsome meant being “tall and dark”, but not “too dark”. In England, it was such a double standard. I went to a mainly white secondary/high school where for white girls, it was attractive to have tanned skin (the more tan = more attractive) while girls of colour were seen as the opposite. In America, you were “exotic” (my situation) or shamed.
Oh man. Balancing conservative Filipino values with those of the less conservative English was a struggle, especially going through puberty. While it was normal for my friends to hang out in the park after school everyday, date who they wanted and just get home before it was dark, my parents gave me a strict curfew (always way earlier than when my friends would go home) and pressured me to not date until finishing college. Back then, I resented my parents for what I saw as my lack of freedom. Looking back now, I understand why. We lived in a neighbourhood where crime was relatively high and during the time, it was also where a surge of immigrants from East Asia flowed into the UK. As you can imagine, our presence wasn’t welcomed. My parents were simply trying to protect me.
Dating and Relationships
For a lot of immigrants, education was THE way to progress to a more secure future. During my teenage years, my parents emphasized this with the whole “no dating until you finish college and have at least some form of a stable job”. They mellowed out after some time. In some talks with my mother, she said that my dad and her would prefer me to marry a Filipino because they would have a better understanding of our culture. However, if he is a good man, loving etc, the race wouldn’t matter.
In England, I discovered staples such as the “English breakfast”, cake with custard, scones, fish and chips, Indian curry while keeping to Filipino dishes at home (adobo, pancit anyone?). Even though I had the option to bring lunch to school, I decided to have meals from the cafeteria. Whether that was from a moment of other children thinking my lunch food was weird or I feared of being seen as different, I can’t remember. In America (with more diverse communities anyway), they’re more open to food of other cultures.
History Repeating in the Workplace
Philippines - you’ve guessed it: colonialism. From beauty standards to power, whiteness is seen as the best. Just like another poster has said, it makes me sad that Filipino culture has been eradicated through the ages and that I never got to experience it.
England and America - Having benefited from colonialism, there is a lot of colonial mentality (though subtle). From stories I’ve been told from my parents and their generation, this is common in workplaces. White people are fine working with people of colour until they hear that a person of colour is applying to be their manager. Then they suddenly have a problem (with the whole mentality of “people of colour can’t be leaders” crap).
With three cultures part of my identity, I never really knew what my identity was or even how to identify myself. I always had the feeling of “belonging everywhere and nowhere” at the same time. it was only until last year that I discovered a term for it: third culture kid (or fourth for me I guess). Third culture kids are people who have developed multiple cultures from having lived in multiple places: one from their parents’ culture, one they grew up in and the third being a combination of the two. It has helped me with my depression, as it stemmed from the fact that I had no label to call myself while everybody else seemed to. If you are like me, I would suggest the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Ruth E. Van Reken and David C. Pollock. It helped me a lot.
In England, discrimination was more towards the Asian community (in particular, the Muslim community despite living there for a long time). In secondary school (high school), I had the typical comments of “chink” and talking to me in a mocking Chinese accent. I remember one time when a guy asked me where I was from - I answered “Philippines” and he immediately said, “so basically Japan?” *rolls eyes*
As I was raised Catholic, the family went to church every Sunday. After some time, due to some pressure from my mother, I became an altar server. We became pretty close to the church community. What I didn’t remember is when we first attended mass, (as my parents told me later) they had openly looked at us with disgust. This shocked me as I couldn’t imagine the church goers being so mean. Talk about “loving your neighbour”. Makes me wonder what would have happened if I didn’t become an altar server…
Things I’d like to see less of
- Asian women being portrayed as submissive, shy, petite or as the Dragon Lady
- Asian women only being seen as scientists (with the whole smart, nerdy Asian trope). What about writers? Mechanics? Musicians? Leaders even?! One of my characters is an Asian woman who is an investigative journalist.
Thing’s I’d like to see more of
- Asian people being friends with or at least, being respectful towards non-Asian people of colour (in particular, black people). It’s my hope that my generation and the ones after ours will bridge that gap.
- That writers of colour get more representation.
I look forward to learning more from y'all!!