(originally written 1st August 2009)
( Note from Your Loyal Batchmate / Schoolmate / Kabayan : We know everyone else can spell, just that the extra two or three seconds might just give us enough lead time to sprint away from the lynch mob . . . )
Dear batchmates , schoolmates and kabayan :
We had another of those rare “First World” moments earlier today, which we can’t help but share with you, dear batchmate / schoolmate / kabayan . . .
We were just walking and minding our own business, trying to memorize Pinoy Ako by Orange and Lemons (how poetically ironic) from the rusty MP3 hooked on our sinturero when a squad car hugged the curb and a policewoman stepped out. We kid you not, she looked and walked like ANNE HATHAWAY . Well, a willowy version of Sen. Pia Cayetano (as if the latter wasn’t willowy enough), but you know how the picture looked, coz that’s how she LOOKED, as pretty as one.
She very politely asked us to open her car door and sit inside, explain to us the situation asap she would, as soon as we were in the car. In those few seconds scores of images raced through our mind, from hulidap situations back home, to the recent “arrest seen around the world” made in Virginia on a black, we mean African American friend of Manong Obama, and lots more in between… but being the compliant, Confucian Asian that we were (read: subservient to authority) we meekly entered the squad car… besides, she just filled our RDI (recommended daily intake) of eye candy…
Turns out that there was an attack dog on the loose, chasing down a “felony suspect” (read: a nogoodnick) doing a “runner”… evidently the K-9 agent did not distinguish between bida and contrabida pedestrians… what she was preventing daw was the creature mistakenly confronting me and taking me down, something I found mildly amusing, since we were the only pedestrian and, as far as the eye could see, there was no one else (that’s common, in this birth-rate anemic country)
While her explanation was more or less credible, we heard on her police radio a description of the fugitive: Maori, 180 cm , at least 80kg, dark and curly hair, and a gold band on his lobe. Hmmm, not that we weren’t appreciative of her concern for us, but profile – wise, we don’t think a TRAINED DOG could make a mistake distinguishing the runner for us, ditto with its handler who we assumed was close on its heels (do dogs have heels?)
And was it just us or did the Devil Wears Prada wannabe just cross check my specs ( Asian, slight build, 165 cm, 65kg, straight hair ) with the runner’s ? The description squawked over the radio coinciding with my entry seemed a tad too, hmm… coincidental.
Although we are a turo-turo of races and cultures back home, we are a largely homogenous lot, predating what a comic sees as a “mocha” race where everybody is eventually molded into an ochre or color-neutral scheme. In the First World, where strangely enough, the white man dominates (quick: give me a developed nation where whites don’t dominate, not counting China or Japan) , colors tints and hues are mostly distinct and have historically served to polarize attitudes, emotions and long-held beliefs for or against the possessors of those skin colors.
We know there’s enough paranoia running around, but can we blame ourselves if beloved brothers and sisters of the brown and yellow races (that’s just about everyone who isn’t white, except of course our black brothas, who have their own beef with the White Man) look askance and over their shoulder everytime persons in authority run around with lights blazing and alarms wailing? Too much bad karma floating around, whereever are the Karma Police when you need them ?
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A previous similar moment : we weren’t settled in our present haunts but already trying out our migrant’s legs on this water logged kingdom. As was our habit, whenever the free time allowed and the inhospitable rain took a siesta, we ran around the block in shirt + sweater + windbreaker together with 2 jogging pants, lahat na. One occasion, a station wagon sped by but not before one of the passengers slingshot a tape cartridge (one of those 80s tapes that preceded the CD) at our sweaty head, we caught a slight whiff of alcohol before the decrepit car zoomed into the horizon. Cluelessly, we picked up the scratchy case and sure enough, Taiwanese artists ( very reminiscent of F4 / Meteor Garden ) were on the jacket.
Had we the chutzpah, we would have shouted, hoy you anak araw gang of Caucasians, my Lolo was from Canton and married a Navotas Mestiza, while my other Granddad was from Xiamen and wed a Bicolana lass, intiendes? But an Asian Sixth Sense told us it was futile to do so, white is white, yellow is yellow and brown is brown, as far as their myopic blue eyes can tell…
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Last na ‘to; a third similar moment: At work, there is one particular person who, whether or not he can help it, speaks just a few decibels louder to our face (as if trying to make us understand him better), loses just a sliver of impatience with us sooner than with everyone else, and finds a little more fault with our work whenever we happen to share a shift with him. Of course we will never have the kind of empirical evidence to back up these observations with, but you get my meaning . . .
Nothing, and we mean NOTHING could make him waver in this belief that he was doing everything according to Hoyle, that he was only doing this for our own good (we were the junior and he of course was the senior in-charge) until someone, just for kicks, let loose, in reference to him, the “R” word. (for reference, pls see email title). Guess who did the 180 degree turn, radically changed his way of talking, assessing and tolerating us the day after? Amazing what a emotionally charged word like that will do to a work situation.
Cause for all we knew, he was just an obnoxious jerk who never gets along with people (he was quite an unpopular specimen at work), but here was a case of the R word working in the yellow/brown man’s favor, sort of a reverse favoritism drama: Raise the racist bogey / alarm and the candidate goes the other extreme, bends over backwards just to show he’s not what you think he is. And you end up never knowing (wink-wink)
Like many social phenomena, you never know how real it is till you experience it first – hand, and in these three instances we felt it flush on the face, realizing with bloodied nose what the Clash of Civilizations / Clash of Races truly means…
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The worst part of racism is when we begin to apologize for ourselves, when we actually believe in the worldview that racial prejudice espouses, where by the color of your skin , color of your eyes and slant & fold of your eyelids you become apart, adrift, and inferior to whoever are deemed the so-called elite.
We mourn the day this ever happens.
Thanks for sharing your time with us.