Last July 23, 2021, Professor Richard Chu of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst gave a talk entitled “Celebrating Diversity, Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Identity” via Zoom. The webinar was organized by Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran, Kaisa Heritage Foundation, Bahay Tsinoy Museum, and the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS), with the goal of promoting diversity during a time when racism is the most rampant.
Michael Guzman, the current president of Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran gave the opening remarks and likened the anit-Chinese sentiments in the Philippines to the Asian hate happening in the United States.
“Tonight, professor Richard Chu will share to us his observations about Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia in the United States and other related topics. These topics are very relevant and interesting for the Chinoy community because such xenophobia is now being directed at any who is Chinese, including us: Filipinos of Chinese descent,” Guzaman said.
Teresita Ang See, the founding president of Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran, and former president of PACS, then introduced Professor Richard Chu as the keynote speaker, along with Professor Frances Antionette Cruz of the University of the Philippines as the discussant.
Chu began his talk by citing two anti-Asian hate crimes that recently occurred in the United States. “The incidents were stoked or inflamed by the anti-Chinese rhetoric of politicians blaming the spread of the COVID19 virus on China…but such anti-Asian rhetoric or violence is not new in this country. Ever since the founding of the US, the country has been built on the racist ideology of white supremacy,” Chu explained. “For my part, I participate in the efforts to dismantle racism by teaching about its history, whether within the context of the history of the Filipinos under the American Colonial rule, of the Asian-Americans in the United States, and of the different Chinese diaspora communities in the world, especially that of the Philippines.”
Chu then went on to explain the situation of the Chinoys amidst the political tensions between the Philippines and China. He related it to his recent publication entitled: “From ‘Sanglay’ to ‘Chinaman’, ‘Chinese Mestizo’ to ‘Tsinoy’: Unpacking the ‘Chinese’ Identities in the Philippines at the turn of the Twentieth-Century”, which aims to explain the history of racial discrimination in the Philippines as well as how the identity of the Chinese have been utilized and revised over the years by different groups, including the Chinese themselves.
“It is a well-known fact that the Philippines is in dispute with China over the ownership of a group of islands in the West Philippine Sea, that over the years, President Duterte’s government has been ‘friendly’ to China and wooing its government to invest there. Consequently, there has been an increase in the presence of the Chinese companies in the country, with the concomitant rise of the Chinese nationals working there. As a result of these developments, the Chinese in the Philippines, including the Chinese-Filipinos or the Chinoys have been targeted for discrimination. Writers like Solita Monsod and F.Sinoli Jose conflate them with the Chinese nationals, putting into question their loyalty to the Philippines and seeing all Chinese as homogenous.”
The final part of Chu’s talk branched into a different form of diversity, this time relating to sexuality and gender identity. This portion was based on the anthology that Chu co-edited entitled: “More Tomboy, More Bakla Than We Admit: Insights into Sexual and Gender Identities in Philippine Culture, History and Politics,” which aims to explore the different gender identities in the Philippines. Chu also shared his own experience as a gay person in a Chinoy and Catholic family and hoped that he would be able to encourage healthy discussions about sexual diversity among the Chinoy community.
After Chu wrapped up his talk, Cruz added valuable points about intersectionality, the nuances of terms such as ethnocentrism, xenophobia, prejudice, and racism, and how discourses about race are still largely centered around the United States.
“My hope is that we do not always get influenced by discourses that come from powerful sources that may not reflect our own reality and we don’t get categorized or lumped into these terms. We can expand our own horizons to other contexts, cultures, languages, and ways of being,” Cruz said.
The final part of the webinar was dedicated to an open forum, where participants may ask questions. The event wrapped up with closing remarks from Dr. Rommel Banlaoi, the current president of PACS and lecturer at Miriam College.
“For me, we are by nature and by our choices really diverse. Our diversities make our lives colorful, dynamic, challenging, and even exciting. Our diversities really make us humans. Let us not allow ourselves to be victims of our own diversities. Rather let diversities emaciate us from oppression and discrimination and other forms of negative stereotyping,” Banlaoi said.
If you missed the webinar, you may still watch the recording on the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies Facebook page.