Almost as soon as Republican nominee Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect, America was gripped with fear and a sudden realization of how racism still actively rules our society. While the white majority may be rejoicing Trump’s election, this year’s presidential campaign has taught me to be afraid of Trump’s policy promises, especially because Trump’s racist rhetoric echoes Hitler’s Aryan race supremacy ideology. So, it should not be surprising how long the widespread protests against Trump are persisting.
It is my brother’s group text to my family that makes me ponder my status as a Filipino American in particular — “Should we move back to the Philippines?” What makes this question so profound is how rare it is for my kuya (older brother in Tagalog) to openly respond to family group chats. That half-joking, half-terrified tone of my kuya still gnaws at me. It has reminded me of how likely it is that my family and I will be made unwelcome in America — be told to “go back home.” This is a common phrase, whether said literally or not, that all non-white Americans are faced with at least once in their life — a concept more commonly known as xenophobia.
Yet what is that “home” when my family is now strongly rooted here in America? I identify more with my American heritage than my Filipino side. I can hardly speak Tagalog, let alone list more than a handful of Filipino foods and phrases. Considering how much Trump has promised to “Make America Great Again,” it is now extremely terrifying to possibly be expelled back to the Philippines forcibly where Rodrigo Duterte now rules. My Filipino-American identity was even erased because Duterte claimed Fil-Am’s were not Filipinos. Under Trump, I am not American. Under Duterte, I am not Filipino. It’s silly for Trump to assume that Filipino-Americans have a “home” to go back to if that very home similarly denies them.
Furthermore, the concept of a “home” also suggests that the people under that nation somehow have a racial purity. For the Philippines, it’s interesting how many Filipinos struggle to keep a Filipino heritage while trying to claim a perceived “whiteness.” Because the Philippines is confused about its identity, despite being one of the most multicultural nations in the world, people in general are confused about the identity of Filipinos also. This is shown through the almost comedic guessing game people play when they first meet me and attempt to guess my ethnicity. I’ve gotten comments like, “Oh, you have a Korean nose” and, when I used to introduce myself as Chinese-Filipino, “How much Chinese do you speak?” There’s even this stereotype that Filipinos must have a Spanish last name like “Angeles” or “Cruz.” Every time that I am met with questioning gazes and attitudes like these, I come out feeling frustrated and mad at myself for not knowing enough about my heritage to defend it from such scrutiny.
If America was a truly inclusive society, ideally mentalities like that would never exist. Yet the fact remains that America is a racist, white supremacist society. Proof of this can be found in an old childhood taunt that I used to get while attending a predominantly white Catholic elementary school which included being given the nickname “Jackie Chan.” Little second and third graders were indoctrinated to taunt me as “Jackie Chan” and were never rebuked for it. Even the nickname “Jackie” leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because of that very childhood taunt. The taunt not only erased the diversity of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community, because it assumed that all APIs were Chinese, it also erased the Filipino part of my Chinese-Filipino American heritage.
Also, because those white childrens’ white heritage was never questioned like mine and many non-white childrens’ had been, white children are taught early on to be confident in their white identity. There are no doubts as to what white children refer to when they assert their white American heritage. Childhood taunts like “Jackie Chan” and “chink” are not merely growing pains because they are indicative of how much multiculturalism and tolerance those child bullies may or may not have. If white Americans were to actively remember their heritage stemming from their family’s immigrant history, then America would actually be a truly multicultural society. But as it stands now with Trump as the president-elect, my anxiety and fear of future escalated racism will still remain.