Spring is in full swing here in the D.C. area as Brood X emerges from 17 years of hibernation. There is something fitting that the pandemic is finally rounding a positive corner as these cicadas find their way out of the ground as we humans emerge from over a year of isolation and quarantine. While more and more people get vaccinated, the virus continues to mutate so while there is hope for normalcy, there is still a need to be vigilant and careful.
This leads me to address the anti-Asian hate crimes and violence occurring across the country against people of Asian descent. It saddens and angers me that much of this hate and ignorance is due to a lack of knowledge about the history of Asian Americans in the United States. The first Asian immigrants were Filipino Americans who escaped from the Mexican Manila galleon trade ships who made their way up to Louisiana and became what is termed the “Manila Men” where they settled and became fishermen.
“As early as the 16th century, many Filipino sailors and indentured servants jumped ship and settled across land that is now Mexico and parts of the United States. They were placed under different racial categories that only added to their mystery. In Mexico they were often listed as Indios Chinos, while in Louisiana they were later known as the Manilamen.” Kirby Aráullo
Most people don’t realize that the Philippines was actually colonized by the United States for 50 years as part of the Imperialist and racist doctrine of manifest destiny. White supremacy is the ‘original sin’ of the United States and there are many who still long for the inhumane practices of the Antebellum South and Jim Crow. This desire to have a clear hierarchy of importance and power based on the color of ones skin (Caste) goes beyond the boundaries of the United States. I highly encourage everyone to read “Caste, The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson who so eloquently outlines the historical narrative of this cultural construction.
While we as a society are doing the necessary steps to combat Covid 19, we have a long way to go to end the pandemic of racism that ravages this country – this planet. We all must ask ourselves, what are we doing to combat systemic racism? Hate? Fear? And perhaps what we might ask first is why do we feel this hate and fear towards people who are different from us?