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F. Sionil Jose’s views on Chinese-Filipinos are dangerous

12:43 AM July 28, 2015
National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose

National Artist F. Sionil Jose just reaffirmed his nonsensical warning about Chinese Filipinos.

“We should be able to identify and weed out the collaborators amongst us for they are the anay (termites) that weaken the internal structure of this nation,” he writes in Inquirer.net. “… This anti-Chinese feeling could fester and grow, depending on how our ethnic Chinese behave. It is their duty to stop it from growing.”

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Unless more Filipinos speak out against this hateful gibberish, an already volatile situation could get worse.

For we now have a national figure, an important literary personality who is supposed to represent the best of Filipino culture, essentially declaring: ‘Hoy, you Chinese Filipinos, be ready for more attacks. If you want to be spared, well, you better behave. This is all your fault! Kasalanan ninyo ito! You’re Chinese!’

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These are very dangerous views that could cause an increasingly tense situation to spin out of control.

We can learn much from the American experience. The United States also warned about and acted against “traitors” during World War II, the historical period from which Jose says he derives some of his “wisdom” when it comes to figuring out who is a patriot and who is a would-be traitor.

Twenty years ago, I sat next to one of these American “traitors” on a bus ride with others who were once declared enemies of the United States simply because they were of Japanese descent.

Barbara Muramoto was in her sixties when she and other Japanese Americans went on a pilgrimage to Tule Lake in 1994. As our bus entered the former internment camp near the Oregon border, she started to choke back tears.

She and her family once were imprisoned here, branded as traitors. Barbara Muramoto was nine at the time.

Before the trip to the camp, she had endured being taunted by schoolmates as a “Jap kid.” Her mother was insulted by customers and their home in San Mateo mysteriously caught fire.

More than 100,000 Japanese Americans suffered a similar fate, unjustly branded traitors and herded into concentration camps during World War II.

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The U.S. government later apologized but that wasn’t enough for Sam Ozaki, one of the pilgrims I met in Tule Lake. “They talked about disloyal Japanese Americans,” he told me. “This country was disloyal to us.”

Sometimes, you don’t even need a state of war or a racist government policy for hate to turn into violence. That happened in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. Again the perceived enemy was Japan, whose automobile industry was then dominating the market.

That was a time of intense anti-Japanese bashing. Newspapers ran photos of American auto workers smashing Japanese cars.

Among those who heard the denunciations and who bought into the view that the Japanese were the enemy was Ronald Ebsen, an unemployed auto worker in Detroit.

He apparently felt so much of the hate against the Japanese that it boiled over one night when he saw a young Asian man in a Detroit bar. “It’s because of you we’re out of work,” he said.

That sparked a confrontation which quickly turned violent. Ebsen used a baseball bat to beat to death the young man he blamed for losing his job. The victim’s name was Vincent Chin — he was Chinese American.

There could well be many Pinoy versions Ronald Ebsens in our midst right now, narrow-minded bigots so consumed by hatred they’re prepared to turn to violence.

All they need is the affirmation, the support, the endorsement of someone important, a known figure who would essentially send the message: ‘Oo tama kayo. Yes, you’re right to see that group as the enemy!’

In an astoundingly disappointing twist, F. Sionil Jose has emerged as one such figure.

Do you really want to play that role, Manong Frankie?

Are you saying that everyone in Binondo is an enemy, or that the shopkeepers and small business owners should be viewed with suspicion, or that every Pinoy with the surname Co or Sy or Lee should be a target?

The painful irony in this is that Manong Frankie is doing Beijing a favor with his anti-Chinese Filipino rant. The power-wielders in China, those behind the bullying tactics in the West Philippine Sea, would want nothing more than to portray us as a nation of arrogant, racist jerks. And here’s a prominent Filipino writer even helping them accomplish that.

In fairness, in his latest essay, Manong Frankie does try to be more precise about who the enemy is in his eyes.

There are, he stressed, “many exceptions” in his otherwise sweeping condemnation of Chinese Filipinos as traitors. “My writer friends whose feet are always on the ground, the young Chinese-Filipino who know no other country than this, and to them—my salute!”

But then he also adds: “As for the rest, there is only one solution: either they recognize their loyalty to China then go to China, or integrate.”

But who are “they?” Who are we talking about here?

In a recent column in which I dismissed the bashing of Chinese Filipinos as hateful nonsense, a reader left this comment: “So? We have all right to be racist as they are to our race. Simple lang naman yan. That is life.”

Do you agree with that, Manong Frankie? Do you really want to be associated with that obnoxious point-of-view?

Apparently not. For in the one sentence in your essay I totally agree with, you say: “Let us not mistake love of country for racism.”

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TAGS: anti-Chinese sentiments Philippines, Chinese Filipinos, Filipino-Chinese, Japanese American internment, National Artist F. Sionil Jose, racial hostility, Racism, Vincent Chin murder
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