2003-05-31 - 11:09 p.m. - i am derrick's ethnicity...
Hi, I'm Derrick and I'm a Filipino American, part of a larger group loosely defined as Asian American. In case you didn't know these are people who living in the U.S. and who personally identify themselves as having Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry. I remember for a large part of my life, holding the naive notion that my ethnicity did not matter, that I could evolve as a human being regardless of the situation I was born into. I guess that was part of my innocence the kind that we are all more or less born with. More and more however, I am beginning to realize the obstacles and limitations of being a part of a minority, an Asian/Pacific Islander (I'll refer to the group as Asian for the sake of brevity) and even more specifically a Filipino male in this Caucasian-centric society.
One interesting quirk about being an Asian male is that it is difficult for us to date outside our race. Asian females are stereotypically perceived as exotic, demure and desirable. They have a sort of universal appeal to them, even if it is just a stereotype. Asian males, however have certain negative stereotypes associated with them, either perceived as an emasculated male (with diminutive statures and penises to match) or they are viewed in the opposite extreme and are somehow vilified in popular American culture (we are often portrayed as gangsters, drug lords, smugglers, tyrants etc.).
About the only positive stereotypes I have seen in popular culture, in relation to Asian males are the martial artists such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li to name a few. Chow Yun Fat and Russell Wong had several roles that did not involve martial arts, though it did not stop them for starring in those types of films.
Come to think of it there really aren't too many male Filipino actors in Hollywood. SNL alumnus Rob Schneider is half-Filipino and is probably the most popular example. Look for references of his Filipino heritage like the "raspberry bibingka" (a Filipino pastry) in is first movie where he plays the lead, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo. Other than Dante Basco whose filmography includes: Biker Boyz (2003), The Debut (2002), Extreme Days (2001), Fakin' Da Funk (1998), Riot in the Streets (1996), Hook (1991) and The Komedy Kids (1987), I don't see too many Filipino males out there making any movies in Hollywood or even independently.
Another celebrity that has brought Filipino culture into the mainstream is Allan Pineda Lindo, better known as Apl.de.Ap, one of the founding members of the International Hip-Hop Band "Black Eyed Peas". He is born to a Filipino mother and an African-American father and grew up in a poor but loving family situated in the town of Angeles, Pampanga in the Philippines. He never met his father but by his music you can tell that he embraces both sides of his heritage. At the age of fourteen, his mom and stepfather allowed him, with his consent, to be adopted by a kind-hearted American who took him to the U.S. to have a more promising future.
He sang a few of hip-hop songs in Tagalog our native language with the Black Eyed Peas and they are really good ones in my opinion. Although you may never hear those particular songs over American Radio such as The apl Song and Bebot, those songs are part of BEP's most recent and top-selling albums, Elephunk and Monkey Buisness respectively. I hate to sound like a total fanboy, but in this case I'll make an exception. I'm proud that a Filipino brother was able to break into the mainstream and inject some of our culture into it and do so with such talent. I have total respect for the the brother.
In personal experiences much more "closer-to-home" to myself however, it is very common to see Filipinas (Filipino females) dating and marrying outside their ethnicities, most notably to Caucasian males, but even to other ethnicities such as Black and Hispanic males and occasionally even other Asian ethnicities. It is almost unheard of, in my experience at least, however for a Filipino male to date, let alone marry someone outside of his race. I don't really know of any other example, with family or personal acquaintances. For example, in my family and circle of friends, with myself included, the Filipino men have married Filipnias almost exclusively. There is of course some rare exceptions where you may see a Filipino male marrying a female of another Asian ethnicity, but even more rare are Filipino males marrying or even dating ethnicities other than Asian. I can barely count on one hand such occurrences in my personal experience.
With few exceptions, mostly all the Filipinas I knew from back in High school wound up dating and/or marrying Caucasian males. The same goes true with the women in both sides of my family. I even have several Filipina acquaintances that exclusively date those of the African-American ethnicity and others still that date Caucasians exclusively. Even those females closest to me whom I love to death follow this mentality. My own mother for instance, after divorcing my biological father has almost exclusively dated and even married European men. For her Filipinos are simply out of her romantic relationship vocabulary. Even my cousin who has grown to be one of my closest friends has taken on the "Anything but Asian" dating philosophy. It more or less leaves us Filipino brothers out in the cold. It's tough because not only we are suffering from discrimination based on our own ethnicity as a whole, but we are suffering from discrimination of our gender within our own ethnicity.
I can't think of one example in my immediate family other than my cousin Ray who had moderate success with Hispanic women when he was still alive and me who has had occasional, intermittent success in terms of dating outside my ethnicity at least with Caucasian females. Still, my longest-term and most serious relationship was with a Filipina. No other relationship has ever come close. I remember my mom and cousin, both full-blooded Filipinas, talking about the whole not wanting to date Filipinos/Asians thing. I suppose they have their reasons some of them are even valid in terms or personal preference and choice but I remember interjecting in their conversation, What about me? I mean I'm Filipino and if every woman thinks like you do what chance in hell do I have? Then came an almost startling revelation, they don't consider me like they do other Filipino men. I'm sure they meant it as a compliment, but for me there were other far-reaching and somewhat disturbing implications. Am I so "Americanized" that all traces of my heritage, other than the color of my skin, are gone?
I suppose it does account for my intermittent success in terms of dating outside my race. I was born and raised in the American culture, I don't have foreign accent and I have a fairly good command of the English language. My mentality and mannerisms are obviously not that of my native heritage and sometimes I can't help but wonder if I shun my own heritage on some subconscious level. Another reason may be that I have Spaniard blood on both sides of the family (the Philippines was a former colony of Spain and many Filipinos have a small hint of Spanish blood hence the Hispanic last names), lending me some Hispanic features such as a fairer skin tone. Also, I'm typically taller than the average Filipino male and my hair is wavy and thick as opposed to thin and straight, which when all put together somehow makes me less of a Filipino. Even with all that, there is still no denying my ethnic heritage. People look at the color of my skin, my jet black hair and my smallish eyes and they see an Asian. The weirder part is that sometimes I'm even mistaken as a Hispanic and for those familiar with our ethnicity I am almost unmistakably identified as Filipino. No matter what though I'll always on some level be viewed at first glance as a minority.
I think another reason the minor turnaround with the way Asian males are viewed is that there also seems to be a recent shift in how Americans as a whole perceive the Asian cultures in general as perhaps something exotic and I'm thinking some of those exotic stereotypes are washing over to the male side of the equation. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing but I for one would be a little wary if some chick wanted to date me because my ethnicity was "trendy" like some Asian calligraphy tattooed on the small of her back or learning to eat a California Roll with a pair of chopsticks at some swank Sushi joint. Even if it is just another stereotype, I guess I shouldn't complain if it's going to help me get laid. =p
Perhaps the largest drawback of my situation is that I never learned my native Filipino language which severely impairs my ability to relate to the people of my own heritage. In many ways this leaves me at the fringe of two different cultures, never really having a sense of truly belonging to either. Because my ethnic identity is obviously blurred, I know how easily those of my own culture can misinterpret me as "whitewashed" or being some "white wannabe". That's probably farthest from the truth, however. I actually don't want to be anything other than myself, whatever that may be.
Ideally, I'd like to be acquainted and develop friendships with people of differing ethnic backgrounds. I am especially curious in terms of dating women of differing ethnicities. It's not the easiest task to accomplish some of these things because little if any acquaintances of varying backgrounds exist in my life at the present. Then again anything is possible with the right amount of dedication. I would definitely like to challenge any negative stereotypes that women, even those of our own ethnicity may have on Asian men.
If there are any stereotypes you should believe in its that with very few exceptions, we are dedicated, intelligent, faithful and ultimately nice guys. We are the kind of guy you women always say you want but constantly look us over as if we were invisible while constantly going for the asshole that has and will always treat you like shit instead of the goddess that you are. I guess it makes some sense in a poetic karmic retribution sort of way. Maybe the problem is with me, either not acknowledging the kind of people who would look past my skin and see the person deep inside or perhaps it is me failing to bring out the kind of guy I am on the inside out into the open instead of bottling it up inside all the time.
Either way it's important for me to able to evolve and transcend the ethnic and racial boundaries I was born into without forgetting who I am and where I came from. I'd like to someday learn my native language and discover my roots and I totally see myself, sometime in the near future, taking a pilgrimage back to my native country to do just that. Most of all I'd like for people to see me as a person, as a unique individual. Yes I'm Asian, yes I'm a Filipino and yes I'm fucking proud of it but don't fucking disrespect me because of my heritage and dismiss me because you see my brown skin and small eyes and believe somewhere in that closed-mind of yours that "all Asian guys are the same". We're not, we come in all shapes and sizes, we are intelligent, capable and we can bring it with the best of them and that is all I have to say about that.
I do however want to end with a quotation:
"I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination.
I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color."
- Malcom X