Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the subject "People of Color"

This post was in response to a debate on the exclusivity of the term "People of Color" to people who, as quoted by the student I responded to here, feel like a "Person of None" he stated:

"If I am not a "Person of Color" -- and by the accepted definition, I am not -- then what am I?

Am I clear?

Or am I invisible?

When I hold a piece of white paper up to my skin, it is obvious to me that I am not white. Just as black is not black. Red is not red. Yellow is not yellow.

So, again, I ask you, What am I?

I cannot ask what "colour" I am because, as the definition stands, I am a "Non-Person of Colour."

A Non-Person of No-Colour.

I do not exist.

And if I do not exist, I cannot participate in the Revolution."

My response was as follows
I am sentimental to your thoughts.

When looking into Freire's teachings and thinking about the thought of us all being bound by the same liberation(s), I question how this is possible when each individual has multiple oppressions in their lives, ones that are made by a single person, or by a group or even oppressions that are made onto themselves by themselves. How can we in this way, be truly bound to the same liberation?

I must confess, there was a period in my own life, where by the circumstances of my reality, and also with learning about the oppressions of the Filipino people in the United States and how my parents and my grandparents were affected and continue to be affected, while doing everything in their power to keep us from being similarly affected, I found myself fueling an anger in my heart for the struggles of "my people," my family, my Kababayan.

And the term "People of Color" was an identifier for myself of these struggles and became the recognition of the similar oppressions shared with those of "ethnic", immigrant backgrounds, who suffered the effects of racism and hatred, creating in myself the "Us/ Them" mentality that can often be carried with this term. So I confess for myself, that the term "People of Color" has historically created a divide, and in reflection continues to create a divide today. I recognize the anger that I may have felt and I confess that in my mind I may have thought in initial reaction that a white person could NEVER understand what it means to be a "Person of Color" in this context.

But now in this moment and after building this community beside you, as we work to learn from each other, I know that we can try to make each other understand. And we can begin to build movements toward creating new terminologies or rethinking past terminologies to find identification with together, as I see you attempting to do by your words.

Even within the scheme of those who identified as "People of Color" in past histories there has been hate and racism, for instance the LA riots can be a very great example of this, Asian and Black communities who identified similarly turned against one another and divided themselves up into smaller groupings. Asian and Black communities creating "Us/ Them" mentalities, and in my home town of Stockton ,CA, I saw that within the Asian communities I saw as Khmer and Pinoy gangs were killing one another on the streets. The divides continue up to two individuals against one another and can result with a single person who is in a struggle with themselves.

For myself, from having dialogue in this class room, and from seeking to work toward creating less hate amongst our communities, our brothers and sisters, our friends, and less hate amongst each other as mere human beings, I seek to understand the structures of these oppressions and what we must do to allow for some who was once a "Them" in our mentality become apart of the "Us". It just is not easy.

The way you speak of the term "People of Color" and how you wish to identify with it, is in my mind completely valid, however I hope you also understand why it has been and may continue to be difficult to compromise this identifier because of the history and the significance that it holds. So, although I know you will never understand the term "People of Color" in the way it has empowered and allowed me to know and be proud of not only myself, but also of my Mother and Father, my Grandparents and the brothers and sisters of my Filipino Heritage here in the US, how this term has helped me to know where I have come from and thus where I am going. I understand the way you see the term "People of Color" and I realize your struggle to remove the "Us/Them" mentality that can be associated to it.

I recognize the color of your skin, yes, but its is not merely a notion of the color of our skin and you are not transparent, but it is not merely the color of our skin that has been associated to this term, it is the color of our struggle.

I thank you for trying to create progression and attempting to find a way of connection through identifying yourself with "People of Color", but please understand why it is a difficult process that I confess for myself is not something that I am personally able to fully let go of and create new meaning for at this time.

In much respect, I just wanted to let you know my feelings toward this.

Everyday I am rediscovering in myself, the way I see the world and how I will play the role of a teacher in it. I now, more than ever know that, that is what I will give my life to.

The other day someone asked that is there anything in your life that you are willing to die for. My response to that is, "No, but I am willing to GIVE MY LIFE fully, my heart, my soul, my existence to working toward spreading the education, awareness and love for human beings."

"In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of the world would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest responsibility anyone could have."
- Lee Iacocca

Monday, October 19, 2009


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."- Augusto Boal

The quote above is one by Augusto Boal, the writer and creator of the methods of Theatre of the Oppressed. What I have chosen for myself after learning and becoming enthralled in his work is that I want to be a practitioner of what he has blessed not only the educator community or to the theatre community with, but what he has given to the world. His work has become in my mind the link to my two separate lives that I had been living in Irvine. One being the life of an artist, who had a love of performance and of the way theatre breaths life into any person who chooses it to be their means of expression. And the other being a Pinay woman, who had pride and love for her culture and history after spending 3 years working with other organizers to educate and grow as a community.

I feel my self after learning the ways and teachings of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, that my life can never be what it once was.

I have been constantly pulling my self apart and figuring out how to make myself whole again, how to make myself fully human and open to the constant transformations that can bring me to that place of completion. And in result of this, I have never felt more vulnerable in my life.

There are so many things I now question of myself, of the work that I have done in the past and how, if I had this knowledge I might have made a better teacher and leader when working with all of you. I miss our community, I miss the solidarity and camaraderie that we had built as Kababayan and I have found myself stifled by my own oppression on myself, because of my doubt and my inability to fully trust when I feel so open and vulnerable with the rest of my cohort, the community that I enter into here.

The work is amazing, the readings, the materials and resources, everything I am being exposed to in New York and the University have slowly been liberating me, I just have to let it happen.

I felt so blessed when I walked into my first class and saw a room that was so diverse and that was filled with so many faces and people of color. But for the first time in a long time, I have found myself to be the only Filipino in the room. And now I move from being in a place where I felt most comfortable, knowledgeable and influential, to a place where I am reluctant to speak, unsure of my thoughts and checking myself at every moment before I talk, before I move, before an action is taken, when I felt before I could make a choice and follow it in an instance.

I'm telling you all this not because I feel bad about it, or because I feel I cannot be moved from it, but because I feel so blessed from it.

I am in a place in my life where I can progress and make myself a better person, a stronger, more open minded and willing human being. I am ready to become someone who can come back home to the work we did together and feel fully invested in the liberation that binds us together as brothers and sisters.

To UnKa, SB and FML, I know now how we could have been better to one another and how our liberation was always linked and I am thankful for everything that we had failed and accomplished in together and also for the humanity that you have brought into my life.

And to the future of Kaba, take care of one another and the liberation that binds all of you with us. Good luck to you all and may this new year teach you all to be fuller human beings.

I love you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Performative Utopia

This is a new term that I have come to feel a very large connection to "performative utopia." It was a term that I learned at a workshop I participated in at the Hip Hop Preemptive Ed conference I went to this past weekend. I wanted to share something that I wrote on my class blackboard about it:

This was a free write that I did at one of the workshops at the preemptive ed conference this past weekend, I wanted to share it here because it is a true reflection of how my thoughts have been reshaped and confirmed by the Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

The prompt simply was, what is your Utopia:

"To walk into a room and see the colors on the inside of brothers and sisters,
bursting through their skin that is imprisoning,
If we could read the struggles of each person we passed on their backs
because it is behind them,
on their legs,
because it has helped them to stand stronger, when the world,
blusters and quakes and floods our homes,
and our hearts
if hopes could be seen on their fingertips,
because it has pushed them to reach higher,
and we could see their joys in the depths of their eyes,
seeing those joys in yesterday, today and tomorrow,
if we could feel the rushes of power the compassion in their hearts,
with each beat that booms through their chest,
translucent are the wears and the tears of their being,
only love,
can be seen and what of hearing
an endless listening exercise, exchanging our lives and
hearing the stories that have painted, and molded and sculpted the masterpiece that is our existence,
my utopia is a world,
where the image of youth holding hands in a ring is around
the universe"

and that was how far I got in the few minutes we had to write.

but what it reminds me of, is that when I was reading The Pedagogy of the Oppressed how I would parallel the ideas to my own life. I read it in a way that examined the choices I make, and the way I live my day to day.

Paulo Freire's utopia was a place where we would be liberated of our oppressions and where the oppressors would be willing to bring themselves to be reborn into human beings who were bound by the same liberation. My idea is that in order to truly be freed from our oppressions, and reach a place of utopia, we must find a way to be strengthened by them, and to be moved by hope and realization of a better tomorrow. I feel that we must all experience a "rebirth" in a sense, where the oppressed must also remove themselves from their places of struggle and places of pity to become fully human again. This has been a constant for me, to move from the oppression and into an empowering state.

Its a strange thought, but sometimes, I feel that without my oppressions, I just would not be as strong as I am and I don't know that I would want to be any other way. Not to say I enjoy the struggles, and the hardships, but what I enjoy, is rising above them.

Is it a strange thought for me to say, that oppressions are important to our development into becoming full human beings?

Blackboard is something we have to do for our classes here, we have to be fully engaged in discussion boards on topics and event reflections and class comments, it can be tiring, but also very good for just getting your words out without having to in class.

Today when I was walking from school to the A train I read this on a church posting
"Its better to struggle to live in Utopia than consent to live in Hell."

All I have to say to that is... "Word."