Mixed Blessing: The Impact of the American Colonial Experience on Politics and Society in the Philippines

Mixed Blessing: The Impact of the American Colonial Experience on Politics and Society in the Philippines

Mixed Blessing: The Impact of the American Colonial Experience on Politics and Society in the Philippines

Mixed Blessing: The Impact of the American Colonial Experience on Politics and Society in the Philippines

Synopsis

Invidious distinctions on the basis of race and overt racism were central features in American colonial policy in the Philippines from 1898 to 1947, as America transported its domestic racial policy to the island colony. This collection by young Filipino scholars analyzes American colonialism and its impact on administration and attitudes in the Philippines through the prism of American racial tradition, a structural concept which refers to beliefs, attitudes, images, classifications, laws, and social customs that shape race relations and racial formation in multiracial and colonial societies. The dominance of this tradition was manifested in the wanton prerogatives of the U. S. Congress and others who helped to carry out colonial policy in the region.

The Spanish flexible racial tradition had resulted in a system based on ethnicity and class as determinants of social and economic structure, while the rigid U. S. racial tradition assigned race the more dominant role. The cultural affinity between the early individual American administrators and the Filipino elite, however, meant that class-based distinctions in the islands were not broken up. Thus, the extreme elitist character of the Philippines' economy and society persisted and became impervious to the influences which in other Asian countries led to a progressive weakening of elite structures as the 20th century advanced.

Excerpt

“We must know where we came from,” it is said, “in order to decide where we are going.” This is true among other things of our attitudes toward other ethnic and social groups. If we have no understanding of the roots of our self-image and image of others, we cannot modify our own prejudices and we are powerless vis-à-vis the false perceptions that others hold of us. This book, which draws among others on the work ofmany distinguished Filipino scholars, marks a significant advance in the understanding of the formation of racial and ethnic attitudes in our country and of their impact—sometimes obvious, sometimes dangerously subtle—on politics and society in the Philippines.

The precolonial creation-myths of the people of these islands were largely positive in nature. For example, the Filipino legend that the gods overbaked “black” people and underbaked “white” people, until they got it just right in the “brown” Malay race, embodies pride and self-love, but doesn't carry a mean stigma against other races. Of course, tribal, geographic, and social distinctions existed in precolonial times, but the notion of racially superior and inferior groups emerged only with the arrival of the Spanish colonizers and was reinforced when the Americans at the turn of the century brought to the Philippines their own brand of intense racial prejudice of the time. A predictable corollary was the rise of discriminatory attitudes among the Filipinos themselves, in favor of those with a somatic image closer to that of the colonizers, and against those with darker skin, non-Caucasian features, or “uncivilized” behavior. However many positive features the Philippines may owe to Spanish and American influences, it is a fact that through the centuries some of these discriminatory attitudes have become deeply embedded among our own people (albeit to a lesser extent . . .

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