All nationalities are guilty of prejudice

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 July, 1996, 12:00am

I refer to the letter by Arnold Pineda (South China Morning Post, July 17) criticising Nury Vittachi's article on racism and Filipinos.

Mr Pineda does his best to defend Filipinos by stating they cannot be 'branded as racist' because they originate from many different races, many Filipinos are married to foreigners, they are willing to learn a second language, many work overseas, and they are hospitable.

I have written and defended what I see as obvious discrimination against the Filipinos in Hong Kong, for example, the banning of singing in parks and prohibition from using elevators.

However, just because one is subjected to prejudice does not mean one is therefore automatically not guilty of any prejudice.

This is an extremely sensitive issue, one that any person would naturally be inclined, and honourably so, to defend his or her country or nationality.

It is important to realise that certain qualities do not make one prejudiced or otherwise.

Filipinos are not the only ones to originate from many races; the US is the greatest (and I use this word only in sense of scale) melting pot the world has ever seen.

Many Filipinos marry foreigners? Hardly a unique trait.

Unfortunately working overseas in this case means, for the most part, poor rural women finding positions as domestic helpers in foreign countries, and has a more urgent economic factor than lack of prejudice.

Mr Pineda assumes that being 'exposed to various nationalities' automatically 'eliminates' Filipinos from being racist.

Exposure to various nationalities has meant genocide for some areas, civil war on others.

Simply being exposed to different cultures does not, in itself, prevent racism, although it is a very good first step.

Speaking foreign languages is one quality that is a quality that may possibly work against prejudice.

I know from experience that when speaking a foreign language, especially fluently, it is simply impossible to think in the same way.

Common sense tells me that more ways of thinking equals broader ways of thinking, and this must be a good thing. It is also very difficult to harbour ill feelings for a language and culture that you are very intimate with.

In other words, the opposite is true. It is very easy to be prejudiced about that which you are not intimate with. One fears the unknown. And one remains ignorant if one refuses to face reality.

Filipinos may have all the traits so eloquently expressed by Mr Pineda, but that alone will not stop racism, either in the Philippines or any country.