The following quote is from Dylan Rodriguez’s article “The Condition of Filipino Americanism: Global Americana as a Relation of Death”: [pdf]
At the nexus of a prevailing Filipino American discourse that celebrates the Filipino-American as a cooperative participant in the United States nation-building project sits an “unnamable violence” that masks the genocidal preconditions of “multiculturalist white supremacy to which this discourse unwittingly subscribes…It is as if being empowered through, and therefore more actively participating in the structures of U.S. state violence, white supremacy, and global economic and military dominance is something to be desired by Filipinos.
How could these acts of desiring what is in the colonizer’s economic and military interests, specifically on the part of Filipino elite, be explained? Especially when these colonizer interests run counter to their own?
In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon noted that aims of colonialism were nothing less than:
“to convince the indigenous population it would save them from darkness. The result was to hammer into the heads of the indigenous population that if the colonist were to leave they would regress into barbarism, degradation, and bestiality.”
Through the use of regulatory tools such as maps, museums, and the census, have ordered the colonial world into what Fanon described as a “compartmentalized world.” On one side is the colonist’s sector, “a sated, sluggish sector, its belly permanently full of good things. The colonist’s sector is a white folk’s sector, a sector of foreigners.” On the other side is famished colonized sector, “hungry for bread, meat, shoes, coal, and light. The colonized’s sector is a sector that crouches and cowers, a sector on its knees, a sector that is prostrate.”
During Spanish colonialism, the illustrados enjoyed provisional residence in the colonized sector. It was in their interests to maintain this compartmentalization, even to the point of acting as official, legitimate agents or spokespersons for Fanon’s “the colonizer and the regime of oppression.” This collusion of Filipino elites’ would later be repeated during the American colonial period. (via fiesta politics, for example).
Fanon’s insights regarding the collusion of capitalism and colonialism also offers insights into how Filipino Americans get co-opted into U.S. empire-building in an age of transnational flows of labor and capital. The trope of good citizenship prescribes that aspiring Filipino Americans must legible as productive and therefore meritorious enough to participate in America’s neoliberal capitalist empire. It is thus a discourse that gestures towards what Rodriguez describes [pdf] as a “cultural legitimation of a civic presence that is empowered through a valorized, patriotic collective passage into the fraudulent pluralistic accommodations of American governing and social structures.”
Viewing U.S. society through a Filipino American lens shows Fanon’s compartmentalized world also exists in the metropole. On one side is the United States as a multicultural paradise, which includes those who fulfill the tropes of good citizenship. Those who are unable to do so are relegated to another sector, composed of shadow spaces and carceral spaces, like post-Katrina New Orleans or ICE detention centers.
The acceptance and presentation of Filipino Americans as a prescriptive, economically legitimate civic presence serves as a barrier to full citizenship for immigrants are cast as the Other.
Those who are unwilling or unable to fulfill the requirements of this good citizenship are relegated to shadow spaces/carceral spaces, where they are subjected to various forms of racialized violence including surveillance, racial profiling, detention, and deportation. They are rendered as “Other” because of borders, both spatial and epistemic, borders drawn to exclude people by race, religion, Muslim-ness, or perceived Arab-ness.
Filipino Americans who were once relegated to shadow spaces now enjoy membership in the more privileged spaces of a multicultural United States. It is a provisional status that many in the Filipino American community are understandably invested in keeping.
But in doing so, the Filipino America community tacitly endorses racialized violence against those who are exiled to the marginal and carceral spaces–the very spaces where Filipino Americans used to be relegated.