Saturday, September 29, 2007

Racism and the invention of corruption

The outspoken Senator Santiago, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign relations, is not known for taking back her words, but she found herself in a rare embarrassing situation when in an emotional outburst during the Senate investigation on the controversial ZTE broadband deal she blurted out that the "Intsik" invented civilization and are also the inventors of corruption. "China invented civilization in the East, but as well it invented corruption for all of human civilization," the senator said.

She has immediately retracted her statements, but the Chinese embassy and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. did not let the racial slur go uncommented. Senator Santiago, in her defense, claimed she would never malign the Chinese because, in fact, she is an admirer of their civilization and that her husband is half-Chinese. She said she was also recently diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

This is the problem with the anomalous ZTE deal. It is bringing to the fore the hitherto latent anti-Chinese sentiment of Filipinos. Just a few more nudges here and there and we might have full-blown China-bashing, with Chinese-Filipinos browbeaten for being ethnically associated with Mainland Chinese.

The problem, however, with this, as Dean Pangalangan writes here, is that Filipinos are racists at home, but are at the receiving end of racism abroad. Since a huge number of Filipinos are now migrating abroad to look for work, the forces of karma are now operating as they encounter Western prejudice and discrimination firsthand.

Filipinos like to think of themselves as cosmopolitan, relatively sophisticated and living in an open, non-discriminatory society. They are quick to deny that they too are purveyors of discrimination, but yes, they, we, all are. Only that in the Philippines the victims of that discrimination and prejudice are the indigenous peoples, the Muslim in Mindanao, the occasional black tourists and yes the "Intsik beho."

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