Your last name is Mexican, but you look Chinese.
Is Filipino Mexican Chinese?”
- a college boyfriend of mine
This is punchline to my solo performance piece Yes. No. I’m Not Sure Yet. (video recording)
My interest in self-identity is piqued. I identify as a Filipino-American, born in the United States to Filipino parents - father in the Navy, mother a nurse - from the Philippines. I am a light-skinned Filipino. I have a Chemical Engineering degree from UC Berkeley. I do not speak Tagalog but I understand the language. Filipino food is not my favorite food to eat. I can make lumpia. I am an entrepreneur.
And I read books because I am (definitely) not an ethnic studies scholar. I will update this list as I continue to discover and express my identity.
One Degree of Separation
These are people whose books I’ve read, whom I’ve heard speak, and in one case, whose wedding I’ve attended. Their wisdom continues to shaped my thoughts about identity.
Joanne Rondilla - An Assistant Professor at San Jose State University, Joanne is a leading voice in Colorism, “the discriminatory treatment of individuals falling within the same 'racial' group on the basis of skin color.”
A friend and local coffee shop owner introduced me to Joanne. Because of Joanne, I continue to learn about colorism, race, and racism. We are now good friends (in real life).
Her co-authored book “Is Lighter Better? Skin-Tone Discrimination among Asian Americans” speaks to issues of being light- and dark-skinned.
Her contribution of “The Filipino Question in Asian and Pacific Islander America: Rethinking Regional Origins in Diaspora” deconstructs the ideas around being Filipino and Asian.
As a single woman, she shared in NPR’s Code Switch article “What Would It Mean To Have A 'Hapa' Bachelorette?” - and because of this, Joanne and I also talk about dating, relationships, and the not-so-fringe yellow fever. We have lively discussions.
Jeff Chang - Joanne introduced me to Jeff, a writer and journalist. Jeff hosted a panel event Who We Be: An Un-panel About Our Colorized Futures, in conversation with W. Kamau Bell, Adams Mansbach, and Favianna Rodriguez.
Energized by Jeff’s reply to my Facebook comment after the event, I became a Jeff Chang fan. I journal and write more. I understand the importance of self-expression. And I look forward to another breakfast meet-up with Joanne, Jeff, and others.
“Who We Be: The Colorization of America” (later renamed “Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America”) inspired me to engage in more artistic expressions - writing, mprov, storytelling - especially seeking to increate the presence of people of color in the improv space.
“We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation”, his personal essays, reminds me that everyone has narratives and experiences that can shape others’ actions, relationships, and connections. Curious? KQED’s Lakshmi Sarah’s book review serves as a good overview. (Hands Up: On Ferguson is gripping, moving, and heartbreaking.)
Anthony Ocampo - Joanne encouraged me to attend Anthony’s Oakland event. If Joanne says so, I do so. Because of Anthony, I think more about my upbringing, my parents choosing to raise their family more american-ized, and the complexities of immigration.
“The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race” - Yes, this is the real title.
Two Degrees of Separation
These are people whose books I’ve read and whom I’ve heard speak. Their breadth and depth about the topics of race and racism also shape my thoughts about identity.
Richard Rothstein - The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America