For the past few years I’ve been at the Jewish Board, I’ve been thinking about my role and my place within the agency. Moving to New York has been an eye opening experience in many ways, particularly when it comes to being Filipino. For the first 25 years of my life, I was spoiled. I have a big Filipino family that never quite gave up the culture and traditions for the sake of assimilating. I speak the language, I can cook the food (grew up w/ a dirty kitchen in Concord at grandma’s house), and I know the history to a ‘t’. So I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get when moving to New York City. I knew where Queens was and that I get involved when I can with the community in NYC, but I was hoping that it would be the same as California – it is New York, the most diverse city in the world. But the experience has been very different, in New York I have become accustomed to people in Bushwick assuming I was Dominican or Chinese/Korean/Japanese if I was in Manhattan (save for Chinatown – they KNOW I’m Filipino there). It is kind of weird to me, but I don’t mind feeling this way because I think it has helped me become more aware of who I am and how I can use that knowledge as a clinician.
Such is the feeling I got the other day when I attended the first regional Jewish Board Brooklyn People of Color meeting. I knew I was going to be the only Filipino, only Asian, in the room and everybody else was of African descent or Spanish-speaking. This has not been the first time I’ve attended a meeting of this kind and was an ‘only.’ New York, in many ways like other parts of this country (California being the exception) still views racism as Black and White. And 5 years of thinking about this conundrum finally led to this ‘epiphany’ and it all came spilling out when it was my turn to share my feelings on our first meeting. I was nervous, but managed to get through it with the help of everybody else. I talked about all of the above. It was freeing.
I also noted how it could have been really easy for me to get a job with an agency that targets Asians in New York, but I didn’t want to (I noticed one of the other attendees saying, “I was about to ask you that). I chose not to apply to any of those agencies because I strongly believe that I am at a point in my life, my identity where I needed a different challenge. I will ALWAYS be a part of the Filipino community in some form, but I also think that it is my responsibility as a Filipino professional clinician to give my community a voice by working in a larger agency with other groups of ‘others’. As a student and community organizer, I’d often become frustrated by the lack of recognition of Filipinos in the many movements targeting civil rights and racism in this country. I think that’s due in part to divide and conquer tactics by dominant White society attempting erase our struggle in this country and their imperialism from the textbooksandthe Filipino community’s own provincial nature. So if it means that I’m the only Filipino sitting at the room during these meetings for the time being, so be it. Bring on the challenge. I’ve sung to the choir many times and now it’s time to bring it to the church. I want other people of color to know that our community exists and that we stand in solidarity with them in examining one of the most important issues that impacts us all – this country’s racist history and how we can help each other andour clients through our own journeys with it.