Labeling me yellow

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


I GOT a short message in my Inbox recently stating simply, “You are a yellow journalist.” I was more amused than offended by the label. After all, readers and so-called netizens have been tagging me that, every time I write an article that they feel is not anti-Aquino enough. But I was interested to know what the “yellow” adjective meant to the reader.

During my activist days, we used “yellow” to refer to the labor union that is a rival of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which happily waves the color red. “Yellow” not only refers to the Associated Labor Unions’ (ALU) moderate stance but also its leaders’ supposed exploitation of unionized workers. The meaning of the label “yellow” there is closer to “fake.”

I actually have no problem being labeled as a “fake” journalist because my body of work can easily disprove that. But I think the reader used that color to describe a political view.

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The yellow color is being associated more now with the Aquinos (former president Cory, her husband Ninoy and now President Noynoy) than with a particular political cause that partly fueled the 1986 Edsa people power uprising. The label’s meaning is closer to “Aquino lapdog.”

But I would say color-coding, which is essentially name-calling, is no longer an accurate description of a person’s character or personal preference.

There was a time in fiction when good and evil were represented by the colors white and black. Characters created were either immaculate white or pure black, without other shades in between. But the understanding of human nature evolved. The reality is evil lurks in the good and evil is not all-bad. Gray thus acquired primacy over the simple black or white categorization.

Color-coding is a misleading attempt at categorizing anything. Often, it is unfair.

Consider the use of black for a certain form of propaganda. Here, “black” is used in the sense of being bad. That won’t sit well with black people, who have long been victimized by bias and prejudice by “whites,” touted as the better race in the sense of being, well, “white.”

Back to the color yellow. During the struggle against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the “yellow” color was considered as representative of the dispossessed anti-Marcos politicians who were drawn to the struggle by the death of former senator Ninoy in 1983. They won over the moderates that included a chunk of the ruling elite and the middle class.

But varied causes, viewpoints and ideologies existed during that time, many of them not so dominant and thus didn’t acquire labels and weren’t categorized by color. Among the dominant ones, though, were the “reds,” the militants who pushed for radical change to the point that some of them picked up arms to topple the dictatorship.

To counter the strength of the dictator, these groups and movements coalesced, giving rise to what was later known as the rainbow coalition against Marcos. Of course, the tint of the colors sometimes overlapped. Some moderates were as militant as the militants while some militants were never all-out radicals. Again, that shows the faulty manner of categorization.

The 1986 Edsa people power uprising eventually ended up as a triumph of anti-Marcos politicians and their allies. That was when the Cory Aquino government that succeeded Marcos appropriated for itself the color yellow, pretending to implement the goals of good governance in the context of bourgeois democracy. Cory failed and the “yellow” ideals remained to be “ideals,” later picked up and used as banner by her son Noynoy in the 2010 presidential polls.

It looks like P-Noy is on the verge of failing, too. Meaning that the yellow ideals will remain ideals that will be picked up again by other politicans and moderates in the future.

Having said that, I say I am not yellow. No color fits me, for now.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2014.

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