DURING one incident of racism a few years back (I no longer recall when or what it was about), I remember one interesting comment: Filipinos are one of the most racist people in the world. That comment struck a nerve and was promptly flooded with negative reactions, mine included.
But in a way, he had a point. Growing up, stereotyping people was part of daily life. Ilonggos are braggarts, Ilocanos are cheaps, Bisayas are backward, black is ugly and what-have-you.
We even have expressions for it. Some say “Bisaya-a nimo oi, or Bisaya kaayo ka” to mean incompetence or something negative.
“Unggoy,” “Negro” “Itom” too are common taunts. And most have used them at one point and most, like Arwind Santos, see or saw no harm in using them. If you get pissed, you lose, right? “Asar, talo.” “Pildi pikon.”
But we’re supposed to learn and mature as individuals as we grow, right? A few years ago, I was too stunned to hear someone shout at an African player for the University of Cebu, “Go nigger go nigger go!” He did that almost every time the footballer had the ball. He probably thought he was being cool but he wasn’t. But this is telling too, no one reprimanded him that time.
“Negro” and “Itom” are also common words we use when we talk of Africans and in our minds we use them without malice. But language evolves and I think it’s time we learn to change too.
What Arwind Santos did was disgusting. His initial defense of it, that it was just a taunt, wasn’t surprising. The PBA’s reaction, a P200,000 fine that will be eclipsed by a championship bonus should San Miguel win, even more disappointing.
In a world that seems to be taken over by intolerance and hate, the PBA, as the country’s most favorite league, had a chance to teach a lesson that would have resonated to all.
It failed. Santos’ gesture, had it been done in a Fifa match, would have merited at least a 10-game suspension and I think he should have been suspended.
We can go on and on about that or as what Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu did when it found itself in a terrible situation, we could use this as a “teachable moment.”
Monkey taunts are not OK.
Stereotyping is not OK.
“But I call my friend “Itom” or “Negro” all the time and he’s OK with it,” you might say. Yeah? Really, he’s OK with it? Or he learned to live with it because to react would invite more ridicule?
Didn’t we, as a nation, howl when in the late ‘90s there was a sign in an elevator in Hong Kong that dogs and Filipinos aren’t allowed? Let’s not be the evil we fight.