As a Filipino-American suffering from the colonial mentality for the majority of my existence on this Earth, I had a lot of internal issues that I did not address till I got to college. Those two things were internalized racism and racial colorblindness. I honestly didn’t know what internalized racism, let alone just what plain ol’ racism was. I heard of the word, but never knew what it meant. I couldn’t even grasp the idea of race. I never connected race with how I looked and the societal expectations and stereotypes placed upon me because of my skin color.
As a youth moving from middle class suburbs in Fremont to being in low-income apartments of the East Bay and eventually residing in upper class housing, I was colorblind for awhile. I always accepted people for being people regardless of their race. I thought that it was great that they were Asian, Black, African American, Latin@, White, etc., but I didn’t know that it would be problematic to think in such a way. Simultaneously, I had internalized racism due to constant passive media consumption and my upbringing.
A lot of these attitudes stemmed from my dad as he wasn’t (and probably will never be) fond of black people. He would always place them in boxes of being a “thug,” “gangster,” or just plain inferior if they looked a certain way unless he knew them personally. Then he would tokenize the individual saying that he knows the person so there’s no way he can be racist/prejudiced.
I do understand that theoretically people of color can’t be racist, but I’m drawing from memories so bear with me. This would in turn affect me because I would think just about the same way. Being colorblind and internalizing some of the attitudes from my dad made me fluctuate from being downright prejudiced to being accepting of others. This finalized itself within me by my carrying prejudice attitudes toward specific groups, while telling downright “racist” jokes. I never knew how to deal with a lot of these feelings within myself until I addressed them with others when I got to college.
For the first half of my college career, I carried on harboring these attitudes but didn’t do anything about them till I took a class called “Teaching In A Diverse Society” with Professor Marcos Pizarro; he showed me what social justice was (based on a working definition we were given) and this was the start for me. Addressing issues of social justice and diversity within the institution of education was the start of my unpacking attitudes that I soon started to despise. How could I have thought this way for so long? Even after the class concluded, I started to engage myself with other social justice and diversity driven places such as MOSAIC, the Cross Cultural Center at SJSU, and other various programs that enhanced my growth as a student leader and as an individual.
Doing work in MOSAIC has allowed me to deconstruct more of my experiences in being privileged as a cisgender heterosexual male, but also explore my oppression as a young middle-upper class Agnostic Asian Pilipino-American. Hosting different workshops and spaces for conversation has allowed me to address these facets of my being, but also define what solidarity and allyship is to me. Building this critical social justice and diversity lens through MOSAIC and personal reading (check out books by Jeff Chang such as Who We Be: The Colorization of America) has translated into the work I do not only as an intern for MOSAIC, but also as a Resident Advisor in University Housing and my ambition of becoming a student affairs professional.
by IAN ZAMORA