Iris Phee

December 16, 2004


                                    The Significance of Inter-racial Relationships


            The importance of understanding the struggles and experiences of inter-relationships has brought me a greater insight in my own Filipino history. IÕve come to realize that these teachings have brought history to a greater standard of understanding. I came across to interview a Filipino woman and her husband who is of non-Filipino background. The interview takes place in the house of Bill and Vangie Buell. She and her husband tell the experiences and struggles they faced in their inter-racial relationship. But, to understand the struggles of this couple we look into the beginning of past history of inter-racial relationships and their significance to this coupleÕs relationship.  The beginning of inter-racial relationships began at a time of the first Manongs arriving into the United States. They were the first to set of Filipinos to set foot to work in the booming economy in the 1920s. This essay will mention the hate Filipino men experienced and the miscegenation laws that was burden to inter-racial marrying. 

             First, the experiences of hate and bigotry were targeted towards Filipino men at a time when integrating amongst other races was prohibited. I came across an article that mentions        

From approximately 1924 to 1936, tens of thousands of Filipinos flocked to California to labor in the fields of that state's growing agro-business. But there was another more insidious reason why Filipinos were the target of so much hate. A very large percentage of the manongs who came to America were young bachelors in their early twenties to early thirties. For instance, according to sociologist Bruno Lasker, of those Filipinos entering California between 1925 and 1929, about 22,767 were male, while only 1,356 were female. For this reason the ratio of men to women were very low, Filipino women at time were very hard to find because of the low number of them immigrating to the United States. Perhaps the most glaring example of outright racism and bigotry by whites in Filipino American history is the rash of anti-Filipino race riots that erupted throughout the West Coast in the late 20's and early 30's. During these riots, Filipinos were hunted downÑ"like animals," as one manong puts itÑ and were often beaten or shot. In 1930, in the city of Watsonville, California, a group of Filipinos were enjoying themselves, spending their wages at a "taxi dance hall"Ñso called because of the "fare" each patron must pay before being permitted to dance one dance with the hired "hospitality girls." Outside, a group of white men became enraged that these "brown monkeys" were dancing with white women. Filled with jealousy and hatred, they proceeded to destroy the establishment, chasing the Filipinos out of the building with rocks, clubs, and guns. On the second day of rioting, a Filipino named Fermin Tobera was shot and killed, murdered because one evening he decided to go dancing with his friends.Caucasian men viewed Filipino men as a threat. For no other reason would Caucasians be incited to riot by the sole fact that Filipinos were dancing (and romancing) white women. For no other reason would the white establishment of that generation pass racist, anti-miscegenation laws that prevented the Filipino (as well as African Americans, Asians, and Latinos) from marrying into the white race. Were the Filipinos of that time not viewed by white males as viable competitors for the affections of white womenÑif the idea of Caucasian women actually becoming attracted to these brown-skinned Filipinos was not entertainedÑthen there would have been no need for the white power structure to institute these segregationist ordinances As it stands, however, such unfortunate laws were passed. The sexuality of the Filipino was openly recognized, and even feared.


At a time when prejudice and ignorance is highly common in a closed minded society


that isnÕt introduced too much change. Hate and bigotry caused so much tension leading to


violence and death. White men felt threatened of Filipino men arriving in the United


States working and felt that Filipino men were taking away white women from them.


            As a result, the violence had taken a negative turn to laws enforcing no tolerance


for inter marrying. The law taken into action was called the miscegenation laws. These


laws prohibited any inter-racial couple to get married. Karthikeyan and Chin mention


The idea of the miscegenation law began during the years after Reconstruction in the


south due to the large population of African Americans migrating to the land. Later Asian


Americans were viewed upon and the effect of the laws began to enforce elsewhere.

Karthikeyan and Ching mention that six other states adding Asian Americans to their

prohibitions for the first time between 1910 and 1950 were: Georgia, Idaho,

Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, and Virginia. As the population of Asian

Americans began intensified the number of states enforcing the laws

began to increase as well. In summary Karthikeyan and Chin mention in all,    

the proliferation of anti-miscegenation statutes targeting Asian Americans kept pace with the diffusion of this group throughout the country so that, by 1950, the 15 effective statutes covered 64 percent of the Asian American population nationwide--as compared with 7 statutes reaching 67.3 percent in 1910.

The miscegenation laws had covered a great deal of the Asian American

population not to inter-marry amongst people of non-race.

            The end to the miscegenation laws was a great relief to many other inter-racial

couples. A couple finally took the inter-racial marrying to the Supreme Court in 1948 and

passed. A significant time in history was

In 1948, Andrea Perez, a Mexican-American woman, and Sylvester Davis, an African-American man, filed a lawsuit against then Los Angeles County Clerk W.G. Sharp (Perez vs. Sharp, October 1, 1948). Earlier, they had sought a marriage license from the Los Angeles County ClerkÕs Office but were denied such because Perez was racially classified as white and Davis as negro. At the time, under California state law, no marriage license could be issued between a "white" person and a "negro" person. The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court and the couple was able to successfully overturn CaliforniaÕs miscegenation laws.

This coupleÕs struggle to be accepted into society was a great battle to overcome. Perez

and Davis are a significant couple in history because they were the first to break the

barrier of inter-racial marriage. It took about fifty years for the acceptance of inter-racial

marrying to be permitted in the state of California.

            To illustrate historyÕs importance in todayÕs society the couple of Bill and Vangie Buell are an inter-racial couple who had experienced the hardship of experiencing the miscegenation laws in effect at the time of their relationships and the battles they were able to persevere. Vangie Buell is a Filipino woman who was born in the Philippines but was later raised and grew up in the United States. She wasnÕt able to affiliate much with Filipinos because it wasnÕt common to come across Filipinos. Her only interests were narrowed down into Caucasian men. Though, it was a battle to deal with the prejudice and ignorance that came along with the relationships amongst the Caucasian men she dated.

            Vangie Buell a Filipino American didnÕt grow up with old fashioned traditional parents because she was raised and grew up in the United States. In chapter seven ÒWe DonÕt Sleep Around Like White Girls DoÓ of Home Bound talks about the way Filipino girls are brought up. The values, morals and high expectations of girls in Filipino households. Filipino girls coming from traditional Filipino families have a lot of pressure to succeed and not get distracted by the opposite sex. Filipino families greatly emphasized the importance of staying pure and keeping away from relationships till after college. The idea of marrying in the same race was important too. The idea of marrying a non- Filipino was not acceptable. Any kind of interaction between the opposite sexes regardless if you were just friends was unacceptable. In VangieÕs case the traditional Filipino values did not affect her because growing up in the United States was different than in the Philippines. Her interests were only based on Caucasian men, Filipino men were nowhere in sight. Instead of the Filipino community attacking Vangie for inter-racial relationships, the American society was attacking her. In a sense the country plays a role in how to view a person. If Vangie were still living in the Philippines and she brought a Caucasian man with her they would be disappointed and look down upon her. Between the American and Filipino culture they are both very different but similar in different ways.

The relationship for Vangie and Bill Buell was a struggle but they were able to overcome the hardships that came with it. The miscegenation laws prevented Vangie and her husband Bill to get married. They had to get married out of state because at that time the miscegenation laws were not erased in the state of California yet. The miscegenation laws were an inconvenience. This couple didnÕt hurt anyone or commit a crime of any sort. Why was wanting to be married such a big deal? The idea and sight of seeing an inter-racial relationship tended to become more common in the later years of the erasing of miscegenation laws. But, even after that prejudice and ignorance was still around. The couple had encountered wanting to purchase a home in the Bay Area and were turned away because the realtor didnÕt want to sell the home to them. The neighbor would even sign a petition not permitting the couple to live in the neighborhood.

Still, fifty years later or so, inter-racial relationships still had to battle with prejudice and ignorance in their neighborhoods and hometowns. It takes a lot of patience and time for people to accept an inter-racial couple into society regardless of their race.   Through out the relationship of Bill and Vangie Buell, she received the greatest amount of animosity from prejudiced people. She was looked down upon and her own children were turned away sick from a hospital. Vangie mentions a time when one of her daughters was sick and she brings her to a hospital but gets denied service. Vangie then turns to a catholic church and falsely says sheÕs a practicing catholic just so her daughter can receive the medical attention she needs. It was sad to learn the struggle and sacrifice Vangie did for her children. The idea of innocent children turned away from medical attention on the bases of their skin color.

Another example of an experience was when the BuellÕs were walking down the street together in San Francisco and Vangie was stared at violently at what looked like to be a Òskin headÓ. Her husband Bill says to her to not make any eye contact and just keep on walking straight ahead. I would think that a place like San Francisco would be welcoming to change. But, evidently there lurks some people who may still be closed minded to change.

            The struggle this couple faced has given me a greater insight into my own Filipino history as well as American history. The BuellÕs struggles are an example of the ignorance and prejudice out there in society. There relationship is recent then past inter-racial relationships that IÕve looked at for research. It still wasnÕt easy for them to be accepted in San Francisco, California, a state well known for its well diverse communities. But, this shows that no matter where you are from or at prejudice and ignorance is everywhere.

            Overall, the research and interview for this paper has brought a larger understanding of the differences in Filipino and American history. From learning Filipino history, identity, and the actual community the research has broaden my thinking of history as it started and the changes it makes in our everyday lives. The connections between the researches IÕve made have made me realize that the interviewÕs experiences have occurred because of histories past events. Interviewing Vangie and Bill Buell have made me realize the struggles and hardships they faced together in relationship. They were still able to maintain a healthy relationship to stay together and get married. They did not let anything prevent them from being with one another. That shows a great sacrifice of love and care for one another. The Filipino experience has taught me that things canÕt always be a certain way. TheyÕll have to change some how depending on location and they type of people you are around. No matter what race you come from everyone have certain values and morals. Change is something hard to compromise with, it is a battle and struggle to accept change. But, sometimes the only best way to win a battle is to accept it.  

            This paper has also given me a deeper perspective on my own personal life. Now days itÕs common to see inter-racial relationships. ItÕs more acceptable today because people like the BuellÕs fought and succeeded in allowing inter-racial dating and marrying to be permitted. If it wasnÕt for people like the BuellÕs to make the sacrifices they did. Maybe today we may still be fighting against miscegenation laws. IÕm thankful and more aware of the differences between the past and present.

                                                            Works Cited

Buell, Bill and Vangie. Inter-racial Relationships. Interviewed By: Marites Gonzales and  

     Iris Phee. Tape recorder. 29 October 2004.

Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound Filipino American Lives Across Culture, Communities,      

     and Countries. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2003.

Hrishi Karthikeyan and Gabriel J. Chin