Marvin L. Osborne
English 165 AK
Ms. Erpelo
Research Project

Uniting Communities

If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it!  This is a philosophy that many communities all over America have become accustomed to.  It seem to always take a major disaster or major conflict in order to bring communities together before such problems have a chance to occur.  In my interview with Romeo Garcia, I set out to find out who is to blame for the all of the struggles that Filipinos have had to endure in order to have unity in their communities and equality in their environment.  After intense research on Filipino communities, I have discovered that it is not Filipinos who are to blame for the lack unity in their communities; instead, it is the way history is taught to America and the way society has economically crippled Filipinos that has caused a distancing within the Filipino community.

I conducted this interview in the library of Skyline Community College of San Bruno California.  The interview was done in a quiet and comfortable area of the library.  I began the interview by asking Romeo to give me a little background on him and how he began organizing in order to make him feel more comfortable.  After he gave this information, he told me about his involvement in the community and some of the hardships that the Filipino community has had to endure.  In addition to this, Romeo talked about how there is a growing need for additional support within the Filipino community.  At the end of the interview, Romeo left the world with a challenge to begin supporting and participating if possible in community activities.

Before I conducted this interview, I always believed that minorities, and in this case, Filipinos, were to blame for their own lack of unity in their communities.  I have done much research specifically about the African-American community and have found that it always took some major conflict to join them together.  And as soon as the major conflict was over, the group was disbanded.  An example of this can be found even today, 35 years after the civil rights movements.  Even though there is still much need for organized communities, not only among African-Americans, but all minorities, communities are not as united before because people do not see as severe of a problem as in prior years.  That is a severe problem in itself.  With this bias stuck in my head, I did not see how the Filipino communities would be different.  However, by the close of the interview, it was my hope that not I would understand why and know who is to blame for the years of ethnic struggles to obtain harmony in the lives of Filipinos.  And in doing so, possibly understand the division in all minorities in America.

Before I begin to discuss how history and society have economically hurt Filipinos and caused a separation within the Filipino community, allow me to first give you a little background on Romeo Garcia.  
Romeo Garcia currently works for four departments at Skyline Community College, which include Stars, Trio, and jointly with the writing and reading lab, and the Kababayan program.  He is a graduate student mastering in education concentration in equity and social justice at San Francisco University.  While at Santa Barbara, he majored in Asian-America studies and minored in Black studies.  He is jointly a teacher, an educator, and a community organizer for youth in Daly City, California.  He began organizing when he was 16, organizing around Asian clubs in schools and later organizing Latino and Chicano youth at the University of Santa Barbara.  
Now that we know a little more about Romeo Garcia, lets move into how history and society have hurt Filipinos economically and caused a division within the Filipino community.  It is not very easy to organize a community of people especially if that community consists of the leader’s peers, friends, family, and other people that he or she may know.  Romeo can contest to this because he had to experience this first hand.  The first challenge that there is when organizing is synchronizing people’s schedules to match the leader’s schedule.  Another challenge is making sure as a leader he or she does not come across as arrogant.  He said that as a leader and an organizer of a group, he or she does not want to come across as condescending or plain and simply bossy to the rest of the group.  He said you want to make sure as a leader that the message that is given comes across as a shared effort and not a one man or woman show (Romeo).  
Just as it is not easy to organize a community, it is also not easy to organize Filipinos when they have been victimized economically by a society that calls them lazy.  Filipinos are not to blame for the struggles they have had to endure in organizing communities.  Society has backed Filipinos into a corner with tried to block all possible exists.  Some people might say, if Filipinos do not like what is going on in their communities, then they should stop being lazy and do something about it; however, it is easier said than done.  
This is a picture of Filipinos depicted as organized old women trying to pull down a statue of three American men who represent America (Ignacio 140).  As you can see, America is not even paying any attention to Filipinos.  These little old women (Filipinos) cannot budge the statue because they are so small, weak, and old, and America is too strong.
Still holding on to my preconceived notions about minorities organizing, I asked Romeo if the lack of organization within in Filipino communities came from people being lazy.  Romeo’s response opened my eyes to a problem that many people overlook.  Romeo says that many people cannot help in organizing the way they would like to not because they are lazy, but because they are so economically crippled.  Many Filipinos along with other minorities are still facing situations that are similar to slavery, or shall I say modern-day slavery, working 2 or 3 jobs with every penny going to bills and barely enough food to say they are not starving.  In the book Home Bound, the author Espiritu says:
Many from both ends of the class spectrum opt out of community affairs because of a lack of…financial resources, and/or time.  I found that parents, especially mothers, of young children, are most pressed for time and seldom attend community affairs or join community organizations.  Working-class immigrants, because of their long and irregular work hours and limited financial resources, are also less able to participate (Espiritu 122).
It is not that Filipinos do not want to participate; it is that they cannot do so and still keep a roof over their family’s head.  Society has pushed Filipinos into such an economically tough condition that no one can blame them when they struggle to organize their community.
            The lack of organization in the Filipino community not as a result of their laziness; it is as a result of the way history is taught.  Romeo said the many minority communities including Filipino communities have been intentionally and maliciously under represented in society.  He believes one of the reasons for this to be because of the way history is taught to America.  In history books, history is usually given through a particular lens: a dominant society lens (Romeo).  The fact of the matter is that there are many sides of history that have not been told and need to be exposed.  As a result of the way history is taught in history books, Filipino communities have been set on the margins of society and do not receive the support they need in order to truly thrive in a society that is against them.
           The way history is taught opens the door to many false assumptions.  History books are not filled with facts, but are filled with a series of arguments, issues, and controversies (Loewen 46).  History books are written in a way so that students will continue to “know their place” in society.  Filipinos communities have had to endure this first hand because of how they have been almost ignored in history books.  If one were to look through the average American history books, he or she would probably find at most a paragraph about Filipinos.  When history is taught in a way that ignores many cultures and ethnicities, it makes it harder for this cultures and ethnicities to unit to form communities.  The support of these communities alone will be small because many people do not even know anything about Filipino history let alone Filipino communities.

           Interviewing Romeo has taught me that there are more reasons for the lack of unity in many Filipino communities than meets the eye.  Many people view Filipino and many other minority communities as dysfunctional and useless in society.  Sadly, this resulted from the history has been taught in America.  It has been taught is a way that has made Filipinos seem just as the mustard seed in a gigantic country.  Some say that Filipinos are lazy and their laziness has contributed to the disorder that has take place in Filipino communities, but this is not true.  Society has economically crippled Filipinos and made it hard for them to organize their community.  Filipinos are not lazy; they have just been racially underprivileged.     


Work Cited

Espiritu, Yen Le.
Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities,
and Countries
. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
Garcia, Romeo. Personal Interview. 27 Oct. 2005.

Ignacio, Abe, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, Helen Toribio. The Forbidden Book:

The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons. San Francisco, CA: T’Boli Publishing and Distribution, 2004.
Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History

Textbooks Got Wrong. New York, NY: Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 1995