Often people are ignorant of roots of those problems they have in their relationships with their social environment. This trend is particularly strong in relation to people representing an ethnic minority. In fact, they often feel excluded from the society and they can become a sort of outcast in the society where they live, but they can hardly understand the reasons why they are in such a discriminated position and where their problems originate from. In this respect, the knowledge of the past can be very helpful since the analysis of the past of their ethnic group can help these people to find causes of their problems and, probably, find possible ways of their solution. This is actually why I believe that an interview of a person who take an active part in the Filipino American movement in Los Angeles in the 1970s.
In fact, the interview of this person was very important since he could and did provide me with valuable information concerning the spirit of that epoch, the actual position of Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, their problems and expectations. However, what was probably the most important for me in this interview, was the fact that he was an eyewitness of that turbulent epoch when the Filipino American movement grew in power and representatives of this ethnic group started to struggle for their rights in an attempt to improve their position and change those prejudices and biases which dominated in the society at the epoch. At his point, it is also extremely important to find out whether the situation has really changed since that epoch and till present days because Filipino Americans are still in a disadvantageous position compared representatives of other ethnic groups, as well as Asian Americans at large who are still feeling strangers in the USA.
Obviously, the Filipino American movement in the 1970s was a turning point in the history of this ethnic group in the USA because it was an active protest of Filipino Americans against racial discrimination and oppression of their rights and liberties. It was particularly important for me to know what actually forced them to start their active protests and change the attitude of the authorities and public to them. At the same time, it was important to find out whether he felt the movement to be successful since he could compare the position of Filipino Americans before the 1970s and after, especially at the present epoch when over thirty years have gone. In such a way, I could compare his own position with my personal impression of that epoch and the present days. Such a comparison is very important because it can help me find out objective changes which have already occurred in the Filipino American community and causes of current problem representatives of this community face in their efforts to become an integral part of the American society and culture. In addition, I could compare researches dedicated to the problem of the Asian American movement in the 1970s to information I got from the interviewed eyewitness.
In actually, the information I have received in the result of the interview revealed a lot of significant facts that have changed my perception of the epoch of the Filipino American movement and these facts have given insight to current problems of Filipino Americans, especially in regard to the numerous controversies they have to deal with when they are simply torn apart between their own community and American cultural environment.
First of all, it is important to underline that the Filipino American movement in Los Angeles started spontaneously and was initiated by ordinary Filipino Americans who got tired of their permanent discrimination and humiliation of their dignity. But what was probably the most important at the epoch for the Filipino Americans was their socioeconomic position since many Filipino Americans lived from hand to mouth and they needed changes badly and they needed changes to be implemented fast. At this point, it is apparently to dwell upon the roots and causes which forced Filipino Americans to start their civil rights movement in the 1970s in order to understand the essence of this movement, its goals and asses its effectiveness and outcomes.
On analyzing the major causes of the Filipino American movement, the interviewed Filipino American stated that the main cause which forced him to participate in the movement was the huge gap that existed between him and other Americans. To put it more precisely, he said: “I felt I was different”¯ and that was probably the main cause which forced him to get involved in the Filipino American movement because this difference apparently put him in a disadvantageous position. In fact, many Filipino American felt a kind of cultural shock when they first arrived in Los Angeles because this huge city was absolutely different from any city they got used in their motherland.
Moreover, even those Filipino Americans who had been living in Los Angeles for years still could not adapt to the local traditions and culture, while their own culture, behavior, relationships were quite strange for the local population and often Filipino Americans were subjects of mockery from the part of the native population of Los Angeles.
However, the interviewed Filipino American admitted that the most difficult was the problem of poverty since he, in person, left his motherland and his close relatives in search of a better life in the USA. He arrived in Los Angeles where he expected to find a better new life, but he faced a strange, hostile city where he has no one to help him. He had poor knowledge of English and practically no education. At first, he was really desperate because when he attempted to get employed somewhere, American just laughed at his English and his look and gave him no chances to get any work. He spent almost his money he had on his arrival in Los Angeles and it is only due to the assistance of the Filipino American community which had been shaping at the epoch, he had managed to settle in Los Angeles and found a job. But he was dissatisfied with his job because he had to do all the work other Americans would have refused to do, while his payment was consistently lower compared to other Americans. In such a way, he practically struggled for survival facing miscomprehension from the part of Americans who viewed him as a cheap labor force rather than a man. Moreover, he said that he was beaten badly several times simply for “being a Filipino”¯, he said.
Naturally, in such a situation, he could not afford such a life anymore and when the Filipino American community in Los Angeles had started to rise against the existing social order, he readily joined the movement. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that he remarked that the example of African Americans, who achieved a considerable success in the 1950s – 1960s encouraged Filipino Americans and, it is after the African American movement, Filipino Americans believed that they could change their own position in Los Angeles and become of the city’s community but not its outcasts. At the same time, he underlined that Filipino American community had preserved its traditions that helped Filipino Americans a lot during the movement in the 1970s. Unlike Americans, Filipino Americans were really united and acted as one man because each member of the community felt his responsibility for the entire community. The interviewed Filipino American said: “It would be disgrace to me and my family to stay at home when all Filipino Americans were on the street protesting and fighting for their rights and new opportunities.”¯
In such a way, it was obvious that the Filipino American movement was caused by the difficult position and discrimination of Filipino Americans and due to their unity and collectivism they managed to start the civil rights movement. However, the interviewed Filipino American could not clearly explain how the movement was organized exactly, but he told that “we were a kind of family and we were ready to die for each other”¯. Also, he pointed out that there was certain hierarchy since he was an ordinary “fighter”¯, but there were people who organized the entire movement and the entire community involved in the movement was in groups which head their own leaders and coordinated the movement with its top leaders.
Speaking about the outcomes of the Filipino American movement in the 1970s, the interviewed Filipino American seemed to be a bit disappointed. In fact, his assessment of outcomes of the movement was quite controversial. On the one hand, Filipino Americans showed that they have the power and they can influence the policy makers, who agreed on improvement of local legislation to provide Filipino Americans and minorities with larger opportunities in the field of business, work and education. On the other hand, the public opinion had not changed significantly. At any rate, he, in person, still witnessed cases of racism, especially from the part of white Americans, but they became rarer compared to the past epoch. Anyway, the difference between Filipino Americans and other Americans persisted, even though socioeconomic position of Filipino Americans started to improve slightly.
Basically, this interview turned out to be useful for me because I had revealed the full potential of the organized civil rights movement which forced policy makers and the public in Los Angeles to pay attention to the problem of Filipino Americans. Moreover, the movement led to the improvement of socioeconomic position of the Filipino American community, but it failed to close the cultural gap between Filipino Americans and the rest of American society. Nevertheless, the interview proved that the Filipino American movement in the 1970s was important, at least in regard to the increase of Filipino Americans’ self-esteem. At least, they felt their own power and they finally proved that they were citizens of the US and they had the same rights as all other Americans did.
At the same time, the interview helped me better understand myself because I understood that the problems I have dates back to the past epoch and are deep rooted in the cultural difference between traditional American culture and Filipino culture. This is actually why I have to behave and even talk in different ways when I am at home or within my community and when I am with my American friends, peers, and other non-Filipino Americans. In such a way, I have developed different models of behavior which I apply depending on the cultural environment and I believe that, in this regard, I am more flexible than the older generation, a representative of which I have interviewed.
In fact, the current situation has changed compared to the 1970s and the attitude of Americans to Filipino Americans and Asian Americans at large became more tolerant, though the cases of racism still occur. In addition economic and educational opportunities for Filipino Americans have improved since the 1970s, but still many Filipino Americans live in poverty. I believe that these improvements are, to a significant extent, influenced by the Asian American movement of the 1970s since the movement changed the self-perception of Filipino Americans and Asian Americans and it forced other Americans to think of problems of ethnic minorities. Probably, the movement made Americans respect rights of ethnic minorities that actually contributed to the improvement of the position of such ethnic minorities as Filipino Americans. On the other hand, there are still some problems, such as cultural gaps, cases of prejudiced and biased attitude to Filipino Americans and other minorities. Nevertheless, the movement of the 1970s was a good and essential lesson to learn.