HomeFilipino American"Your English is so good" & other microaggressions

“Your English is so good” & other microaggressions

Microagressions via Contemporaryracism.org

By Dhainee, Special to AsAmNews

“Oh my god, your English is so good!”

“You have no accent!”

“I couldn’t even tell that English wasn’t your first language!”

“Have you lived in the States your whole life?”

Let me preface this by saying I am a full-bloodied Filipino born and raised in Mindanao. I am a US citizen by adoption. I moved to the US in 2013 after I was recruited for the US Air Force.

Raise your hand if you’re a person of color who has heard one or more of these microaggressions within the past six months.

Now, raise your hand if you’re guilty of saying one or more of these microaggressions more than once, throughout your life. Maybe — and I’m being grossly optimistic here — the answer is only one or two (I do hope its a zero, but we all know the truth.)

I speak English well because the United States colonized the Philippines after the Spanish occupation.

When met with such microagressions, I have only 2 responses.

My Polite-Smile-and-Nod-For-Survival-Answer is:

“I watched a lot of Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie because I didn’t know I was gay and I wanted to sound like her because I didn’t know I wanted to be on her.”

And the Historically-Correct-Answer is:

I speak English well because the United States colonized the Philippines after the Spanish occupation, so jot that down.

Filipinos declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. The Philippines was to become the first democratic government in Asia.

After 333 years of leeching off natural resources, forcing Catholic guilt and toxic patriarchy down Filipino’s throats, Aguinaldo’s revolution has finally succeeded in its mission; to drive off the Spaniards from our land.

Not even two days after that, the Treaty of Paris is signed by Spain and the United States, essentially ending the Spanish-American War.

The Philippines, the newly independent republic, became a bargaining chip in that treaty, unbeknownst to Her countrymen.

The US paid $20 mil US Dollars to Spain to buy the PhillipineS.

This means they viewed the Philippines as a rightful property of Spain, ignoring the outcry and resistance of Her natural citizens.

So let’s break this down again:

1. For years you fight for independence against your colonizers.

2. You succeed. You declare your own government.

3. Only to find out, SYKE you got new colonizers, babey!

4. Spain and America orchestrate a Fake War where they lose to the U.S.

Still can’t figure out the motive of that one. Pride, maybe? I mean, knowing Spaniards, it tracks. But this was some straight-up shady, mafia, drug-deal sh*t.

5. AFTER THEY’VE SIGNED THE TREATY. The document has been signed, sealed, stamped, and dressed to the nines. $Espania just received a Venmo of $20 mil from $USA420.

6. Meanwhile, Aguinaldo’s PISSED that he’s gotta do the WHOLE. THING. AGAIN.

Our new abusers — I mean, generous and benevolent occupiers; the United States, oh so kindly granted the Philippines full independence on June 4, 1946 — forty-eight bloody years after we thought we had defeated our initial invaders.

Yes, half a century later, Aguinaldo would finally see the independence he so adamantly fought for. With permission from the United States, Manuel L. Quezon is elected as the first president of the Philippine Republic.

But not before a bloody and cruel Filipino-American War.

Samar Massacre, 1901

In Samar, the exact number of Filipinos killed by US troops will never be known. Here, American soldiers are pictured with the ‘trophy’ they took after the Battle of Balingiga.

American soldiers photographed with Balangiga church bell as a trophy.

“I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me… The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness…”

— Gen. Jacob H. Smith


Truman Hunt took a tribe of Igorots, an ethnic Filipino group, and took them to Coney Island to become a human exhibit. There, the Filipino natives will experience harsh, dehumanizing, and unethical treatment from Hunt, who will steal their wages and profits.

The Igorots with Truman Hunt, their captor, and slaver.
Igorot clad in their native attire pictured with spectating Americans in suits.
Igorot clad in their native attire pictured with spectating Americans in suits.
Igorot children in Coney Island with American spectators

Truman Hunt went to the Philippines at the outbreak of the 1898 Spanish-American War. In 1904, the American government spent $1.5 million taking 1,300 Filipinos from a dozen different tribes to the St. Louis Exposition as part of a scheme intended to drum up widespread popular support for America’s policies in the Philippines.

The U.S. backed the exhibition as a way to support their political goal of maintaining control over Philippine territory, by demonstrating that the Philippine people were far from ready for self-government.


The Bataan Death March
The Bataan Death March

Filipinos became intrinsically woven into international wars due to American occupation. One of the most harrowing atrocities in World War II is the Bataan Death March.

While the United States was building Japanese concentration camps, Japan focused their retaliation towards someone much closer: The Philippine Islands.

Just 3,066 km (1,905 miles) away from the Japanese peninsula, the Philippines and various Pacific islands was a much easier target than mainland United States.

In exchange for their service in the United States Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE)Filipino soldiers were promised American citizenship and full veterans benefits. But Congress and President Truman reneged this offer in 1946. Only four thousand Filipino war veterans, out of an estimated 200,000 who survived the war, were able to get citizenship before the retraction was signed into law.


Watsonville Riots racist sign

From 1906, about 30,000 Filipino laborers were brought to Hawaii and California to do backbreaking work that their American counterparts did not want to do.

The workers, described as “overwhelmingly young, single, and male,” sought the company of American women due to the obvious lack of Filipinas in the vicinity.

Add their humble-roots to their respect for women and the body of Adonis, it’s no wonder Americanas choose to meet and marry Filipinos.

This did not please the White American men and so, of course, they began hunting their “little brown brothers.”

Hunting parties were organized; the white mob was run like a “military” operation with leaders giving orders to attack or withdraw. They dragged Filipinos from their homes and beat them. They threw Filipinos off the Pajaro River bridge. They ranged up the San Juan road to attack Filipinos at the Storm and Detlefsen ranches; at Riberal’s labor camp, twenty-two Filipinos were dragged out and beaten almost to death.

There’s a slew of atrocities these seemingly benevolent colonizers committed that they deliberately removed from history books. The longer I live in the States, the more patriotic I become for my homeland.

In the Philippines, I was lauded for my ‘perfect accent.’ I entered in speaking competitions, hosted live shows, and my own daily radio segment before I left for the US military.

But I remember being laughed at by my classmates in 5th grade when I read for our speech class. I was the new kid from Mindanao; darker and obviously with a thick provincial accent.

I remember being excited to see my family’s car pass the school and this kid turns to me and says ‘oh, is it cuz you’ve never had a car before? Phoebe did say that you looked poor.’

First of all, we were in 5th grade, wearing identical uniforms. Second, I still hate Phoebe for a lot of other reasons.

To understand, Mindanao is the largest island in the Philippines and the most underrepresented in the government.

A lot of people from the south are labeled ‘poor.’ Which meant you had darker skin because you stayed out in the sun, working the fields. Maids are usually transported from remote parts of the country, painting the ‘bisayan-yaya’ stereotype.

We talk funny with heavy accents, mispronouncing basic words.

And that’s why I became so good at English; as camouflage, a survival mechanism I’ve adapted to protect myself.

Speaking in English in the Philippines is a sign of the upper crust: private school education, cable TV, internet access, American movies, and TV shows. It also means being able to practice speaking the language.

A lot of private schools in the country have a strict policy against speaking in anything other than English while on school grounds. This has resulted in more and more Filipino kids not knowing their own dialect and unable to communicate with their peers, furthering the divide between classes.

I wonder if we’ve seen this method of white-washing before… *stares heinously at Native American History*

So, the next time you want to use a microaggression to compliment someone on how well they’re speaking the only language you can understand, ask yourself WHY you feel the need to do that.

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