A couple of nights ago, there was a segment on SBS’s Dateline program about the mistreatment of domestic staff (let’s call them maids. Fugg it, let’s call them what they are – servants) in Hong Kong, most of whom are Filipino women working in Hong Kong to send money home to their families. The story outlined that these women continuously applied for residency status through the Hong Kong government, but were continuously being knocked back. Without this residency status, they receive no rights to welfare offered by the Hong Kong government. These women will often be away from their families for years at a time, and will only be given one day off a week. They are basically treated as second-class citizens.
Watching this program made me think of Asia’s attitude towards other Asians, and how racism against “your own kind” happens quite frequently. I think of two people in Hong Kong, both Filipino. One is a maid – she cooks and cleans for her employer and also looks after the children. Her employer is no doubt quite wealthy, as most people in Hong Kong with a maid are not middle class. The other Filipino is the opposite of the maid – well-educated, well-off and quite possibly well-bred. She works in senior management for an international media company in their Hong Kong office.
These two women would never mingle, their paths would never cross. I’m sure the well-off one might feel a little concerned for her fellow Filipino, but that might be as far as her thoughts take her.
I don’t know if that’s racism against your own, or just an attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Filipinos are so quick to wipe out any signs of ethnicity from their features, brown skin to be eliminated through bleaching, light skin to be favoured. Being “mestiza”, being of mixed race, is considered a good thing because you are lighter or have European features. Chinese features also count heavily – again, because you are lighter than the average brown Filipino.
I’m not sure what my argument in this post is, exactly, I just know that there’s a mentality I’m not quite fond of and I’m glad I’m not a part of. I would like to think that if my family had stayed in Philippines, I would not have grown up into the woman who looks down on other people for superficial reasons. My parents left status and comfort behind to move to Australia, starting from scratch and working jobs they probably wouldn’t have had to do – ever – if they had stayed in the Philippines. But it’s a testament to my parents’ belief in a quality of life that goes beyond money and social standing that I didn’t grow up that way.
Would I have followed their lead? I don’t know. LIke I say, I would like to think I would. But had we stayed, I would have grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth and not known anything about hard work. Neither one of my parents grew up like that. I feel like I lucked out.
I don’t know where this argument is taking me …