The ugly side of Pinoy Pride
A STUDENT gets the highest postwar grade in the history of the University of the Philippines and the first thing some people ask is whether she’s Filipino. Tiffany Grace Uy, who got perfect marks in all but one subject (art studies), deserves all the praise coming her way—and none of the racism.
It’s unfortunate that her academic achievement comes when tension with China is so high that even respected writers like F. Sionil José have to unapologetically reveal themselves as racists. If circumstances were different, Tiffany Uy would be celebrated like Manny Pacquiao, Charice Pempengco, Jessica Sanchez and the many idols who prove that it’s right to have Pinoy Pride—that particularly Filipino way of expressing nationalism.
Fortunately, most commentators (at least in my social circles) are quick to call out the racism of Uy’s critics, defending her—and any Chinese Filipino’s—right to identify as Filipino. These same critics of racism rarely respond to the way Pacquiao and the other Pinoy Pride celebrities are idolized. But they should. Because racism and Pinoy Pride are two sides of the same coin.
A 2012 University of British Columbia (UBC) study found that people who feel pride in a particular way tend to be more racist. This particular way of experiencing pride is called hubristic pride. In a previous study, Jessica Tracy, associate professor of psychology at UBC, explained that there are two kinds of pride: authentic pride, which people feel when they achieve something they work hard for, and hubristic pride, which people feel when they—or in the case of Pinoy Pride, others—achieve something because of a trait they already have.
In the case of Pinoy Pride, that trait is race. When Filipinos feel pride from the victories of people like Pacquiao or Pempengco just because they also happen to be Filipino, that’s hubristic pride. The pride felt by Pacquiao after winning a bout because he has trained months for it—that’s authentic pride. However, if he feels he won only because he was born Filipino or is genetically gifted or divinely predestined to win, then that’s hubristic pride.
To be fair, hubristic pride is rooted in insecurity, which threats of war with China have certainly increased. “When you hear groups starting to get into that type of rhetoric,” said researcher Cynthia Pickett, “it may be because they’re starting to realize they’re in a losing position and that they need to do something to try to drum up respect, to drum up the kind of status that they feel they’re lacking.”
Unfortunately, the researchers found that as hubristic pride increases, so does prejudice against stigmatized groups. And when the reason for hubristic pride is being Filipino, more hatred toward those who are not Filipino starts to make sense. And apparently, in Uy’s case even the criteria for calling yourself Filipino becomes more exclusive. It’s as if some people believe that their being Filipino is something special for which they really worked hard, perhaps unconsciously justifying to themselves the pride they feel for having the trait.
I’m sure many people are not used to seeing Pinoy Pride in a negative way. But even in its most innocent expressions, the racism has always been inherent. In the words of Jessica Tracy, hubristic pride makes people “feel like ‘it’s not just that my group is great but my group is better.’”
She added: “You can think of it as the distinction between nationalism and patriotism, with nationalism being the sense of it’s not just that I love my country, it’s that my country is best.” Consider why our tourism slogan is not just “It’s Fun in the Philippines.” Our country has to be more.
To be fair, a marketing campaign can be excused for using exaggerated statements. But such innocent exaggerations are often uncritically accepted, and rarely seen as an exaggeration. When Pacquiao wins a boxing match against a non-Filipino and commentators exclaim, “Indeed, Filipinos are really great athletes,” what are the unquestioned assumptions?
Here are just some possibilities: that Filipinos are better athletes than non-Filipinos; that non-Filipinos are not great athletes; that what made Pacquiao a great athlete is his being Filipino. The reason these assumptions remain unstated is clear: Saying it out loud is so obviously racist.
Surely, no one wants to think him/herself a racist. It feels better to think you’re just proud of being Filipino, and in times of poverty, calamity and national insecurity, we all need something about which to feel good. Unfortunately, difficult times often make us search for a common enemy, and unless we recognize the ugly side of Pinoy Pride, Tiffany Uy won’t be the last victim of racism.
Red Tani is the founder and president of the Filipino Freethinkers.
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