Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Desperately Guilty

The scene entailed Teri Hatcher's Desperate Housewives character (Susan) at a hospital, being told by her gynecologist that she might be hitting menopause.
Susan replied, "Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some med school in the Philippines."

This type of derogatory remark is not only unnecessary and hurtful, but is also unfounded, considering the presence of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the health care industry. Filipinos are the second largest immigrant population in the United States, with many entering the U.S. and passing their U.S. licensing boards as doctors, nurses, and medical technicians.
In fact, the Philippines produces more U.S. nurses than any other country in the world.
So, to belittle the education, experience, or value of Filipino Americans in health care is disrespectful and plain and simply ignorant.
- email from Kevin Nadal

Although I agree, there is a but.
How about not making this about Filipinos but focusing instead on how various forms of media tap into ethnophobia as a means to entertain?
Everyone that uses anyone's difference as fodder for a laugh is guilty of this.
I know I am.
The tongue-in-cheek placement of a photo of a man in drag,
The exaggerated regional drawl I might put on,
The mocking of one's decidedly hyper-religious beliefs (sorry mom and dad),
The email-forwarding of one culture's rodent, canine or feline cuisine...
are all seemingly harmless attempts at humor.

But is it in fact harmless?
It is only harmless to the person not in drag,
not with the accent,
not with the gigantic crucifix or
not sitting down to a meal of rat.

Amazing how the moment the ethnonym arrow hits us straight on,
we are quick to call a foul.

I know I am guilty.



Brillig said...

Brilliant, Chesca. I agree, and confess my guilt too. This is incredibly insightful. And you're right--we often only stop to think about it when it hurts US specifically.

Jami said...

You're absolutely right, Chesca. And thank you very much for posting this. Have you and Andy at Spicy Cauldron been channeling the same spirit? He put up a piece yesterday about racism in the media.

Butrfly Garden said...

I agree. Well said, Chesca!

I don't know a single person who has never been guilty of this.

Dana a/k/a Sunshine said...

I agree, you are correct. It is only funny when the laugh isn't at our expense....

And dang girl, how many blog sites do you write at? You are one busy (and highly intelligent I might add) gal.


Crazed Nitwit said...

I have learned a new word: ethnophobia. It seems like a useful word. Bias is everywhere and I agree, we need to take care not to emulate the mainstream media.

I have never heard anything bad about Filipino med schools and I know many terrific Filapina nurses! It was the Caribbean med school I heard people make of, in fact the show ER did it on international tv.

Great post to get us all thinking!

JDA said...

I have to half-agree. If the intent is to hurt and the recipient is hurt then there is no place for this type of humor. I believe this is the case in this instance since there is no real basis for this comment except to belittle “non-American” degrees. However, one should take into account the ability of the subject to laugh at themselves and the intent before condemning any humor that points out difference.

As a southerner there is basis and true humor in “our” way of life, just ask Jeff Foxworthy. As a white male, I know my dancing moves rival those of Elaine’s (from Seinfeld) much more then the moves of some of my more “colorful” friends. I can laugh at my self, my race, my heritage, etc. and see the humor through another person’s eyes. I also see the humor in the transvestite photo Chesca posted (surely you are not able to argue the transvestite thinks he is normal and above any good natured humor). Today, however, we are at a point in our “Diversity Training” that allows some groups to only see the humor in about themselves if delivered from someone of the same group. After all, we are diverse and no one can understand us but us, right?? The exact same words delivered from someone of a different race/group will spark cries of insensitivity or worse, racism. This is a victimization mentality that is way too prevalent in our society and is leading to a greater division and hostility among different races and/or groups.

In some cases, it has gotten so bad that pointing out the truth about a group’s problems can cause an uproar, even if the point is to try to address problems to make things better. Examples: It is better to ignore the drop out rate and poor performance at certain schools then to give the parents an alternative for a good education for their children via a voucher system. It is better to ignore how just how damaging teen pregnancies are to both the young parent and child then to try to promote responsibility in ones behavior. It is better to ignore the statistics of how out of wedlock births and absentee fathers are contributing to the perpetuation of a welfare class in our society. You get the point by now I’m sure. We are diverse, let us let everyone be self destructive less we offend someone’s chosen way of life.

My last point is that the cry to embrace “Diversity” is leading to the segmentation and isolation of entire groups of our society. The only way for our society to truly embrace different cultures is for all groups and cultures to recognize that we are ONE society, one culture (American, for those who are confused about this) which is made up of many different and unique individuals. It is our differences and a single goal to better ourselves and our nation as Americans that makes our society great. Not fragmenting our nation into diverse groups so each group can feel good about themselves. One common language is essential but I won’t go there in this reply.

The remark about the Filipino medical degree was wrong. I’m afraid the reaction and attention is going to be all too typical in the future, even when the comments are meant to be humorous and to some extent are. Come to think of it, please don’t comment about Elaine or my dancing technique less you be called insensitive to our plight.

When we get to a point where we are no longer able to have a good natured laugh at ourselves or our fellow country men/women for fear of offending someone, then where will we be as a nation?

Ed said...

Go ahead, you can make fun of me. I could use the humiliation.

Francesca said...

I can understand you ches.
But the hurtful thing is, those who work hard and honestly achieved their profession and someone just took it like a piece of rubbish with out respect and appreciation to the hard work.

I work as a "maid" in Monaco Montecarlo, and it really boils me if i am belittled because i work as such.

What more to those profesionals in Medicine.

Anonymous said...

If only people would think before they speak, or in the case of Hollywood, think before they write. I know I thought that line was a bit out of line myself, and it wasn't directed at my ethnicity. said...

Chesca, Well done!