BY RAYMOND CALBAY
Derek Valencia, a Filipino-American in California, received curious mail. When he opened the letter, it basically rants against Filipinos in the town as "filthy" and "unwanted". He posted a photo of the printout on his Facebook and asked: "Anyone else in American canyon get this letter in the mail?"
But while Valencia received mailed-in letter, Filipinos based in Singapore were flamed online when popular fast-food chain Jollibee opened its first store in the city-state a few weeks ago. Filipinos were variously described as "cockroach", "prostitute", and "retarded" among other insults by some local Singaporeans in online comments. There was even a "Boycott Jollibee" Facebook page to collect the hate.
This just proves how prone overseas Filipinos are to racism on a daily basis.
What is racism - and is it a crime?According to RacismNoWay, racism is "offensive or aggressive behavior to members of another race". Overseas Filipinos are vulnerable to such discrimination, with around 10 million Filipinos scattered across the globe. It's a pretty serious issue that don't seem to be addressed squarely enough: some Filipinos have been driven out of communities, while more unfortunate ones have even been framed up for crimes they didn't commit.
If you're an OFW, racism also covers being rejected or fired from a job due to your perceived "strangeness". In most countries, it is illegal if someone treats you differently just because of your skin color, creed, or accent. Some instances are subtle enough yet still exact a chilling reaction. At its most extreme, racism could turn violent.
Immediately report personal threats and untoward incidents to competent authorities. Valencia did just that - and in a follow up by the Huffington Post, the area's police chief described the letter as "an unusual event" and promised to investigate whether or not the letter could be considered a hate crime.
What to do if you're a victim?Racism is a deeply emotional issue - it is unreasonable and hateful. So respond to it with caution: keep your cool, be confident in your own skin, and either walk away at the moment (and plan your next move) or assert your right to be treated with due respect. For milder forms of racism, seeking out a dialogue with the offending party under the presence of a more objective mediator (such as in work or school contexts) might help bridge an understanding.
Cyber-racism - a form of cyber-bullying - is another matter. In Singapore, for example, there are no regulations yet for cyber-bullying although some existing law may apply especially if there's a death threat. Guard yourself from fanning the flame by responding with more negative things to say (check if you have racist tendencies too!). Stick to the issue at hand if you're compelled to reply.
If an incident leaves you fearing for your safety, alert the local police. Recall and record what has transpired so you can reference it when you give your formal statement. If it involves violent behavior and someone witnessed the scene, ask for their contact information to help you out. You should also let friends and family know about such threats and incidents.
Have you been a victim of racism? Tell us in Hay Pinas! forums or in the comment section below how you dealt with the experience. To learn more about racism, the BBC provides a fact sheet on important things you should remember.