Thursday, October 18, 2007

Filipino community demands apology over racist slur

By Caleb T. Maupin

Published Oct 17, 2007 10:45 PM
On Sept. 30, the television program “Desperate Housewives” had one of its main characters make a scripted racist slur against Filipino medical professionals. The character insulted the medical education system of the Philippines.

There are 20,000 doctors and countless nurses and other medical professionals in this country who have received their training in the Philippines. But the attack goes further, because in this country there are countless doctors from nations other than the United States.

A solidarity letter signed and circulated by immigrant rights activists reads in part: “This is an issue that deeply touches the lives of not only Filipinos in the U.S. but all immigrants and people of color. Trained in their homelands, wanting to work and live in the Philippines, they are instead forced to migrate to the U.S. exactly because of U.S.-backed economic policies.

“There is hardly a week that goes by that on some television show or the other the exact same sentiment about the health education system in some country outside of the U.S. is not reiterated. Medical professionals from Guatemala, Mexico, and India have all been targeted exactly the same way.”

The Filipino community, along with its allies, has responded to this attack. The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) has called for a boycott. Two picket lines have been staged in front of ABC Studios in New York.

ABC, the TV network that airs “Desperate Housewives,” issued a three-sentence apology, which many in the Filipino community see as meaningless. Among other things, NAFCON is demanding a more sincere apology that recognizes the contributions of Filipino medical professionals for the past four decades in the U.S., to be aired before the show’s next three episodes. In addition, NAFCON demands that the scene be deleted from all future publications and viewing of the series.

In light of the fact that immigrant workers are being raided in their homes and workplaces in astonishing numbers; that many of the Republican presidential candidates are whipping up anti-immigrant bigotry as part of their campaigns; and that a large fence is being built along the U.S./Mexico border, supported by both the Republican and Democratic parties, this attack on immigrant medical professionals is not at all random.

ABC is owned by the Disney Corporation—the same company that brought us horrifically racist films such as “Song of the South”—which recently showed a documentary claiming that 9/11 was the fault of President Bill Clinton being “soft” on terrorism.

The program “Desperate Housewives” has been offensive before. The lesbian, gay, bi and trans communities have also voiced concern about the fact that the only principal LGBT character in the program is portrayed as a sociopath.

The Filipino community is determined to get a meaningful apology out of ABC. As the petition started by the Filipino community and signed by more than 100,000 people reads, “We will not allow hateful messages against our community or any other oppressed community to continue.”

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