In Reply to a Claim to be “Full Filipino”

On Sunday, August 21, 2016, Clyed Reyes <[redacted]> wrote:

Wow! You’ve lived in so many places, that is really cool. I actually lived in San Francisco when I was 5 years old and moved to Los Angeles when I was about 10. But for me, Los Angeles is home because I don’t really remember anything from San Francisco. I have a hispanic last name but I am not, I am full Filipino. I can understand Tagalog (Filipino) but I struggle speaking and writing. I took three years of Spanish but I do not remember much, I can understand it but its very minimal.

My Reply:


My autocorrect wants to change your name to “Clyde” for me. Yes, I obviously recognize your surname as the Spanish word meaning “kings” or “monarchs”. I have spent a bit of time pondering what it really is to “be Hispanic”. Like, what are the parameters, the requirements? Is it necessary to have an ancestor from Spain/Portugal? Is it necessary to be a Spanish/Portuguese speaker? If a person has a Spanish ancestor, but doesn’t speak Spanish, is he still Hispanic? Is it necessary to be aware of and a practitioner of the “Hispanic Culture”? What about the Mexicans who have no Spanish ancestor, but their daily language is Spanish, and their culture is that of the mainstream of Mexico? Are they Hispanics? What about the people who live in so-called “Hispanic Countries” but don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, don’t practice Catholicism, and retain a distinctly pre-Columbian culture in their localities? Are they “Hispanic” based solely on the passport they would be obliged to carry were they to travel internationally? And what of people in “non-Hispanic” countries who live a version of the Hispanic culture in their daily lives? I am thinking of the neighborhoods of people I have come across in Chicago and New York City. The whole idea of “Hispanicity” is so confusing that I have resolved that the United States Government’s policy of asking people on forms if they “identify as Hispanic” is best. If a person says he is Hispanic, then he is. If not, well then obviously he is not. I check the “Hispanic” box, when it is there for the checking, even though I don’t define myself by my ancestors. I see that my existence began sometime in March 1983 when a sperm fertilized an egg. The whole thing with distinguishing between “white” and “Hispanic”, as if they are two distinct categories of people, is asinine. As if the people living on the north (French) side of the Pyrenees Mountains are “white” but the people on the south (Spanish/Portuguese) side of the Pyrenees Mountain are suddenly something altogether distinct called “Hispanic”. Then there are the people living 7 miles away from Iberia in the north of Africa, people who fit the U.S. Government’s description for being “white”. Why don’t any of the other broad categories of people inhabiting Europe get their own box to check? Like, why isn’t there a box for people to identify themselves as “Slavic” or “Scandinavian”? The term “Caucasian” is way too broad. Only a few people in Europe who actually live in or near the Caucasian Mountains should be called “Caucasians”. The category name comes from the idea a 19th century German had that there are “three races” of man, the “Caucasoids”, the “Negroids”, and the “Mongoloids”. Are you cool with being categorized as a “Mongoloid”, Clyed? I imagine not, and likewise I am not cool with being labeled “Caucasoid”. I have written academic papers explaining how the concept of “human races” is a myth.
I don’t understand how anyone can consider themselves and/or others to be “full” anything. That implies that there is something “pure” or “whole” about them, and “impure” or “partial” about others. Or am I “full American” by virtue of my having been born in America and being familiar with the culture? Or is it only the “old world” nations that can be considered “full (insert nationality)? So, “full Korean” is a thing, and “full French” is a thing, but “full Mexican” and “full Brazilian” are not things. Is that the way this works? In the case of the Philippines in particular, how is it possible that anyone can be considered “full Filipino”? So, if it is discovered that a certain group of people living in the Philippines have a Spanish or other foreign ancestor, they would be labeled as “impure” or “only partial” Filipinos? Or is the modern nation-state of the Philippines, by whose very name we know only exists due to Spanish colonization, to be considered as a “whole” people, in spite of their varied ancestral lines, sub-cultures (Ilocano versus southern Mindanao), and mother tongues? No, I do not think it is possible to be “full Filipino”. At the same time, I do not think it is possible to be “full” anything. I flinch and shudder if I hear people refer to themselves or others as “half bloods” or “half breeds”. This is because I know, and everyone who looks into the matter knows, that every human being is cousin to every other human being they encounter. It is a recognized fact, not just conjecture or educated guesswork, that our species (Homo Sapiens) have a common point of origin in what today we call east Africa. One tribe, one band of primitive people, spread out across Africa and the rest of the world as the ice in the north receded and allowed to do so. Obviously we developed distinct cultures, religions, and languages when we settled in different areas, but these differences, and the differences in physical appearance which evolved to adapt to our surroundings, do not make us into “races”. Nay, we are all one people, one human race. If I get with a woman who has brown skin, our baby is not “half this and half that”, rather he is “full human”. That is because this hypothetical woman with brown skin inevitably has an ancestor in common with me, even if that ancestor lived 2000 or more years ago. My relationship with her would not be “interracial” because the coming together of my genes and her genes, my immediate family and her immediate family, is the coming together of (perhaps long-lost) cousins. If everyone could stop pretending that “race” is a thing, and instead see every other man as his cousin, as his “blood” (because of their ancestor in common), we would find many fewer men willing to go to war and/or commit atrocities against other people.
As for your Spanish-language abilities, or the lack thereof, I will stick with English when speaking to you, since it sounds like you would quickly be lost were I to speak Spanish to you.
I am sorry if this e-mail is long and rambling. Sometimes I get passionate about a thing and I have to let it out in writing or through speaking.



4 comments on “In Reply to a Claim to be “Full Filipino”

  1. Penny says:

    Ok, so over all this was great and well written. I would just be careful about hurting people’s feelings, I know that’s not what you intend. I’m sometimes white and as the summer wears on or the longer I live here in Hawaii I’m becoming brown. 😎 I think it’s fun and cool to talk about where are ancestors are from.

    Liked by 1 person

    • elyasrucker says:

      I agree that it is fun and cool to talk about where our ancestors lived, but it is not fun and cool to imagine arbitrary, divisive concepts such as that humanity is composed of various “races”. I did not mean to hurt Clyed’s feelings, and I will contact him tonight to make sure he knows that I did not intend to hurt his feelings.

      You make a great point about changing colors based on where you are living. Lots of people do this, and it seems to bolster my argument that what some perceive as “race” is merely the result of our bodies adapting to our environment. Of course, these changes happen on a molecular level and (I am making an educated guess) only when spermatozoids meet fertile eggs. We evolve and adapt just like other mammals.


  2. MarcP says:

    I like all the questions you ask. It’s intriguing to ponder these distinctions we make for ourselves and for others. When I think about my Sicilian ancestry, I know, from oral reports, that a very long time ago my ancestors immigrated to Sicily from Portugal, and before that they emigrated from somewhere in North Africa. So, I wonder to myself if I’m really Italian, or if I’m Portuguese, or perhaps I somehow maintain traces of Arab ancestry. And it’s just fun to think about. On my mother’s side, I’m Swedish, but I wonder about ancient times. Were they Geats at one time? It’s fascinating.


    • elyasrucker says:

      Only in the past few years have scientists been able to state that without a doubt we are all descendants of sub-Saharan Africans. So, if we are defined by who our ancestors were, then ultimately we are all black Africans.


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