By Rev. Dr. Izzy Alvaran
On this Black History Month, I have much to learn as an immigrant from the Philippines, especially that I come from a culture that has ingrained self-hate of our brown skin and indigenous traditions into our public and personal consciousness. After over 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, and half a century of American occupation, my people have lost what it means to be Filipino. It doesn’t help that our country is named after the Spanish king Philip. As if rubbing salt on a festering wound, a chocolate-covered biscuit bar is being sold in Spain, called “Filipinos” – Google it for images.
How do I learn to be an ally of my black sisters and brothers as a brown gay man also trying to learn how to appreciate my brown-ness and fully embrace my gay identity?
By process of elimination, I narrow down the common sources of our discrimination as people of color, call it out – name it, fight it, defeat it. It is being an ally in solidarity, and also acknowledging my own state of being marginalized. I cannot appropriate the struggle of one people as my own. I can only strive to see the intersections and act in solidarity at these junctures of justice.
I see patriarchy as an overarching evil whose strangling tentacles are evidenced in male privilege, white privilege, hetero-sexism, racism, colonialism, transphobia and homophobia. The normalized notion of male superiority has been transposed, not just as superiority over the bodies and lives of women and men of lower classes, but over sexual orientations and gender identities that do not conform to established patriarchal binaries, over economies, nations, cultures, and races that are to be subjugated and colonized on the pretext of white, paternal benevolence.
It is important for me personally to always be conscious of this, like pinching myself every time I catch myself drifting towards normalized behavior and language.
I thank God that my queer identity provides me indispensable tools to combat this evil. The notion of fluidity in sexual orientations and gender identities allow me to see patriarchy’s influence in different spheres of life and its oppressive power exhibited in each sphere – beginning with my own experience of being “othered” in terms of my race, culture, immigration status, and my being queer. The intersections are so much clearer when I am conscious of my queerness – it highlights my Filipino-ness, calls out my male privilege, and helps me to appreciate and embrace my cultural heritage and that of others around me.
As I strive to do this, I lift up and celebrate ways we are common in our dignity and worth as God’s children.
I watched Selma, the movie, and learned a lot. There is so much history in the struggle of black people in this country that I need to know, but it is clear to me that the faith I hold binds me in covenant with all of God’s creation. Many forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. is first and foremost a Christian minister. He joined the struggle against the roots of racism as a person of faith: acknowledging the image of God – the spark of divinity – in every human life and nature.
In my baptism I hold the church accountable to stand against oppression in any form it takes.
I anchor my being as an ally to the black community – and all oppressed peoples – in my faith, always being conscious that even the most ruthless and vile of beings are invited to the same table of grace that I cling on. Our perceived enemies are also victims of existing systems of oppression. We are, after all, going on to perfection in love. Our call is not to judge but to love. I believe that our common survival as oppressed people rests on our ability to love, for love conquers all, even deep-seated hate.