RACE MATTERS:

ANTI-FILIPINO SENTIMENT IN THE 1930s

Excerpted from
Pin@y Educational Partnerships: A Filipino American Studies Sourcebook, Volume I (Tintiangco-Cubales, 2007)
Created from lesson plans by Vixie Javier, Elaine Villasper, Angelica Posadas, Paulino Love, and Melissa Nievera


Description:

What kinds of social forces were working against Filipina/o laborers in the 1930s? Why were Filipinas/os seen as a social and economic threat to Americans? What sort of negative stereotypes were assigned to Filipinas/os? How did violence erupt between whites and Filipinas/os? How did the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 and Anti-Miscegenation laws reflect and promote racism? How do our experiences relate to the racism faced by Filipinas/os in the 1930s?


Lesson Plan Materials:

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• “Positively No Filipinos Allowed” photograph
• Prompts for Community Collaboration


PART 1: CULTURAL ENERGIZER


“Positively No Filipinos Allowed” picture reflection: Students will examine the infamous poster-sized photograph of the “Positively No Filipinos Allowed” sign posted on the door of a hotel in Stockton, California in 1945. A copy of the poster image is included in this packet.

Step 1
Post the image of the hotel with the sign that reads, “Positively No Filipinos Allowed.”

Step 2
Ask the students to write a reflection of what they see. Give them about 10 minutes to write.

Step 3
Have some the students share what they wrote.

PART 2: COMMUNITY COLLABORATION AND CULTURAL PRODUCTION


Break it Down for Me: Each barangay will share with the class true stories of racial discrimination against Filipina/o Americans in the 1930s through a collective spoken word piece. Also infused in these verses will be their own thoughts and feelings about these historical accounts.

Step 1
Before students divide into their barangays, the lead teacher will explain that each barangay will be receiving a prompt defining a racialized policy or describing an event involving racism against Filipino Americans in the 1930s. The lead teacher will further explain that each barangay will 1) read the prompt, 2) students in the barangay will individually jot down their thoughts and feelings about the prompt, 3) then turn their notes into a verse, and 4) finally reconvene to share their verses to form a full spoken word piece.

Step 2
The teachers will distribute prompts to each barangay. Below are examples of prompts to distribute to each barangay.

Prompt 1
Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934: This policy granted Philippine independence in 10 years, reclassified all Filipinas/os living in the US as aliens, and reduced Filipina/o immigration to 50 per year. Like the exclusion of the Chinese in 1882 and the Japanese in 1924, the US government restricted the entry of Filipinos in 1934 because they were considered racially undesirable, and therefore, unfit for citizenship.

Repatriation Act: This law offered free transportation back home to the Philippines, but made it mandatory for those who took this offer to stay there. They would never be able to return the US. Only about 2,000 Filipinas/os returned to the Philippines of a total population of more than 100,000.

One Filipino who took advantage of the Repatriation Act later realized he made a mistake. He arrived home as a “repatriate,” which his community translated as ‘failure’ or ‘loser,’ as he appeared to have given up fulfilling his dreams in America. Another Filipino wrote a letter to his wife in the Philippines saying, “Working steady from sunrise to sunset, six days a week…If I can keep up with the hard work, God willing, I should be returning home in two years…. Enclosed is a small amount of $45.00. Set aside part of it for Antonio’s education, and keep paying Tata Iniong for that piece of land where someday, we will build our own house.”

Prompt 2
Anti-Miscegenation Laws: These laws in California and in several other states prohibited the marriage between whites and people of color to ‘preserve the purity of the white race,’ as one California attorney general described. White Americans, therefore, condemned the dating of Filipino men and white women.

Oct. 24, 1929. At a street carnival in Exeter, southeast of Fresno, Filipinos escorting white girls were shot with rubber bands. A fight broke out and blew up into a riot in which an angry white mob, led by Chief of Police C. E. Joyner, beat and stoned Filipinos in the fields. Even after such episodes, Filipino men and white women still naturally pursued their attraction for one another. Many couples eloped to marry outside of the state of California.

Prompt 3
Racial discrimination incident
In his book, America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan describes a time when he was hanging out at a pool hall and two police detectives came in armed. They shot and killed a Filipino man, called an ambulance, dumped the dead body in the street, and left unaffected by their act of violence. When Carlos Bulosan asked why the man was shot, another Filipino answered, “They often shoot Pinoys like that…without provocation. Sometimes when they have been drinking and they want to have fun, they come to our district and kick or beat the first Filipino they meet.”

Prompt 4
Race Riot incident
Jan. 22, 1930. By this time, two consecutive days of race riots had already occurred throughout Watsonville. It was the third day now and the riot was reaching its peak, when mobs of hundreds of white Americans dragged Filipinos out of their homes and camps into the streets, whipping and beating them, even throwing them off the Pajaro River bridge. A Chinese apple-dryer where Filipinos worked was destroyed. Bullets were sprayed into a Filipino home on Ford Street. Watsonville police made a sincere attempt to protect the Filipinos, but were clearly outmanned.

Prompt 5
The most infamous race riot incident
Jan. 23, 1930. This was the last day of the 4-day Watsonville race riots. It was early morning. Eleven Filipinos huddled into a closet, hoping to escape bullets fired into their bunkhouse. At dawn they found their twelfth bunkmate, Fermin Tobera, dead. He was shot through the heart. While the community at large found this shocking and a bit extreme, some whites generally maintained their belief that “Filipinos were only ten years removed from savagery and should be kept out of the valley.” Though seven whites were arrested for the murder, all charges were eventually dropped.

Step 3
Each student will brainstorm on a piece of paper all their thoughts and feelings about their narrative.

Step 4
They will each draft a spoken word verse, using their brainstorming notes and the description of the event/narrative provided to them.

Step 5
They will share their verse to the rest of the members in their barangay, discussing the kind of discrimination their Filipina/o American character(s) experienced at the time.

Step 6
The barangay will then work to merge their verses into a full collective spoken word piece.

Step 7
Each barangay will share their multi-verse spoken word piece to the class.

PART 3: CONCLUSIVE DIALOGUE/CRITICAL CIRCULAR EXCHANGE


Problems/Questions of the Day: What kinds of social forces were working against the Filipino laborers in the 1930s? Why were Filipinos seen as a social and economic threat to Americans? What sort of negative stereotypes were pinned to Filipinos? How did violence erupt between whites and Filipinos? How did the Tydings-McDuffie Act 1934 and Anti–Miscegenation laws constitute racism? How do our experiences relate to the racism faced by Filipinos in the 1930s?

Assessment: What did you like most about this lesson plan? How do you think it can be improved?

Connection: Students will be encouraged to connect historical accounts of anti-Filipino American history to their own experiences (and/or experiences of family/community members) today, so that they can be mindful of forms of anti-Filipino sentiment in contemporary society. Are racism and discrimination against Filipina/o Americans still apparent today? Where do you see it? Does it still affect us? How so? Have you experienced racism?

RESOURCES AND NOTES


• Bulosan, Carlos. America is in the Heart. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1941.
• DeWitt, Howard. Anti-Filipino Movements in California: a History, Bibliography and Study Guide. San Francisco: R and E Research Associates, 1976.
• Meynell, Richard B., “Little Brown Brothers, Little White Girls: The Anti-Filipino Hysteria of the 1930s and the Watsonville Riots,” Passports 22(1998).
• Takaki, Ronald. In the Heart of Filipino America: Immigrants from the Pacific Isles. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.