I worry about media representations of Manny Pacquiao.
Forget the ignorant, racist comments of Adam Corrolla. I worry about the coverage of Pacquaio that promotes the idea of the savage; the subtle, perhaps unnoticed ways he is represented as the “little brown brother”–a pejorative concept introduced more than a century ago, during the Philippine-American War. The culture of forgetting seeks to characterize and categorize non-white people. Presenting Pacquaio as eccentric (a karaoke singer! a boxer! a religious zealot from the Philippines! and a man who runs for Senate?) serves to exoticize his image in Western media. How can we view a man with this kind of wacky, far-flung, misguided, ambition as an equal?
My students gave a presentation on Filipino stereotypes last week. When they asked random students on campus to name stereotypes of Chinese, responses ranged from hard-working and good at math to reducing a group of people to “Chinese Food.” Stereotypes of Europeans produced no better soundbites. But common stereotypes of Filipinos? The students couldn’t think of any.
The shock for my students came in the fact that Filipinos are the second largest Asian community in the U.S. Not Japanese or Koreans, ethnic groups with clear imagery in our minds. Filipinos? An invisible population, despite a population of 3.1 million, according to the U.S. census. The dearth of commonly-known images of Filipino Americans only adds to my concerns in how Pacquaio is presented.
Shaman or athlete? Political force or punchline to a racist joke? Little Brown Brother redux?