[OPINION] Winnie turns Trumpian

I saw orange when I read Solita Monsod’s most recent diatribe against Chinese-Filipinos. Orange, of course, being the color of the racist United States president, who is known for doubling down after being called out for racist speech. 

The Trumpian pattern is simple, and Mareng Winnie has followed it to a T: make insensitive remarks that wound an ethnic community, get called out for those remarks by experts and members of that community, avoid confronting your mistakes by playing the victim card.

Monsod did not engage any of the points raised by my colleague Caroline Hau (or those by the leading historian of Chinese-Filipinos, Richard Chu) that showed, among other things, why we should consider Tsinoys as full members of our national community, rather than outsiders who are “taking away what is ours.” Instead, Monsod complains about a “hailstorm of fury” consisting of ad hominems directed against her. That’s thick. You accuse an entire group of fellow Filipinos of predation based only on personal observation, then you complain about ad hominems? 

Monsod has rightly earned her reputation as an inspiring and effective teacher. And I suppose that in her basic economics classes she taught her students the principles of scholarly inquiry – principles violated in her two racist columns. If Monsod students argued like Monsod, they would fail Monsod. 

The esteemed teacher begins her response thus: “First, I wish Ms Hau would read the column again, and she will realize that some of her observations are way off.” Which parts should she read again? Which observations are off? We do not know, because Monsod just moves on to her second point, claiming: “Second, I want to remind Ms Hau that the basic fact I started from is that the Filipinos distrust China.” She then asserts that Filipinos distrust China because they conflate the Chinese state with Chinese people. This opinion, she concludes, must be based on “their experiences with the Chinese people they meet,” Tsinoys included. 

Really? If it is true that Filipinos confuse the Chinese state with Chinese people, and if it is true the Filipinos dislike Chinese people, what makes Monsod think that this is because of real experiences and not prejudice? The literature on race relations shows that distrust of other ethnicities does not stem from actual interracial interaction (in fact, people with more exposure to other ethnicities  tend to exhibit less racial animus), but from unexamined prejudicial attitudes, such as “perceived intergroup threat” (emphasis mine). 

Monsod must know the difference between a descriptive and a normative statement. As a descriptive statement, it might be true that that non-Chinese Pinoys distrust Tsinoys (although, one cannot make this definitive conclusion from the SWS survey that Monsod cites, as it only refers to attitudes towards China, the state). As a normative statement, it is questionable to justify these prejudices. Monsod cannot weasel her way out of this pickle by claiming to just be the “messenger.”   

Justifying 'racist position'

The problem is that Monsod believes that anti-Tsinoy biases are valid.

And how does Monsod justify this racist position? Well, through wonderfully reliable “observations from personal experience” that Tsinoys will “never ever state unequivocally that he/she is a Filipino first…” Monsod makes a blanket statement (“never ever”) and justifies it with nothing but casual observation. No research required, just Mareng Monsod pronouncing ex-Cathedra. 

To be fair, Monsod does attempt to provide some proof, by citing the example of Teresita Ang-See, whom she claims went on the record and equivocated about her loyalties. This was a serious accusation against Ang-See, who, through Kaisa para sa Kaunlaran, has devoted her life to proving that Tsinoys are Pinoys first. 

Serious accusations require serious proof. If Ang-See did go on the record, surely Monsod could have provided a quote? Barring that, she should have at least told us which record. Unfortunately for Monsod, we now know that her “evidence” is a product of a race-baiting fishing expedition. 

According to Ang-See, Monsod tried to bait her on TV. “When I said I would not support any war between the Philippines and China,” Ang-See explains, “she insisted on interpreting this as disloyalty to the Philippines.” If Ang-See is correct, then Monsod cannot distinguish between pacifism and disloyalty. Many non-Tsinoy Filipinos, myself included, adhere to the same anti-war position that Ang-See does. Does Monsod think our loyalties are suspect as well? 

Now the ball is really in Monsod’s court. If she wants to dispute Ang-See’s account of the events, she has to show us the record of the interview. I doubt she can or she will. But one may hope. 

Nazi-derived argument

Monsod’s final point is a Nazi-derived argument, couched in vaguely economistic language: “Chinese-Filipinos comprise less than two percent of our population, but they comprise at least 50 percent of our richest listed in Forbes magazine. You don’t think that causes resentment, and even distrust?” Replace the “Chinese-Filipinos” with “Jew” and “our [Philippines]” with “Germany,” and voila, you’re in Hitlerian turf. 

But if Tsinoys are Filipinos, their race should not disqualify them from being billionaires (something Hau pointed out, but Monsod ignored). How can Tsinoys be “taking away what is ours” if they are already a part of us? Unless of course Monsod believes that brown-skinned Filipinos are more entitled to our country’s riches than Chinese Filipinos. In which case, does Monsod advocate differential property rights based on one’s ethnicity? Or different categories of citizenship?  The category “Filipino” is not a race, hence Tsinoys can be 100 percent Filipino.

But if Monsod believes that Filipino should be a race, maybe she should have the guts to tell us how she would define that race. Skin color tests perhaps?

The issue of Tsinoys has turned Monsod into a careless pundit, and she serves as a cautionary tale for young scholars like myself. Success in public service, a newspaper column, and the final word on a TV show can make one lazy. Faced with evidence-based accounts from our top experts on Tsinoy culture and history, Monsod responds with “I merely stated my observations from personal experience,” and somehow thinks this is sufficient. Perhaps Monsod should try subjecting her opinions about Tsinoys to the peer-review process the way her interlocutors Hau, Ang-See, and Chu do. Maybe then she will realize the limits of personal observation. 

Beyond sloppy writing and argumentation, however, Monsod has displayed sloppy ethics. “My column must have struck a raw nerve there,” she muses. Yes it did, Mareng Winnie. Because you hurt people. You questioned the loyalties of an entire ethnic group – a group that, like all other groups, has its unsavory characters, but also its share of true patriots, who love our country as much as you do.

A number of your fans thought you would apologize after seeing the extent of your offense. Or at the very least modify your position. Instead, you doubled down. And in doing so, you have forever tainted your legacy of intellectual leadership. – Rappler.com
 

(Editor's note: Winnie Monsod is a member of Rappler's Board of Directors.)