Colonial Mentality is an internalized self-perception that all things “American”, “Western”, and “white”, are better than all things “Filipino”, “Asian”, or “brown”. CM is pervasive among Filipinos, both in the Philippines and among Fil-Ams.
Most Filipinos love America. They think anything American is the best. They even think it’s better to have white skin because for Filipinos “American” means white. That’s why skin whitening products are popular in the Philippines. From whitening lotion, whitening soap, and whitening deodorant, they all use it.
If you walk around the streets in the Philippines you’ll hear women talking about Glutathione supplements that they take to make their skin lighter, while others even get a Glutathione i.v. drip. Glutathione is an important anti oxidant in plants, animals, fungi and some bacteria.
The most stunning whitening product I’ve ever seen is a vaginal whitening wash. Seriously, a vaginal wash to whiten your labia? Since when did we care about the color of our vagina (or anus?) What does it matter what color your private parts are?
Filipinos don’t like getting too much sun, and they don’t like their flat, pinched noses. They adore children of mixed race, especially from a Caucasian father. They also make fun of people who cannot speak standard English: they call it “carabao” English (a water buffalo). They associate darkness with negative stereotypes that black is ugly.
This attitude is true of Filipinos all over the world. In California you will find Filipino spas that offer the same products, and many Filipino women go to these clinics to get lighter skin.
Filipinos are fascinated with mestizos and mestizas (persons of mixed race). The origins of this phenomenon are the subject of Eric John Ramos David’s Brown Skin White Minds.
Brown Skin White Minds is a study of Filipino psychology. David’s thesis is that Filipinos have a psychological condition that he calls “colonial mentality” (CM).
CM is an internalized self-perception that all things “American”, “Western”, and “white”, are better than all things “Filipino”, “Asian”, or “brown”. CM is pervasive among Filipinos, both in the Philippines and among Fil-Ams. David correlates CM with high rates of depression among Filipinos, lower socioeconomic status, and self-destructive behaviors. David describes methods of measuring CM using questions and self-appraisal by Filipinos that reveal the extent of CM in their thinking and beliefs, and then proposes a therapeutic program that combines study of native Filipino (= pre-Spanish) culture with knowledge of the damage done to Filipino culture by Spain and the US. Awareness of authentic Filipino culture combined with a critical education in the history of Spanish and US colonialism is offered as an alternative to CM.
Filipinos came to perceive all things American and “white” with everything good and desirable and all things Filipino and “brown” with everything bad and undesirable.
The book has three parts:
Part 1 discusses the pre-colonial Philippines and its culture. Most Filipinos and non-Filipinos are unaware of this history. David argues that the Filipinos were not “savages”, and had their own cultures, religions, and languages and that Filipinos used their own alphabet, the Baybayin, which was widely known before the Spanish conquest – the Spanish noted the Baybayin in their own accounts of their conquest of the Philippines. Spain replaced indigenous Filipino law, language, religion, and values with Spanish culture and in the process did damage to Filipino self-perception and identity. The US increased and intensified the CM of Filipinos by displacing Spain and using education and commercial culture to further breakdown Filipino self-identity. Filipinos came to perceive all things American and “white” with everything good and desirable and all things Filipino and “brown” with everything bad and undesirable. CM continued to influence Filipino psychology after WWII in the form of “Neocolonialism” – capitalism, US military bases, and the lure of emigration to the US furthered CM in the Philippines.
Part 2 describes how CM affected the psychology of Filipinos. CM causes Filipinos to devalue themselves and overvalue the US, believing unrealistic fantasies about the US as a magical place where everything is perfect. In reality Filipinos encountered racism. But because of CM Filipinos “internalized” the US value system which was racialized – white is good, brown is bad, etc. So Filipinos projected white values onto themselves and suffered psychologically because they weren’t “white”. Fil-Ams came to have CM automatically, without even being aware of it. The result was that Fil-Ams were permanently out of place, neither Filipino, nor American. These tendencies have been reinforced by technology (Air travel, telephone, and internet) and the phenomenon of returning Filipinos who bring back to the Philippines an intensified CM after their US visits.
The impact on Filipino mental health have been disastrous: Depression, despair, and self-destruction.
Part 3 describes approaches to mental health services for Filipinos in the context of wider approaches to mental health in the Asian-American community. Clinical methods designed to address CM in the Fil-Am community are detailed. Fil-Ams face distinct challenges as Filipinos that other Asian Americans do not face. Specific therapeutic programs are described that address the unique challenges faced by Fil-Ams. David proposes overcoming CM by education about pre-colonial Filipino culture, Spanish and US colonial imperialism that destroyed Filipino values, and the hidden influence of CM on Fil-Ams and Filipino culture, attitudes, and self-perception.
In many chapters David describes detailed psychological tests and self-appraisals for Fil-Ams that are designed to reveal the extent of CM – They are mostly questions that a Fil-Am answers that are intended to reveal the extent of CM in the self-perception of the person.
Brown Skin White Minds offers Filipinos a detailed analysis of a subject that many of them are aware of but that has not been openly discussed among them. David raises fundamental issues about Filipino-American identity, self perception, and mental health.
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