"That country is not for everyone."
As the United States is being ravaged by a pandemic, it is also engulfed in street protests—mostly peaceful, but sometimes degenerating into violent confrontations between demonstrators and police that morph to looting and burning of business establishments.
This is because of a video that has gone viral all over the world: A white Minneapolis policeman kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed African American, George Floyd for almost eight minutes that eventually caused the latter’s death.
The killing of many African Americans in the hands of white law enforcers is no longer an unusual occurrence. White police officers have been killing black people and getting away with it with frightening and astonishing regularity for some time. This time however, the reaction has been different. Many Americans regardless of race are now demanding meaningful police reform, an end to police brutality, systemic racism and discrimination. That very graphic video must have struck a raw nerve in people because black, white, brown—you name it—and they are all there on the streets demonstrating. And for once, public officials, leaders in the business and sporting world are reacting.
There is even a defund the police initiative led by the City of Minneapolis, the place where George Floyd was killed. Some kind of meaningful reform therefore, might just happen. Hopefully, it does because living in the US for minorities like Asians, African Americans and colored Latinos is not exactly smooth sailing.
Notwithstanding the problems, however, the US is still the first choice for migration for Filipinos. And why not, the US has always been marketed as the land of milk and honey and the land of the free and the brave. We have also been a former colony and therefore have familiarity with the language, culture and government. It is no wonder that many of us believe that there would be very little adjustments to be made once there. This may be true to some but many might be shocked to find out that life there could be so different from their perceptions once they get there. This is perhaps one reason why many Filipinos are coming home to retire here after years of living in the states.
Still, if one's intention is simply to go there to earn money, then all other issues become secondary in importance. As for police reform, there is this old cliché that “the police is always in need of reform but very difficult to change.” This is because of traditions, doctrines, culture and corporate interests that are hard to dismantle. For example, the US has more than 12,000 local police forces. Almost 18,000 if the county sheriff’s office, state police and federal police agencies are included. All are trained differently and have different doctrines and cultures. And unlike our Philippine National Police which does not allow the formation of unions, in America, police unions are allowed. These are some of the monumental obstacles to reform.
There is also no such thing as a uniform code of police conduct for all police officers to follow all over the country. People here may not realize it, but the community policing program that we have adopted and have been following for many years originated from the United States. The idea of this program is that if the police are recruited from the same community, there will be less or no abuses by the police because they are supposed to be members of the same community. As we are seeing however, it does not seem to be working that way there.
The other problematic issue involves racism and discrimination against people of color like us Filipinos which is very much alive and well in America. Racism takes many forms and are sometimes subtle and not obvious. There is outright racism as shown by what happened to that Fil-American lady exercising in a public park in California when she was told to go back where she came from or polite racism like what happened to a Fil-Am fellow in San Francisco when it was politely insinuated to him that he does not belong to that upscale neighborhood. One can also be easily passed over for promotions even if a minority is much more qualified than a white person.
In the end, it is the priority of an individual that matters most. If what is important to a person is dignity, equality and being treated fairly, then one has to be prepared to fight for it every time it happens because it is happening frequently. With all the perceived benefits derived from living in advanced and developed countries like the US, it is not for everyone.