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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Filipino Americans be Considered Minorities as Pacific Islanders or as Hispanics?

I just received E-mails from several members (I am not mentioning names for anonymity)of PAASE(Philippine American Academy of Science & Engineering) on the subject of URM's( underrepresented minorities). It is an interesting topic not only for scientists "who needs FEDERAL funds for research" but also for the public, as a case for equal rights. Do you think Filipino -Americans be legally considered as minorities? If you agree, do you have any specific idea what to do first? Your ideas are welcome. But first let me start with the background on this subject.

Scientist # 1 wrote:

"We should do what we can to nurture scientific careers of young Filipino Americans as well. In this regard, one of the recent exchanges about Filipinos being part of the Asian—Pacific Islander group for NIH purposes reminded me that if possible, PAASE should try to get the Filipino -Americans designated as Pacific Islanders, and not have us grouped with Asians. The reason is that Filipino-American college kids would have access to programs that help to support underrepresented minorities pursue scientific careers. Young Filipino -Americans are underrepresented in training for science research careers. There may be a perception that there are many Filipinos in biomedical professions (because of the large migration of MDs and nurses to the United States). Having spoken at several undergraduate institutions with large Filipino-American student bodies, I find that the young Filipino kids are surprised to meet a Filipino researcher that has been invited to give a research seminar at their institution. Basically, they have no role models for Filipinos in research. In one of the institutions I spoke at, the aspiration of almost all of the young male Filipino-American students was to become a DJ. I think PAASE could help address this issue, because if the students were considered Pacific Islanders and not Asians (who are clearly overrepresented in science-related majors), they would then be recruited by research universities (that are asked to make an effort to bring underrepresented groups to their campuses for recruitment into science careers). It would be desirable to increase the proportion of college-bound Filipino-American students in science-oriented majors. A comment from another member:

I completely agree with Scientist # 1 on this. The problem is not that we aren't Asians (we are), but that the government classification of underrepresented minorities when it comes to Asians is too broad. While Asians as a continental
group indeed is not underrepresented, many sub-groups are - for example, Filipino -Americans, maybe even Arab-Americans (remember these are Asians as well). What we need to lobby is that Filipino-Americans are a distinct group, which we can easily show in terms of our immigrant experience in the US.

Actually, here at NYU, Filipino-Americans are considered distinctly as an under represented minority and thus eligible for certain scholarships/fellowships. I think other institutions do this as well. What we need is to make this standard at the federal level, both at NIH and NSF.


( under represented minorities) AGAIN I AM NOT MENTIONING NAMES.

I agree we are not considered URMs (underrepresented minorities) in terms of federal funding, still we are in reality minorities in this country not only in science and engineering but in many aspects of life here in the USA. What can we do about it?A lot I guess, but this will actually require lobbying- and congressional intervention. My boss once asked me if I consider Fil-Ams URMs in the sciences- without a doubt- I said, we do not have the numbers, but sadly we also do not have the voice to fight for it.

Historically- the groups considered to be URMs in the sciences (engineering included) are African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans (which include American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians), and Pacific Islanders (anybody of Guam, American Samoan, Fijian, Tongan, Marianas, Saipan, Palau, and Micronesian decent- did I forget anybody). Certain institutions and states (i.e.Hawaii and California- until recently, where this was reversed) consider Fil-Amas URMs. However, there is an "out clause" for institutions that they can designate certain groups (e.g. Fil-Ams) as URMs as long as these institutions have programs that support Fil-Ams, they can use federal support too (such as the case of NYU). Also, there must be sufficient number of Fil-Ams in such institutions so they can be considered URMs in a majority school.

The sad thing about this classification is that even new immigrants from Jamaica, Africa and the Caribbeans can have a URM status as soon as they become permanent residents or US citizens, despite the fact that historically they did not share the experience of the African slaves-this is one reason that some African Americans prefer to be called black to differentiate themselves from those who just came from Africa and recently became Americans and also call themselves African Americans-- but this group has a strong lobby.

Another sad part is that the Hispanic group is also a mix of those who historically have the right to be here (Chicanos for that matter) and those who recently migrated from various Latin American countries- but they too are considered Hispanics despite the fact that they came here on their own free will. The Chicanos of course were original inhabitants of California, Texas, Arizona (and what else- forgot my US history)- and during the American-Mexican war, they were driven out of their country- remember the Alamo? Again- they have a very strong lobby (especially because Puerto Rico, which is a US territory is inhabited by mostly Hispanics) such that they get a lot of congressional allocations for Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs) much like the HBCUs or Historically Black Colleges and Universities)- organizations that Fil -Ams do not have.

American Indians are also a mix bag and includes not only the North American Indians but also the South American Indians- technically they are from Latin America and because they also speak Spanish and originated from Latin America they can be classified either as American Indians or Hispanics. How different are they from Native Americans?- Native Americans are the American Indians who were the original inhabitants of North America (therefore includes Canadian Indians)- but again this classification is loosely used and interchanged with American Indians- which again include those from Latin America and not native to this country. They do not have as strong a lobby as the African Americans and Hispanics, but there is a lot of guilt about what the white colonialists did to their ancestors and they are paying amends to what happened in the past- so historically they have clout.

Native Hawaiians were also conquered, defeated, decimated, whatever an imperialist would do to their conquered inhabitants- they did to Hawaiians, that is why their number has dwindled so much. So historically, they have as much claim as the African Americans descended from slaves, Chicanos (who by the way do not want to be dumped together with Hispanics), and Native American Indians. And yet, they do not have a strong voice as the other groups and in most cases are grouped together with Asians (Asians/Pacific Islanders)- unless they are classified as native Americans, then they too have been mostly ignored by federal funds since the numbers show that there is a high number of scientists and engineers among Asian/Pacific Islanders. Thus, Hawaiians prefer to be classified as Native Americans, together with Native Alaska and indeed they are included in federal funding that covers Tribal groups (Tribal Colleges,organizations and other institutions).

What is the claim of Alaska Natives as URMs (which by the way is not the same as Alaskan Native)-when Alaska was purchased from the Russians? The Philippines was bought from the Spaniards too- and the Filipino natives were treated badly too the same way as the Alaska Natives-except that in the end the Filipinos got their country back (or did they?)- What is our historical claim for consideration as URM? Yes, we helped build this country, our ancestors were alsopioneers in this country, but we have been forgotten (or many of us forgot about this too) and grouped together with other Asians (i.e., Chinese, Japanese,Koreans, Indians) who are not considered to be URMs in the sciences and engineering.

Here is another comment from Scientist #2

How about being grouped with Hispanics? After all, we do have a hispanic
culture, with our spanish names, our being the only catholic country in
Asia-pacific because of spanish christianization, our food (paella, leche flan,
pan de sal, our adobo like mexican adobo also etc.), our fiestas, processions,
our calesas and caballos, the spanish words in our language (cuchara, cuccillo,
mesa, bentana, vaca, etc), tabacalera, cerveza, even our manana habit! Besides,
the americans bought our country from Spain! Even the Queen of Spain recently
donated and inaugurated an Eye Hospital at UP-PGH in recognition of our spanish
heritage and to honor Dr. Jose Rizal, an Ophthalmologist!

Many science major fil-am students I have known are in pre med, majoring in
Biology, biomedical engineering, public health etc- Many of them are handicapped
when applying to medical or graduate school because the hispanics, blacks and
pacific islanders are given breaks in admissions and scholarships, and they are
not. Many are not be able to go to grad school and end up searching for non science

Either way (pacific islanders or hispanics) would be ok.

If you have any comments, feel free to jump into the discussions!

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