[OPINION] I can't breathe
The death of George Floyd outraged millions of people, not just in the US, but across the world. I watched the video on Twitter and grieved for him, and I still do today.
I’m a Filipino millennial with roughly 10 years of work experience delivering various projects internationally, and have been based in London for the last 3 years. I mostly work in the tech startup sector, with frequent collaborations with the UK government and NGOs. Before coming to London in 2017, I was scared of possible racism towards me, an immigrant who was clearly unwanted by a society that voted for Brexit.
While there were no racist words uttered out loud, the microaggressions were not to be missed.
If only I could hide behind emails to communicate so that nobody could hear my voice. Besides my non-native accent, my occasional grammar mistakes, my ethnicity, and my way of thinking are also deal breakers. Despite my hard work and my achieving more than my posh, white male colleague, I’m still not taken seriously when pitching ideas or applying for a senior role.
There’s always a slight air of animosity when I’m in a boardroom with the UK’s best community program builders. Perhaps someone like me, an Asian girl with whimsical trousers and radical openness, who did not graduate from Oxbridge and can’t put on a poker face or a stiff upper lip, would not be able to match the pitch of the alpha employee.
Despite the diversity policies in the workplace, there’s still a gap between theory and reality. I was still the unwelcome foreigner who couldn't quite achieve the perceived image of a leader. I'm still that bloody foreigner who stole someone’s job.
Does my experience with microaggressions resonate with you, in the Philippines or abroad? I bet it does. And unconsciously, you may even be the aggressor too. (READ: [OPINION] A Chinese-Filipino teen speaks out on racism and the coronavirus)
If you are someone who has judged people based on the color of their skin, their accent, or their origins – you are not so far away from the cops who murdered George Floyd. The sad reality is racism, in various forms, is systematically and deeply embedded in our culture and subconscious.
We always want change in our governance, but we fail to call out the so-called "servants of the people" who rob us of public funds, opportunities to make real change, and our dignity. Many of our past and present politicians continue to rob us of a bright future.
We have seen thousands of deaths from the drug war, and now from the coronavirus.
If you are still not outraged by the atrocities committed against the Filipino people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, how many more deaths could you bear to see? How much stolen public money are you still waiting to go missing? Are you silent because you benefit from the broken system? Are you blind to the bloodshed? Deaf to the weeping widows and their children? Too numb to fight for equality, justice, and the truth?
Today, I've seen enough and I can't breathe. The system is killing us.
We must demand answers. We decide what we deserve from the institutions we fund. We must hold our public officials, including the police, accountable from top to bottom. It is our duty to command transparency from our barangay councilors, captains, district councilors, mayors, congressmen, senators, the civil service, and the president.
Let’s all be part of the global protest. To be silent is to be complicit. It might be difficult these times to march on the streets, but we must not stop calling out the aggressors that perpetuate bigotry, ignorance, and inequality in our communities.
To my fellow netizens who are robustly active on social media, let’s reinvent the discourse by being vigilant but kind, constructive, and informative. Hating and alienating a group of people due to their lack of awareness or bigotry would just grow and divide us. (READ: [OPINION] Dear white people in the Philippines)
Finally, let’s treat each other equally with respect. At the end of the day, we breathe the same air. Our goal is to live in a world where we are all equal regardless of the color of our skin, the language we speak, the amount of money in our wallets, or the place we come from. – Rappler.com
Bien King is from Quezon City. She is a Filipino startup founder in the UK, a scholar and MA degree holder in International Relations from China Foreign Affairs University, a program manager, and a WEF Global Shaper based in London.