WHAT's wrong with former president Donald Trump calling the coronavirus the Chinese virus when the earliest infections were reported in China? What's wrong was that his doing so tapped a racist genome in many Americans' DNA and unleashed a hatred for people who in the slightest look Chinese. As a result, Filipinos have been targeted, and there's irony in that some of them Filipinos feel insulted when mistaken for Chinese.

For a growing number of Filipinos, injuries have been added to the insult.

In the latest incident, an elderly Filipino woman in Manhattan was punched in the face and fell to the ground. Had she hit a hard surface, she might have fractured her skull. A few months back, another elderly woman in an elevator of the New York building she lives in was tenderized by repeated blows to her torso by a hulking man. She spent some time in a hospital's critical section.

Hate Asians

It is difficult to make generalizations about these hate attacks on Filipinos in the United States, neither about the victims or their assailants, or the places where they happen. So far, most of the reported cases come from New York City, but there have been others happening in other parts in the East Coast, and in the West Coast. Many of the victims are senior citizens, but young people have been victims, too. In one case, a family of old and young members were assaulted while taking snacks in a parking lot in Hollywood. The assailants seem to be mostly African American, but there have also been Caucasian or white ones. Whatever the color, they have a common shibboleth: "You [the Filipino] don't belong here!"

Get the latest news
delivered to your inbox
Sign up for The Manila Times’ daily newsletters
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Those who were merely pushed or punched to the ground, were hospitalized and survived are the lucky ones. In a case in Philadelphia, the cradle of American democracy, a Filipino lawyer was vacationing with relatives and was out on the streets to look for the Liberty Bell and the original Declaration of Independence when he was shot to death. The case is shrouded in mystery, there were no witnesses; the shot seems to have come from nowhere and nobody. But it is speculated to be a hate crime because at the time the telephones of many people of Asian origin, including Filipinos, would ring and they would hear the abovementioned shibboleth followed by a death threat.

Such calls cannot be taken lightly in the United States. Every American is by right capable of making such threats become real to you. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution entitles every American to possess guns, no matter the number and the power. This right seems to have superseded every other right guaranteed by the Constitution. It makes the US Constitution unique and weird, and makes its country the most violent in the Western world. There was a week recently when almost daily a gunner fired at a crowd of human beings in a school, mall, or some other place where people congregated. But over and above the tears of the bereaved and the protest marches of people with conscience, the will and word of the American Rifle Association (ARA) holds sway. Under the veneer of being bipartisan guardians of the Constitution, legislators and policymakers in Washington, D.C. do nothing that will displease the ARA. Following the ARA argument that it is not guns that kill but crazy people, laws have been passed to exclude the mentally ill from the blessings of the Second Amendment. They have, of course, been ineffective. It takes effort on the part of gun salesmen to ascertain the sanity of their customers. Killers have been known to just borrow their weapons from their relatives or friends. Moreover, racial hatred is yet to be considered a mental disorder.

Avoid US

If you want to be absolutely certain of a long life, you must avoid the United States. To be sure, the United States is a huge continental mass with a population of so many hundred millions. Victims of a wide variety of hate crimes constitute a small percentage of the population. The US is furthermore a country that prides itself on being a champion of human rights: one victim of a hate crime is officially considered one too many. But Lady Chance, alas, always plays a role in the scheme of things. What if she, as the Grim Reaper, points a finger at you?

The country's diplomatic representatives in the United States have not been idle to counter the Hate Asians scourge bedeviling Filipinos. Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romuladez and jointly with other Asian ambassadors have made démarches with US authorities that have yielded results, including the quick bipartisan passage of a law addressing the problem. Philippine consulates have not tarried in coming to the assistance of victims, issuing advisories to Filipinos to be vigilant, and seeking police action in catching offenders and preventing more Filipinos from being victimized.

Notwithstanding these efforts of US and Philippine authorities, attacks on Filipinos continue, the latest of which happened a few days ago. The abovementioned law understandably mainly provides for the monitoring and studying of the attacks and the appointment of a person in authority to coordinate these efforts. Even America's Finest, the New York police, cannot be everywhere.

Those efforts are up against what appears to many observers an insuperable opposing force. They are those who believe the Hate Asians attacks were caused by former president Trump's racist rhetoric referring to the pandemic for instance as "Kungfu flu." Trump has not only refused to admit his defeat in the last presidential election but he has virtually started his campaign to return to the White House peppering his speeches with such racisms as before. Hardly anybody discounts Trump's chances of winning this time, or expects to play down his racist rhetoric come what may.

Learn arnis

In view of the above, we doubt the Hate Asians attacks on Filipinos will stop soon and we believe Filipinos in the US cannot entrust their safety from these attacks to others. They must take their cue from their compatriot in the US, Ro Malabanan, who was hailed a Good Samaritan and hero for coming to the rescue of construction workers about to be stabbed unawares by an attacker. With a little jujitsu, he subdued the attacker to the ground and held him down until the police arrived. Filipinos should be Good Samaritans and heroes to themselves, and we are heartened by the news that groups of Filipinos and other Asians have taken up Asian martial arts to be able to defend themselves

Philippine establishments abroad for their part should promote the practice in their jurisdictions of the Filipino martial art arnis. While arnis is usually pictured employing sticks, they really only serve as teaching aids. With sticks or bare arms, it is recognized by experts as the most advanced self-defense weapon of the Asian martial arts. Actually, we have been surprised and disappointed that Filipinos have been shown to be pushovers in these Hate Asians attacks. Back here in the Philippines and in the 1970s, because it is a healthy sport, and thanks to the efforts of its champions like our friend Roland Dantes, arnis was made part of the physical education curriculum in high schools and colleges. Filipinos should furthermore be proud of arnis as an ancient cultural treasure of the Filipinos. It rightly should be nominated as a Unesco intangible heritage. It is an invaluable legacy of generations of Filipinos starting from precolonial times. It was through their kampilans doing arnis movements that Lapulapu and his troops were able to rout Magellan and his troops in the Battle of Mactan. Arnis has no age limits; many arnis teachers of arnis are senior citizens. A little arnis can drive evil away.