The protests affected UC Berkeley over the display of American colonizers in the Philippines

The University of California, Berkeley, students, professors and alumni, including those of Filipino descent, are protesting the exhibition, which they say shows Philippine history and scholarships through a racist lens.

Members of the university community have spoken out against the exhibition at the university’s main library, which is dedicated to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department of South and Southeast Asia.

They say part of the exhibition – featuring works by several white Berkeley scientists such as David Barrows and Bernard Moses, who advocated American colonization of the Philippines – retains racist beliefs while decentralizing those of Filipino descent.

Many Filipinos are protesting against the exhibition, which they say maintains racist beliefs about Philippine history. (courtesy of Jalen Johnson)

Although a 300-word supplement was added to the exhibition this month, the school’s student administration, along with several other campus organizations, hosted a protest Thursday before the end of the October Philippine Heritage Month. The groups stated that the allowance was not sufficient and demanded an apology from the school.

“What’s right? Working with communities directly affected and working to have an exhibition can be a source of pride for more stakeholders, ”Alex Mabanta, who led the rally, told NBC Asian America. “There was no forum for direct community contribution.”

Janet Gilmore, a campus spokeswoman, said in a statement that the university “will continue to meet with members of the school community.” Citing the supplement, she wrote that the library changed the exhibition, but the school did not offer an apology.

“While individuals like e.g. David Prescott Barrows they have a clear legacy of racism towards the Philippines, blacks and indigenous peoples, they and their work remain part of Berkeley’s history, ”she said in a statement. “Because of this, we need to be extremely careful, cautious and sensitive when presenting their work and discussing their legacy.”

The showcase, titled “Berkeley Scholars in the Philippines,” was originally presented with details and works by school administrators who supported colonization, including Alfred Louis Kroeber, Robert Gordon Sproul, Moses, and Barrows.

There was no appropriate critique of the men’s harmful legacy at the exhibition, especially since the university had already begun removing some of their names from the buildings last year, several faculty members found.

Barrows, who was a university professor for decades in the early 1900s, served as a school superintendent in Manila while the United States occupied the Philippines. While in the role, he introduced the use of his own textbook “History of the Philippines” as a standard for schools in the country. The textbook is included in the exhibition.

Barrows, who expressed that Filipinos have an “internal inability to self-manage” and are an “illiterate and ignorant class,” advocated the dominance of English over native Filipino languages, said Joi Barrios, a lecturer in Filipino at the university. . In his strengthening of feudal, colonial and pro-imperialist values, Barrows left a lasting, damaging legacy in the Philippines, she explained.

“The moment you give preference to English as an educational language … you accept colonization and start thinking of your culture as inferior to the culture of the colonizers,” Barrios said. “Then you kind of accept the myth of ‘benevolent assimilation’ that you were colonized because you deserve colonization.”

Among other problematic elements in the exhibition is an old newspaper article announcing Moses ’appointment to the Philippine Commission. The commission, set up by then-US President William McKinley and made up of whites, functioned in 1900 as the legislature and to a lesser extent the executive branch in the Philippines.

In response to the exhibition, which they say is “almost no discussion or representation of the community from the Philippines, including Berkeley scientists from the Philippines,” the school’s student government passed a resolution last week condemning the exhibition.

In the resolution, the group demanded that the university not only “acknowledge and apologize for the damage it caused when the colonization period flooded before the colonizers’ views, ”but also advocate for recognition and celebration of October as the month of Filipino American history. He also asks for the memory of October 25 as the day of Larry Itliong, who elevates the work of the legendary Filipino-American work organizer. The student government also called for continued commitment to campus resources and academic initiatives, including the Philippine Studies program, to create a more inclusive environment for those of Filipino descent.

Catherine Ceniza Choy, a Filipino-American professor of ethnic studies who said she was not consulted for the opening of the exhibition, said the exhibition is of particular concern given Barrow’s awareness and the widely discussed renaming process that has taken place.

“What happened here in this exhibition is another example of the persistence of American national amnesia regarding colonialism in the Philippines and the violence of that colonialism,” she said.

While information about white scholars is on display, another table containing works by Choya and Karen Llagas, another lecturer at the school who teaches Filipino, among other things, has no such knowledge and sits in a separate room.

Choy pointed out that the purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate scholarships over the past 50 years. Not only were the works shown largely procolonial, she said their scholarship was 50 years ago, further erasing the achievements of many academics of Filipino descent coming from the university.

“There is a way these performances also perpetuate how white Americans are particularly historical agents and actors and that we are the Filipino people and Filipino Americans in the diaspora – we from the past. We are not dynamic. We are not the actors who are central to this history,” he said. said Choy, stressing that Berkeley does not lack modern scholars of Filipino descent.

Choy, who said she was contacted about the exhibition only after it was open to the community, said the addition seemed like an afterthought.

Although the depiction of the Philippines is offensive and inaccurate, it is more a reflection of the American colonial mindset embedded in U.S. education, Llagas explained.

“It’s not about blaming the people who curated this exhibition. It’s kind of to illuminate the lens in what they work. in what culture and in what academic climate they operate, ”she said.

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