Moreover, the negative experiences in that figurative scorebook are all cumulative, that is, they build upon each other to produce a discouraging picture, over all, of the new country. I think the probability of finding a job here that, even if blue-collar, pays twice as much as a middle-management job at, say, a Makati bank, does brighten that picture a bit.
What else helps to mitigate those niggling feelings of frustration, fear and anger in an affluent mostly-white society depends on the Filipino individual.
When I told my teacher, Michael, I didn't think Denmark was any more xenophobic than other countries, I wasn't speaking from a thorough knowledge of this land, or, for that matter, because I agree with the interesting opinions of the populist Dansk Folkeparti.
For after all, the private scorebook of racial slights I keep has entries dating back to 1979 in America, a few small notes scribbled in Britain, and a good deal of stuff written in my very own homeland.
I could have told him, for example, about being a nine-year-old in Ventnor, New Jersey, pursued day after day by the same trio of boys, all chanting, "Chinese, Chinese." They kept it up on the playground, at the bus stop and in the bus itself, riding to and from school. It did not occur to them that I may have been something else besides Chinese, nor to be merciful or gallant on account of my being a girl. One day, one of them -- I can still recall his name and every detail about his appearance -- came loping up to me as I stood in line at the bus stop and gave me a running kick, as though I were a soccer ball. The resulting bruise high up on my thigh took weeks to dissipate.
I could not bring myself to write about that experience until 2003, at the University of East Anglia in Britain. My family knew about it but never discussed it, and I never broached the topic with them; instead, in a strange way, I referred deprecatingly to the redheaded one, in private discussions with my older sister, as Billy Chinese. Certainly I needed to separate myself from that identity and project it as far from myself as possible -- preferably onto the attacker himself. I am sure it was because I was ashamed of myself. Why did I feel such self-disgust? Why did these eight-year-old three boys have the power to make me feel so worthless? They were children, certainly, but who had taught them that it was all right to harass "Chinese" and subject them to violence?
My friend Filo will understand this experience. She, too, was a victim of violence, but in Denmark -- off the Parliament building in Copenhagen no less. "Victim of violence" sounds too prissy. A Danish man beat her up. Over a minor traffic accident. On the pavement, in full public view. Nobody helped her. I think much of the diffused anger she feels toward this country stems from that incident.
Compared to an actual experience of violence, lesser instances of racism—parlor racism, if you like -- seem trivial: annoying, but not debilitating. Yet they, too, add up to create a climate of insecurity, such that in the aisles of Superbest or Magasin du Nord, one steps aside instinctively for white Danes, teenagers or pensioners alike, averting a collision, trying not to be a nuisance of oneself. One steels oneself before stepping up to a librarian or a ticket seller at the train station. And so on --