Dollar a day, Dime a Dance: The Forgotten Filipinos



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The Asian American Experience

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Class Notes
I. “Dollar A Day, Dime a Dance: The Forgotten Filipinos” - Discussion

A. What conflicts did the Filipinos find on the mainland that they did not encounter in Hawaii?

1. “In the islands, Filipinos did not face the presence of a racist white working class. They were pitted against Japanese workers on the plantations, but the managers carefully regulated this rivalry.” (Takaki, 315)

2. “On the mainland, however, Filipinos competed with white laborers and became the tarets of violent white working class backlash.” (315)

B. What motivated Filipinos to come to the United States?

1. “Technically, they were not foreigners, for they came from the Philippines, a territory acquired from Spain at the conclusion of the Spanish-American war.” (Takaki, 315)

a. They were classified as “American nationals”

b. They came thinking they were Americans, pushed from the Philippines by poverty and pulled to America by “extravagance,” The American Dream.

c. Filipino immigrants came seeking work and a better livelihood.

C. How was the immigrant experience of Filipinos different from that of other ethnic groups?

1. Unlike Chinese and Japanese immigrants, Filipinos did not come with their women. The imbalance in gender caused great problems for them…sexually jealousy when they courted white or Mexican women.

2. The Filipinos had no tradition of mercantile enterprise due to occupation by Spain. So they did not establish small businesses as frequently as the Chinese (laundry, trade, restaurants)

3. No desire to maintain ethnic purity, so they intermarried with Mexicans, white women

4. The pre-established relationship between the US and the Philippines created certain expectations (that were not met and seriously disappointed) among Filipino immigratns.

D. Why was the Filipinos’ disillusionment with the United States so acute?

1. Because Filipinos were considered American nationals, initially, the immigrants felt that they would be welcomed into the United States more readily. They were considered the “little brown brother.” However, these expectations were met with disappointment when they were dehumanized and became the targets of racism and injustice.

E. What prompted white/Caucasian resentment against Filipinos?

1. Competition for jobs between white laborers and Filipino laborers during the Great Depression when a influx of white workers came to the West from the Dust Bowl seeking employment:

a. Some plantation owners felt that Filipinos were better suited for “stoop labor”: “Filipinos were viewed by farmers as ideally suited for “stoop labor.” White men can’t do the work as well s these short men who can get down on their hands and knees, or work all day long stooping over.” (Takaki, 320)

2. Since the Filipinos did not immigrate with their women, they were perceived as a sexual threat to white men, taking away the white women.

F. Why did Filipinos in the US fail to develop their own communities like the Chinese (Chinatowns) or the Japanese (Little Tokyos)?

1. Lack of a tradition of mercantile enterprise.

2. Due to few women immigrants, families did not form and develop into communities.

G. How did the US attitude differ towards Filipinos in the Philippines vs. Filipinos in the US? What are some reasons for this difference in attitude?

1. “..the door was not open to Filipinos. They quickly discovered that they were ‘little brown brothers’ only in the Philippines; here, in continental America, their physical proximity exposed the limit of American-white paternalism and benevolence.” (Takaki, 324)

2. “It must be realized that the Filipino is just the same as the manure that we put on the land- just the same,” the secretary of an agricultural association told an interviewer in 1930. “He is not our ‘little brown brother.’ He is no brother at all! – he is not our social equal.” (324)

H. What was the Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934)? What was the motivation behind this act and why did Filipinos choose not to return home to the Philippines?

1. The Tydings-McDuffie Act established the Philippines as a commonwealth and provided its independence in 10 years.

2. The purpose of the TD Act was Filipino exclusion: as residents of an independent country rather than a US territory, Filipinos would no longer have unrestricted entry to the US.

a. Filipinos were reclassified as “aliens” and found themselves ineligible for assistance from New Deal programs such as the National Youth Administration and the Works Progress Administration.” (332)

3. Filipinos did not rush home. The economic situation and job opportunities were bleak in their homeland and many were ashamed to return home empty-handed.

I. What types of employment were available to Filipinos in the United States?

1. 25% (Domestic) Service: janitors, valets, kitchen helpers, pantrymen, dishwashers, chamberboys, bellboys, hallboys, houseboys: “I had to be submissive andeternally patient; had to be known for my whole-hearted willingness to serve others – or else.” (317)

2. 9% - Fisheries/Canneries in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest

3. 60% agriculture: worked in gangs and crews: “From asparagus season we would migrate to Fairfeld, to Suisin and there the men worked out the orchards picking fruits while the women and even children as long as they could stand on their boxes, worked cutting fruits.” Salinas, Manteca, Stockton, Lodi, Fresno, Delano, Dunuba, San Luis Obispo, Imperial, Sacramento, cutting spinach here, picking strawberries there, then to Montana, where they topped beets, to Idaho to dig potatoes, to the Yakima Valley in Washington to pick apples, and to Oregon to hoe hops.” (319) – Necessity driven travel vs. Extravagance of the Super Highways, adventure, vacation that American roadways are known for

J. Why do you think the perception of Filipinos as a sexual threat developed?

1. “Filipino men were sensuous creatures, ‘strutting like peacocks and endeavoring to attract the eyes of young American and Mexican girls.” (Takaki, 327)

2. “Perceived as a threat to white racial purity. “Relationships between Filipino men and white women represented a ‘hybridizing at the bottom, often under the most wretched circumstances, of the lower racial stocks. Race mingling, a new type of mulatto, half bread (329)

K. Does the US policy against Filipino immigration in the 1930’s echo current US policy (restricting Haitians/Cubans/Mexicans)?

II. “Dollar a Day, Ten Cents a Dance” Film: Study/Discussion Questions



A. What were some of the reasons why Filipinos immigrated to the United States between 1920-1930?

1. economic opportunities

2. education

3. adventure

B. What types of employment were available to Filipino immigrants during this time?

1. Service sector

2. Cheap manual labor for US agriculture

3. Fisheries/canneries in Pacific NW & Alaska

C. Discuss the effect of the gender imbalance (more Filipino male immigrants than female immigrants) on the Filipino communities in the United States.

1. Large bachelor communities develop instead of more stable ethnic communities

2. Sexual jealousy

3. Frequenting of Dance Halls

D. What type of work conditions did the Filipino migrant workers encounter on the large Western farms and plantations?

1. No houses, only lived in tents

2. Little $ and little food: catching frogs in the river beds to eat

3. Itchy, back breaking labor

4. Dirty, dorm like conditions

5. Long hours of hard labor, constantly moving according to the crop rotations

E. Discuss the tensions between white laborers and Filipino laborers during the Great Depression.

1. People from the Dust Bowl travelled to California and then there was competition for jobs between white workers and Filipino workers: “monkeys go home,” “white mobs commit violence vs. Filipino workers.”

F. Discuss the sexual tensions that arose between Filipino men and white communities. What were the factors that led to the Watsonville riots of 1930?

1. “In early December 1929, the police saw a Filipino man with a white teenage girl and arrested him. He was released from jail after the girl’s mother explained to the authorities that her daughter and the Filipino were engaged and their relationship had her approval.” The local chamber of commerce protested against the presence of Filipino immigrants declaring that Filipinos represented a moral and sanitary threat and a menace to white labor…Within this contact of hysteria, 400 white men attacked a Filipino dance hall. Four days of rioting ensued, many Filipinos were beaten and one was shot to death.” (Takaki, 327)

2. “The love-making of the Filipino is primitive, even heathenish…more elaborate…The Filipinos are hot little rabbits, and many of these white women like them for this reason.” (328)

G. What was significance of the dance halls and taxi dancers to the Filipino communities?

1. Filipino men came to dance halls to seek female companionship and abatement of their loneliness.

H. What was the significance of cock fights to the Filipino immigrants?

1. Sport & event, illegal in US, called “picnics”…

2. Entertainment, pastime for those Filipinos who felt socially isolated

3. Represented HOPE, gambling, the big payoff

I. After World War II, what became of the “Manong” or “older Filipino brothers” who worked in the fields?

1. Many Filipinos fought in WWII, at Bataan, beside American soldiers. Filipinos eagerly responded to the call to arms. In California alone, 40% of the states Filipino population registered for the first draft.

2. Manongs returned but often didn’t marry. Led bachelor lifestyle and continued with migrant labor.




AAE 2-7-2012 Class Notes




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