American Rule in the Philippines and Racism

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During our almost 50 years of control in the Philippines, many of our law makers and leaders were fueled by debates at home, and also our presence overseas. These two perspectives gave a lot of controversy as to how Americans were taking control, and confusion of what they were actually doing in the Philippines. Many leaders drew from Anglo- Saxon beliefs, which lead to racist ideas and laws. These combined proved unfair treatment of the Filipinos and large amounts of bias. Filipinos were treated poorly and given strict rule to control them and their future while under the control of American government.

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These incidences were mostly fueled by Anglo-Saxon beliefs and American government.

In order to look at the Philippines, and the treatment of native peoples there, we have to understand why we entered the archipelago of the Philippines. The United States contested Spain’s control, which lead to the Spanish-American war. After defeating Spain, American gained control of the Philippines from the Treaty of Paris. This happened February 4, 1899, however, two days before this fighting then began between the U.S and the Philippines. This lead then to the Philippine-American War.

The Philippine-American war was brutal for both sides and was fought for about three years. During these three years there were many poor war tactics used, and torturous acts from both sides. While the Filipinos tried to keep up with the Americans, eventually the U.S was able to take control and were able to win over some of the natives with the Policy of Attraction. The Policy of Attraction tried to give self-government to the Filipinos, and also, introduced some social reforms and hoped for development economically. This was designed during the war to help attract those that opposed Filipino insurgents and gave us the upper hand we needed to win. After the United States success against the Philippines, they began to implement laws and leadership there, with unclear intensions, whether that be so no other country could attempt to colonize there, or as a stepping stone to the Asian countries or just concern for the Filipinos and their inability to function successfully alone.

Of these laws that were put into place, many of them had repercussions or boundaries for the Filipinos. The Philippines were then running by an insular government, of the United States. This government made the Philippines a civilian government, instead of continuing the military government, but still ran under the United States rule. This was created by the Organic Act of 1902. Following the Organic Act, we began benevolent assimilation and which was thought to be an attempt to civilize the Filipinos, and rid them of their uncultured ways. Eventually, through the Jones Act, or formally known as the Philippine-Autonomy Act of 1916, the Philippines were able to achieve an agreement from the United States for a planned withdrawal. While the United States and Philippines agreed on independence in 1946, there were Filipinos migrating to the U.S before then, where they also faced discrimination.

Many Filipinos had ventured to California during our time in the Philippines, they allowed 50 Filipinos a year to immigrate to the United States. Filipinos were looked down upon once in the States for stealing their jobs and women, and eventually lead to miscegenation laws in some states and signs stating, Positively No Filipinos Allowed. Through this distress in the Filipinos and the United States, will lead into looking further into actions and viewing how the Filipinos were treated during these times.

Upon examination of the American role in the Philippines, you will see how Anglo-Saxonism played a large role in the treatment of Filipinos. These beliefs were promoted by those in power such as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and William McKinley. Theodore Roosevelt was a believer of white supremacy and thought war was good if it was for Anglo-Saxons. Roosevelt also believed all that we did benefited those in the islands. Alongside his views were William Howard Taft, whom thought Filipinos could benefit from benevolent assimilation. Benevolent assimilation was a proclamation from then President McKinley, it was issued to try to bring Filipinos into our culture and try to do it fairly and kindly. When Taft became the first governor of the Philippines, he thought they needed our help undoubtedly. Taft had said to McKinley Our little brown brothers would need fifty or one hundred years of close supervision to develop anything resembling Anglo-Saxon principle and skill.? Little brown brother was just one of the nicknames given to Filipinos, which highlights the Americans openness to easily create biases based off of race. While these names could sound endearing, race should not be brought up to show a relationship or judge a group of people’s religious values. Because of views that aligned with Anglo-Saxon’s, many Filipinos were looked down upon. Their skin tone did not reflect that of an Anglo-Saxon, and they were unable to communicate in the English language to make common ground. These combined, lead Americans to believe their views were very different, and they had no religion, which became known as untrue. However some were able to take a trip to the Philippines, and get first hand accounts of what was happening. One of the most popular accounts and most famous, was Mark Twain.

One of the initial issues when we entered the Philippines, was that Americans had not realized it was okay to not support imperialism. Even if they had heard of foul accounts against Filipinos, it was not widely talked about that views could be wildly different. It had been said that Mark Twain was led to believe To be American you must be protestant and white. This view was shared by many other Americans at the time, and again, was something that was encouraged through various views of those in power. However, after spending about nine years in the Philippines, Twain returned home and said I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem¦ And so I am an Anti-imperialist With Twains public declaration of this stray from imperialism, came much of the same actions from other Americans. Initially, the people of the United States were all directed in the same way, it was an attempt to help the Philippines and protect them from the inability to self-rule. With closer examination, many did not feel that way and were able to share their views when those with a voice like Twain started this movement. Along side of Twains beliefs was William Jennings Bryan.

Bryan was previously a member of the army, and resigned following our actions in the Philippines. Bryan stated Is our national character so weak, that we can not withstand the temptation to appropriate the first piece of land that comes within our reach? Many Americans had seen a similar shift in their views, while initially supporting our further reaches and accomplishment on foreign land, after hearing tales of those who had first hand accounts, Americans were able to realize their support was leaning in the wrong direction. People like Twain and Bryan was able to shed light on the mistreatment in the Philippines and try to cause a stir of anti-imperialism in favor of Filipinos and hope for better treatment. While some Americans had traveled to the Philippines and could experience this first hand, others stayed home and were only able to base their ideas off what was told to them; even with first-hand accounts as stated above, word did not always spread far or word of our political leaders still carried more weight.

American politicians selected what information would be given to the general public, to promote imperialism in the Philippines. This can include anything from war, to everyday life and even policy making in the Philippines. There was a moment when General Miles, whom was the commanding general of the United States army at the time, had opposed what the white house was saying, and what they were instructed to do to Filipinos. For example, the water cure, was something American troops were doing to the Filipinos where they would run water from a faucet into the mouth of a Filipino in hopes they would disclose information. While the White House had valorized American troops to the public, Miles said Nothing would be more detrimental to the military service of the U.S., or more discreditable to American arms, or in the slightest degree, the justification of such acts belong to a different age and civilization than our own. This was stated in response to war crimes and torture of the Filipinos during times of war and after. It is a shining example of the way politicians and those in power at home would only give light to what they wanted Americans to see, not what was actually going on. To share this news, would discredit ideas being told, for example, how barbaric and savage the Filipinos were, and cause a stir of non-imperialistic questioning. Not only was information from war something that was withheld, but also politicians chose what to make public based off their needs.

Henry Cabot Lodge is a great example of this. Lodge was a senator at the time and took great joy in finding ways to elevate himself. Lodge had said that the Philippines had vaster possibilities than anything that has happened to this country since the annexation of Louisiana. But this again, is not something he said in public. This was only something he shared in privacy with a naval officer. Lodge saw the Philippines as a money market and did not care about their treatment or hope for a political independence. If Americans were able to see politicians’ motives and understand their views of Filipinos, like Lodge, they may not have endorsed imperialism so easily. Many people were unable to realize motives such as these with the Philippines, because information was constantly being withheld or misconstrued to maintain their support.

In conclusion, the turmoil experienced in the Philippines started over 100 years ago and has truly not found a peace yet. Many Filipinos still feel the Americans in the laws and government. While some of these lasting impressions render a positive feeling, there are many that do not. The United States had hoped to enter the Philippines to help them grow and learn how to become their own nation, however, with so many varying opinions some help may have gotten lost along the way.

With views of Anglo-Saxon beliefs, the vision of American governments sometimes became clouded, and forgot the ending and focused to much on the now; Filipinos were not white and were unable to be their own peoples because of this. This view, along with the push of benevolent assimilation caused Filipinos to suffer through racism in their country and in the United States as well. While some Americans were able to see through the fa?§ade of a peaceful union between the two countries, those in power still pushed through with control that had sometimes been manipulated in the wrong direction. This discussion has many more layers to it, and this has just scraped the surface of the racism that occurred in the Philippines. However, through these findings you can see how the Filipinos were looked down upon and attempted to be controlled.

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American Rule in the Philippines and Racism. (2019, Jun 26). Retrieved from