A Filipino American Immigrant Unlearns Racism

Washington, D.C.

Jon Melegrito

“I will confess that I’ve had anti-Black sentiments. I don’t make any excuses. When we first moved to Washington DC, we moved into an apartment that was predominantly Black. It was in the ‘60s and we just got married. And there was a swimming pool in our apartment and I told my wife not to go because a lot of Blacks go there. We thought that the pool was dirty and dangerous.

“I’m ashamed to think about this now, because it’s despicable – but this was the level of thinking we had when we first immigrated into America. We were conditioned to think of Blacks as inferior through American media in the Philippines. It took me a while to understand that this type of thinking had no place. I had to educate and unlearn myself to liberate from racism.

“This painful process of unlearning happens when you study history. The author Carlos Bulosan wrote about Filipinos being treated like dogs in the past in America. And now you compare that to Black communities – the way they are mistreated and unjustly regarded, especially in light of Black Lives Matter. There are a lot of commonalities between Filipinos and African Americans.

“I have two granddaughters. In my old age, I find that if I do anything worthwhile for the rest of my life, it’s to dedicate myself to making sure that they inherit a world where there is social justice and that there’s a good relationship among races. After all, the struggle of Black communities for justice and equality is also our struggle, and it is part of the American story.”

This story was originally published in 2016 via AARP x NextDayBetter storytelling campaign.


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