MANILA — Marking the Filipino American history this month, more than 240 writers, artists and academics signed a statement against red-baiting.
Red baiting is a practice from the 1950s Cold War era, where a person can be accused, often without solid proof, of being a communist. The group said that red-baiting destroyed the lives of an earlier generation of Filipino immigrants, citing writer and labor organizer Carlos Bulosan who was blacklisted by the FBI, couldn’t find employment, and later died in poverty in 1956; and, Philip Vera Cruz and other Filipino members of the United Farm Workers who were red baited for questioning the authority of Cesar Chavez.
The signatories — Filipinos, Filipino Americans and allies— based in the United States and Manila noted that cases of red baiting have been occurring in new publications, on social media and even in academe. “At a time when American society is polarized, and confrontations related to race, religion and ideology have escalated, the consequences to those victimized by red baiting could be dire,” they said.
They criticized Filipino scholars and academics in the United States who are “quick to dismiss the scholarship and writings of peers based on political difference.”
They noted that in the Philippines today, many Filipinos live in fear of the violent drug war that has claimed more than 12,000 lives of mostly poor Filipinos, young children, students, farmers, lumads, leftist activists and others. “Based on mere suspicion or rumor of drug use, one can be killed by hooded men with guns, illustrating the destructive power of hearsay and innuendo when harnessed by the Philippine state,” they said.
“We challenge and resist tactics like red baiting that undermine our critical practice as teachers, scholars, artists and writers,” they said. “We stand with our colleagues who refuse to be silenced or censored for their critical beliefs.”
Among those who signed the statement were National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, award-winning directors Bibeth Orteza, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna and Joel Lamangan, Elmer Ordonez, Roland Tolentino and Joi Barrios-Leblanc.