In the last four years of coalescing in Filipinx spaces (i.e., Filipinos based in the U.S.), I had formed a sense of identity that I felt could be shared with others. I had thought that I was finally getting the sense of belonging that I had yearned for in my adolescence. It seemed like things were going the way I had hoped for, in my young adult years.
But in the time of covid and the resurgence of social justice movements (by way of Black Lives Matter), the paradigms of Filipinx discourse shifted that made me question so much of what I thought was “the right way” of doing things… and thus, I return back to my idea of the LFK.
The LFK was a lonely Filipino kid because they didn’t feel like they had any roots/rooting in their immediate environment. And even if other Filipino kids were present, there was this sense of not being able to connect with them because of differing interests, attitudes, or behavior–basically, struggling to find any sort of alignment that could allow the LFK to integrate into the group, thus creating the idea of cliques existing within a community that supposedly advocates for unity under shared ethnicity, culture, and heritage.
Recalling the UniPro Summit of 2017, one of the speakers said something that still rang in my memory, but has now finally struck a lightbulb realization because my perspective has changed: “Skinship does not always mean kinship.” This sentiment was brought up during a discussion on anti-Blackness within the FilAm community. Both then and now, I was trying to come to grips with that reality while also letting go of the people-pleasing attitude that reinforced my own complicity to these issues. But now that I’m reaching an age where I cannot bypass certain uncomfortable situations, like confrontations or conflicts in close circles, that attitude has to be permanently vanquished–not just for my own sake, but for the sake of others who are still not getting their humanity recognized.
Being a LFK meant seeking out any kind of validation of my own Filipinoness by finding other like-minded LFKs and folks who had thought of building community through theory and activism. But it also meant being susceptible to overlooking the fallacies of community building, such as not developing a critical lens into what it means to be “Filipino”.
To put into perspective: I have been attending numerous Zoom meetings and seminars, in light of BLM movements and calls to action for allyship and solidarity work. I mainly focused on Filipinx-centered Zooms to enter discussions on how Filipinx can show up for Black folks in the current movement and beyond in our daily lives. As much as I found these spaces necessary for many Filipinx to participate in, I felt that there were underlying issues that were not being addressed in addition to talking about anti-Blackness, undoing racism, and divesting away from white proximity. And that was when I got scared.
It was one of those instances where an ethereal part of me knew before my mind could process it. There was something very striking by the way most of the people who were facilitating and speaking in these engagements that was very off-putting, yet reminiscent of how younger versions of myself felt when older adults lectured me for not doing this or that in the ways they wanted me to act or behave. It wasn’t so much of being held accountable for “not doing the work (enough)”, but more like, “for whom are these talks really serving?”
The surfacing truth that wanted me to take notice and admit its existence scared me because it meant potentially putting myself in a dangerous position that could jeopardize my future course, namely in the field of academia. It was harrowing to think of, especially since I saw this field as my “saving grace” from where I was previously that did not garner much hope for a better future. But it was like looking into a crystal ball that supposed showed me how my future would look, if I did not heed the warning signs of my present…
So pretty much, I had created an emergency exit strategy, in haste, that would resolve the short-term problems I was facing. That was, deactivating social media accounts, deleting profiles that were mainly inactive, filing for LOA, and minimizing communications with most people I knew/who knew of me. And I just sat with my LFK self for about a month, allowing my brain to process a lot of what it took in, at a natural pace. I also had to give time to myself to pay attention to other aspects of my life that I had been neglecting…
I saw that I wasn’t the only one witnessing and realizing this. Some have been most vocal about what’s been going on that no one in the community of certain influence is willing to address or even reflect on. There were a couple of spaces that allowed me to do critical analysis of the Filipinx community that I would be scared to post on social media, knowing there are certain people who follow me and could use my own words against me before I am ready to stand ground for myself… and the cycle would continue. All in all, it was re-affirming that there are others in this community that are taking strides to challenging and changing the main discourse of what it means to be “Filipino” (in the diaspora) and how we are forming our identities and at whose expense… (This will be reserved for another blog post.) This LFK was once again finding a deeper sense of community with other like-minded folks who want to build stronger foundations and bonds to fortify a better sense of who we are.
I do not and never will intend to make “the LFK” an academic study or an intellectual exercise. I just wanted to put a name to my condition of feeling lack and trying to form an identity based on lived experiences and movements. I keep referring back to “the LFK” whenever I encounter instances/incidents that challenge my ways of thinking about identity. That’s all it has been to me.