An open letter to the hypocrites on my feed

This is a callout letter

Art by Dana Calvo

To anyone who has posted anything in support of #BlackLivesMatter but has never extended the same support to victims of extrajudicial killings, has continuously sided with despots and their cronies, has participated in everyday racist and classist microaggressions, has stayed silent as our government passes the Anti-Terror Bill,

This is a callout letter. 

In 2019, the Human Rights Watch noted that as much as 27,000 people may have been killed from our country’s drug watch. I say “may” because, as with everything in this country, the real figure is in the control of the police. “Getting the real figure is very difficult,” said Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Outside the police, there’s no one entity doing the tracking. There are NGOs that are trying but they can only do it based on media reports.”

That same year, global watchdog Global Witness reported that the Philippines is the deadliest country for environmental and land activists in the world. “The Philippines became the most dangerous country on earth, with more killings than anywhere else. Activists face not only systematic threats, attacks, imprisonment. Attacks against them, their colleagues, but also their family members, crimes that are rarely ever prosecuted,” said Global Witness’ senior campaigner Ben Leather.

These are only the deaths that have occurred in recent history. But Philippine history is awash with violence: Killings of activists, indigenous people and Muslim citizens rose during Martial Law and persisted after. 

The recent approval of the Anti-Terror Bill, which will allow suspected terrorists to be wiretapped for 60 to 90 days, arrested without warrant, detained for up to 24 days and imprisoned for 12 years (or even for life), is so monumental because the way it is crafted opens it up to abuse. This is dangerous because we’ve seen the authorities abuse their power before. Some recent cases: NBI ruled that the police who killed Winston Ragos planted a gun to justify his death and police at checkpoints allegedly ran a “sex for pass” scheme, soliciting women quarantine passes in exchange for sex.

It is within this context that I say that your support against the murder of black lives falls flat if you have never protested or spoken up about the everyday violence that your fellow Filipinos face. Your support for BLM is paper thin if you’ve ever expressed that activists deserved to die, or that a death toll could be in any way good. If you truly care about the murders of black folk, then why don’t you care about the murders here?

Our country’s power structure is built on oppression. Look at our map and compare the poverty incident rates. The regions most affected by poverty are where our indigenous people live, where our Muslim brothers and sisters are. Or, if you can’t imagine a Philippines beyond Metro Manila, just take a look at the street that divides BGC from the rest of Taguig. Don’t tell me you don’t see a stark contrast between the conditions of living on either side. If you don’t see this problem, then we don’t live in the same Philippines.

If you are born into privilege, you have necessarily taken part in this oppression. If you were born into a family of despots, you were born with blood on your hands. It’s up to you to make it right. I’m not saying that you have to give up everything you own and become an activist like Gina Lopez, but you bear responsibility. Call out your family both publicly and privately, disown them if you have to. “Staying away from politics” or keeping silent about it does not make you faultless. It makes you complicit. You might not have made the sins of your relatives, but you are directly profiting off of it. Walk away from Omelas if you really care about your fellow man. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but that is your cross to bear.

(And by the way, if you ever use “I donate to a poor community” as a shield against criticism, I hope you realize that you’re using people as a prop and a photo op—and it’s not the get out of jail free card you think it is, either.)

You can’t tell me that you care about lives being lost when you’ve blatantly ignored the deaths around you. You can’t gaslight your audience into believing you care about justice when you’ve gained your platform by capitalizing on injustice. 

I’m not even going to get into how our society is deeply, terribly racist and colorist—stop saying the N word—but know that we have this problem, too.

And now, after all this, if you still choose to remain silent on our own issues—or worse, support these injustices—while posting black squares on your feed, a card on Twitter or a quote by Maya Angelou or Desmond Tutu on Facebook, then you must know this: You have no right to aestheticize a movement. You can’t appropriate a quote that sounds nice and illuminating and templated in *just* the perfect way for your Instagram account when you refuse to acknowledge the blood on your hands. How dare you use black voices to whitewash your violence?

If I sound emotional and angry it’s because I am. I’m afraid and I’m tired and I’m lashing out at you because you know what? You have power. Or a platform. Or influence. You have access to the Internet and so many resources at your disposal—why are you still blind? 

You are not in community with me. Stay in your lane.