By: Jenny Chang
When people think about colonization they just think about
how their land, politics, and homes are being taken over. But
they usually look pass how colonization also takes away our
culture. Culture is very important because it helps us build
and identify ourselves. For example, I am Laotian and
Chinese American but I am more connected to my Chinese
culture, so I consider my identity as a Chinese American
woman. But when colonization occurs, we do not realize that
slowly our culture is being stripped away. Some ways
colonization takes away our culture is through changing our
language, religion, our traditions, destroying our historical
buildings, etc. Through colonization we lose our culture,
which causes us to lose our identity. We lose our identity
because countries that often colonize home countries begin
to socially construct us, changing our mentality, and our
vision. Eventually we lose our true cultural identity and
become what they want us to be (social constructs).
Eventually as social constructs we do not realize our culture is
When the Americans colonized the Philippines, they believed
that it would be for economic value. As Rhommel Canare
lectured in class, the Americans did not only buy the
Philippines but replaced the nine L‘s with their L‘s by
“exploitation, taking away human rights, controlling
communication and education, destructions of histories, our
perception of the world, perception of love, how and what
we love, changing our ideas of sexuality, pleasure, and
attraction, and destruction of culture, ideology and identity”
(Lecture 09/30/10). Prior to the Americans, the Spaniards
replaced the Philippine‘s nine L‘s. By replacing the nine L‘s of
the Philippines, it does not only take away what the
Philippines represent but their culture has changed as well. One way their culture has changed is their language. The Americans controlled the use of language by devising a “plan to use education as an instrument of colonial policy was the decision to use English as the medium of instruction. English became the wedge that separated the Filipinos from their past and later was to separate Filipinos from the masses of their countrymen.” (Constantino in The Miseducation of the Filipino, from Lecture 09/30/10). Americans taught the Filipinos English because it would separate them from their ancestors and cause them to forget their Filipino language. I think language is probably the most important aspect of a culture because it makes each culture unique and is one the thing that distinguishes each culture. To lose the Filipino language, is almost the same as losing the Filipino identity. Of course there are other ways to embrace Filipino culture and identity, but language is how we would use to communicate with our ancestors and how we continue to carry on and pass down the traditions authentically.
Another way the Americans attempted to change Filipino culture is to change or have them adapt to their religion. President McKinley said “that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God‘s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also dies.” (Lecture 09/30/10). President McKinley believed that they are doing a favor for the Filipinos, to Christianize them and change or have them adapt to Christianity. By Christianizing Filipinos it takes away what they believed in prior to Christianity, which causes them to lose their old beliefs.
Filipinos are not the only ones that were colonized; Korea was also colonized by Japan. The Japanese had destroyed many of their buildings when they colonized Korea. To Koreans, Christianity is very important to them and it is part of their culture. The Japanese “[burned] a Christian church fill with a congregation” (Takaki 283). Burning down Churches in Korea is burning what they believe in, their culture and a place to escape Japanese colonization. Since the Japanese colonized Korea, Koreans have grown hate and resentment towards the Japanese. “The Korean National association angrily called for a “complete cessation of any association with the murderer of one‘s parents, and Japan had murdered our fatherland” (Takaki 278). Colonization of Korea has caused them to, perhaps, forever be resentful and hateful towards the Japanese. The Koreans hate the Japanese because they have invaded their home. Colonization in general causes people who are being colonized to hate the colonizer. Having such anger can lead to psychological pain. Anger is not the only psychological pain Koreans would experience, but regret, PTSD etc. The Japanese cruelly [mistreated] Korean-Christians who were tied by the thumbs to the ceiling and left to die by painful hanging” (Takaki 283). Being a relative(s) to the people who died this cruel death can cause hate, depression, anxiety, etc. Having a relative die such a cruel death can cause hate because the relatives would be angry at the Japanese for killing their family members. Also, it can cause depression, because after seeing their relatives die, they may feel as though there is no reason to live, since their home, culture and family is gone. The relative(s) develop anxiety because they may become fearful and paranoid of the Japanese, believing they are constantly being hunted. Colonization takes away culture, homes and families, which can be psychologically damaging.
Colonization happens within America too, not only to the Native Americans but also to the people who have immigrated to America. For example, the Chinese, who have immigrated to America hoping for more opportunities and to be able to be more financially stable. But when they came here they refused to assimilate to American culture. The men that came to Gold Mountain continued to dress as they would in China and kept their queue (braided pigtails). The Americans disliked that the Chinese would not assimilate to American culture, which is why I believe, they developed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Since the Chinese did not assimilate to American culture, they decided to make the Chinese feel unwelcome and viewed as strangers. In other words, the Americans did not accept the Chinese culture and attempted to kick them out of America by making them feel unwelcome. By making the Chinese feel as strangers, it will forever psychologically damage the Chinese, which is probably why my ancestors always teach us not to shame our family for they do not want to be looked as strangers. At Monterey Bay the Chinese had built a community by selling abalone and abalone shells. The Chinese also built a temple so they could worship and practice their religion, but the Americans burned the temple twice. The Americans burning down the temple is an act of not accepting Chinese culture, which makes it difficult for the Chinese to embrace and pass down their culture to the next generation. The Chinese may lose their culture, which will cause them to not to know their identity as Chinese Americans.
Although colonization is not being completely blamed for our cultures dying, we as human beings can make the effort to embrace and learn about our cultures. But sometimes colonization is sneaky and we do not realize that we are assimilating. For example there was a time prior to taking this course where I felt ashamed of being Chinese because I thought the way the Chinese thought were inferior to the way Americans thinks. I would think that a lot of the things my mother would tell me to do were stupid. And instead of trying to understand why she would tell me to do something a certain way, I would just ignore her. I think I view Chinese people this way because that is how they are portrayed through news. The American news makes the Chinese ideology seem inferior. It was not until recently that I realized that I am slowly losing my Chinese culture. When I realized that I was slowly being a social construct, I immediately stopped being ashamed of being Chinese American. Rather than being ashamed of my Chinese culture, I tried to understand the Chinese values and why my mother would think a certain way that seemed strange to an American. When I understood her, her reasons for things to be done a certain way made sense. Also, after realizing that I was becoming a social construct is terrifying, because I did not realize it for the longest time.
Now that I realize that I was slowly losing my Chinese culture, I am trying to preserve it. I am preserving my culture by trying to understand my parents. I continue to speak Chinese with my parents so I can preserve the language. Also, I continue to learn about the Chinese culture and traditions because we need to embrace our cultures before we lose it, since it can be lost in a blink of an eye through colonization. Colonization is like a random stranger who walks into your home and kicks you out and claims that your home is theirs, that you do not have a home anymore. Colonization affects culture because they try to assimilate the home land to be more like them, which slowly erases the home land‘s culture. We need our culture because it is an identifier of who we are and we need to embrace who we really are before it is lost.
Takaki, Ronald T. Strangers from a Different Shore: a History of Asian Americans. New York: Little, Brown, 1989. Print.
Ding, Loni. Ancestors in America: Chinese in the Frontier West. NATTA, c2009.
Takaki, Ronald. Strangers From a Different Shore. Boston : Little, Brown, c1998.
Constantino, Renato. The Filipinos in the Philippines, and other essays. Quezon City : Malaya Books, c1966.