Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino -/ American Postcolonial Psychology
reviewed by Nina Asher - October 04, 2013
Title: Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino -/ American Postcolonial Psychology
Author(s): E. J. R. David
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623962072, Pages: 362, Year: 2013
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Twelve chapters grouped into three Parts, plus a foreword, a preface, acknowledgements, an epilogue, an afterword, five commentaries, and a glossary of terms comprise Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino-/American Postcolonial Psychology (with commentaries). Presented in both a personal voice and an academic voice, this labor of love is a critical representation of the histories, lives, psyche, struggles, and contributions of Filipino-/Americans. Author E. J. R. David draws on postcolonialism and psychology to articulate cross-cultural analyses of the processes and effects of colonialism as well as the efforts to recover from them. It will be a useful reference, especially for undergraduates in Asian American studies, psychology, and history.
In Part IIn the beginningDavid begins in autobiographical vein and moves on to trace the history of the Philippines, beginning with the Tao (The People; pronounced as Ta-o) (p. 3) in pre-colonial times, noting that the indigenous Tao who lived on the islands now known as the Philippines had a very vibrant culture and complex societies (p. 4). In addition to discussing arts, culture, and religion of the Tao, David also notes that women and men were treated as equals, with women holding high positions in society, including in the government. In fact, the indigenous Tao regarded men and women so equally that they did not even have words such as he, she, him, her, his, or her to differentiate between men and women (p. 11). Discussing the colonization of the Philippines by Spain and then the U.S., David reveals how the imposition of Spanish rule and Catholicism, and, later on, the influence of Hollywood systematically eclipsed indigenous history, identity, and culture. This history, David argues, has led to an internalization of inferiority and has also shaped emigration from the Philippines to the U.S. These apt analyses reflect insights that Frantz Fanon developed in his groundbreaking Black Skin, White Masks (1952/1967). Given that the title of Davids book clearly draws on Fanons Black Skin, White Masks a highly influential postcolonial text that remains in print even today as a scholar, David has been seriously remiss in not acknowledging and citing this work in his book.
In Part IIaptly titled The aftermathDavid traces the development of the colonial mentality (p. 53) and its automaticity, (p. 79) discussing in depth the loss of indigenous values and related implications in terms of Filipino-/American identity and mental health. Citing several key postcolonial scholars (Fanon, Memmi, Freire, Rimonte), David states that the sustained denigration and inhumane treatments that the colonized are subjected to under colonialism often lead to self-doubt, identity confusion, and feelings of inferiority among the colonized (p. 56). One effort on the part of the author (along with his mentor, Sumie Okazaki) to address this legacy of colonialism has been to develop and administer a Colonial Mentality Scale (CMS) (p. 65) to identify and analyze the many facets (e.g., preference in terms of such variables as skin color, culture, speech/accent, and racial/ethnic composition) of the internalization of the colonizer. David also offers to the reader the concept of Kapwa a core Filipino value that refers to the unity or oneness of a person with other people (p. 109), as essentially humanizing, in contrast to the terrible dehumanization of colonization (and, for that matter, the reliance on specious us-them binaries as a form of oppression).
In Part IIIDecolonization in a modern worldDavid focuses on healing, recovery, reclamation. Drawing on cognitive behavioral therapy, David analyzes psychopathology related to colonial mentality, including such issues as depression and social anxiety. Drawing on Freires (1970) now classic concept of conscientization, David synthesizes psychology and postcolonialism to articulate the Filipino-/American Decolonization Experience (FADE) as one way of, as he phrases it, fade-ing away our colonial mentality (p. 179) through the process of cultivating a critical, political consciousness. Citing Sikolohiyang Pilipino or Filipino Indigenous Psychology (p. 212), David develops a thoughtful discussion of how Sikolohiyang Pilipino acknowledges Western psychological theories and methods and also goes beyond them to engage Filipino values and frames (e.g., Kapwa) to contribute to more culturally-appropriate, effective, and longer-lasting social changes that may promote the well-being of Filipinos (p. 217). This, he envisions, as a step towards establishing a truly balanced and decolonized global psychology one that is not affected by colonial mentality (p. 222). While this ideal of a psychology not affected by colonial mentality holds great appeal, it is more realistic perhaps, at the present juncture in the trajectory of colonialism and its aftermath (Hickling-Hudson, Matthews, & Wood, 2004, p. 3), to keep in mind our implicatedness in the legacies of colonialism and continue to work systematically through the same in terms of the psychic, material, cultural, and social aspects of our lives. Especially as the global spread of Western corporatism has reinforced the domination of the West in various parts of our world.
Fanon, F. (1952/1967). Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.
Hickling-Hudson, A., Matthews, J., & Woods, A. (2004). Education, postcolonialism, and disruptions. In A. Hickling-Hudson, J. Matthews, & A. Woods (Eds.), Disrupting preconceptions: Postcolonialism and education (pp. 1-16). Flaxton, Australia: Post Pressed.