And so the proverbial sh*t has hit the fan. Comments made by Teri Hatcher’s character in the hit ABC series Desperate Housewives has elicited various reactions of indignation from the Filipino community in the US and from folks here in the Philippines.
Not being a fan of the TV show, I first sought out the video posted on Youtube to better understand what the fuss was all about. And so I saw it. Susan Mayer just finished her appointment with her OB and was anxious over her test results. In her talk with her doctor, she blurts out that she wanted to check the doctor’s diploma. To quote Susan Mayer, she tells her doctor “can I check those diplomas because I want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.”
Incidentally, I watched the internet video with my wife, Beng, who herself graduated from a “med school in the Philippines” and who is a practicing physician. Beng felt that the remarks were totally uncalled for and unnecessary even granting the context of the conversation.
“It shows that the patient, anxious about her condition and after being misdiagnosed earlier, would not trust results coming from a graduate of a Philippine medical school.” Beng said.
The quote says a lot of things. The obvious one is that Filipino doctors are looked on as being incompetent. Or that graduates of Philippine medical schools are a sham because med schools here are looked on as diploma mills. Many groups of course object to such sweeping claims by Susan Mayer.
Filipino American group NAFCON has denounced ABC’s apology for the racial slur as being “insufficient and pathetic” and has called for a protest on Friday, October 5 at the ABC studio in New York. The NAFCON press release also quoted some Filipino medical professionals based in the US who cited the various contributions of Filipino immigrants to the US health care delivery system.
Still, there are those who do not agree that claim that ABC was racist and that the outrage over the episode was only because the quote was taken out of context. One even went on to say the ABC in fact loves Filipinos and that Desperate Housewives had a Filipino character once named is Alec Mapa. “He’s not only Filipino, he’s also gay, ” says Wake T-Rex in his blog.
It is understandable that Filipinos, whether they belong to or not in the medical profession, will be upset over the remarks. The first thing that comes to their minds is that Filipinos are being singled out because the problem of misdiagnosing a patient can happen to any doctor, regardless of which medical school he or she graduates from. In the said episode of DH, the error was committed by an American doctor who graduated from Harvard. Ironic, as T-Rex would say.
But then there are also those who see the remarks on DH as some sort of wake up call for Filipinos. That there is something wrong with our health education, it’s just that the way it was pointed out was grossly insensitive towards Filipinos in general. I’ve read somewhere that the stalls along Recto, notorious for faking documents, are now also being blamed. (Though I doubt DH writers have ever been to Recto. And after Mayor Lim took office, these stalls were demolished, last I heard.)
Others find the remarks insulting because Filipinos have contributed a lot already to the American health care system and that they simply do not need to hear these disparaging comments.
The more cynical remarks also say that Filipinos shouldn’t complain too much because they too make fun of other nationalities.
Just because many wrong things have been done doesn’t make one more wrong act presumed right. Yup we do have problems of our own and we need to address these issues too. Admitting that doesn’t make the remarks on DH any less racist and discriminatory than they already are perceived by the Filipino community
Check out the Desperate Housewives messsge board to see what other people are saying.