Dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

GROWING up in Antipolo, then a backyard town of Manila, Christmas was represented by guava and sampaloc branches festooned with white cotton, carefully pasted by liquid flour (gawgaw). The white cotton of course was supposed to be snow. Lots and lots of snow, hence White Christmas.

Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was a staple holiday song, competing with “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”

The 1950s being a post-liberation era, English was a mandated second language. In elementary, a big wooden medal hung on the neck of the pupil who speaks Tagalog. Until, he or she catches somebody else speaking the vernacular, the medal stays with him for the rest of the period.

We were reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” (now the Panatang Makabayan), and singing the national anthem in English. I remember we had a regular (weekly) supply of Current Affairs that we read in school competing with Florante at Laura and Amado V. Hernandez.


Free movies shown at the town plaza showed cowboys riding in the snow, and Santa Claus riding his reindeer over Frosty the Snowman further fueled the dream of seeing a truly White Christmas.

In pursuit of the dream

I had an uncle who migrated to the United States after World War 2. I remember him being a cook or a chef. His English was impeccable and whenever he came home to visit, he had dollars and chocolates, nothing to sneer at.

My uncle was part of the second wave of Filipinos who migrated to the United States in pursuit not just of the American dream but also the dream of having a White Christmas.

Like most manongs, however, my uncle was not allowed to marry a white woman. Although America’s anti-miscegenation laws were held unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1967 (in Loving v. Virginia), my uncle had by then found love and married a Filipina.

In 1965, the US Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eliminated the use of the national origin quota system, replacing it with a law that was originally and partly intended to increase European migration to the US.

‘Fundamentally a European country’

Legislative history shows that opponents of the 1965 Act “argued that the United States was fundamentally a European country and should stay that way. The people of Ethiopia have the same right to come to the United States under this bill as the people from England, the people of France, the people of Germany, [and]the people of Holland,” complained Senator Sam Ervin, a Democrat from North Carolina. “With all due respect to Ethiopia,” Ervin said, “I don’t know of any contributions that Ethiopia has made to the making of America.”

The overriding rationale for passing the 1965 Act was to “bring immigration policy into line with the other anti-discrimination measures,” particularly the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“We have removed all elements of second-class citizenship from our laws by the [1964] Civil Rights Act,” declared Vice President Hubert Humphrey. “We must in 1965 remove all elements in our immigration law which suggest there are second-class people.”

During the signing ceremony on Liberty Island, President Lyndon Johnson said the new law “corrects a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation.”

Both the President and Vice President of the United States did not see, nor intend to change the demographic make-up of America.

US imperialism

Of course, Johnson and Humphrey forgot that the United States had for so long stretched its imperialist arm across the border and later to the Pacific and Atlantic.

After annexing the independent Republic of Texas—which Mexico considered its northeastern province and part of its territory—the Mexican–American War culminated in the Mexican cession where 529,000 square miles was ceded by Mexico to the US in 1848 pursuant to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This “ceded area included the present-day US states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a small section of Wyoming.”

Fifty-two years later, the US took Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The Battle of Manila Bay was staged to justify American occupation of the Philippines even after the country was sold by Spain to the US for $20 million.

Then there was Vietnam, Asia, Africa and the incessant propaganda against Russia and China during the Cold War. Of course, Siberia and Beijing also experience heavy snow during December, except that Christmas is not celebrated in either country as it is in the Philippines and former US and European colonies.

So, White Christmas remains a recurring dream of Filipinos fueled by the emergent curse of corruption and the poverty that illegal wealth acquisition engenders.

Before the 1965 Act, seven out of every eight immigrants were from Europe. By 2010, nine out of ten were coming from other parts of the world, mainly Asia and the Indian continent.

White Christians now a minority

Another 52 years later – this time from the passage of the 1965 Act – white Christians are now a minority among US population, dropping below 50 percent for the first time, according to a survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

Although Christians overall remain a large majority in the US, at nearly 70 percent of Americans, white Christians now comprise only 43 percent. Filipinos, Mexicans and nationals from the Central and South American countries are mainly Christians and Catholics.

While Hinduism is the dominant religion in India, Christianity is a strong third. Similarly, Buddhism and Taoism are the dominant religions in China, but a significant number are Catholics or Protestants, hence Christians.

With the financial meltdown in the mid-2000s, America started looking inward, casting a suspicious eye on immigrants who are considered competitors for jobs and wealth.

The rise in the non-white Christians also coincided with drops in membership in the predominantly white Anglo Saxon Protestants, shrinking the ranks of white Evangelicals.

With their White Knight in the White House saddle, this demographic component applauds their candidate’s campaign slogan against immigration, and bringing jobs back to the US. “America First” is the battle cry.

‘America First’

Seeing color in most demographic sectors, protesting bilingualism in ballots and other aspects of economic life, America First emboldened the white nationalists. Chain migration must end, the unintended consequence of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.

Pew Research shows that in 1965, “whites of European descent comprised 84 percent of the US population, while Hispanics accounted for 4 percent and Asians for less than 1 percent. Fifty years on, 62 percent of the US population is white, 18 percent is Hispanic, and 6 percent is Asian. By 2065, just 46 percent of the US population will be white, the Hispanic share will rise to 24 percent, Asians will comprise 14 percent—and the country will be home to 78 million foreign-born, according to Pew projections.

Filipino Americans represent somewhere between 4 to 5 million, according to Patrick Murphy, deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia during a recent special briefing.

America has changed the world. Whether by design or not, the wars the US waged and won are now haunting the nativists and nationalists.

Now they are the ones dreaming of a White Christmas.

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