I had never identified as Asian-American or had the interest in claiming that identity past an explanation of why my name didn’t match my face. I understood that I was a by product of a biracial marriage but I did not identify as Asian-American. I considered myself an American with Filipino heritage. My mother was from the Philippines, my grandfather was from the Philippines, my family was from the Philippines. I, Alexandra Kelly Colburn, was not from the Philippines.
Before Jeb Bush took center stage in the Republican race for the 2016 Republican Nomination, I did not identify as Asian-American but as an American with a mother from the Philippines.
I, Alexandra Kelly Colburn, was from America; Born and raised in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. where I had a wide range of friends with various ethnic backgrounds. It was the 90’s/early 2000’s; we were Liberals and we were post-racial. I rode horses, played the violin, listened to the hip-hop station, ate Filipino food, and participated in the Drama Club after school. My friends were from school, from horseback riding, and from the Drama Club. I was drawn to people who had similar interests as me and who liked to laugh as much as I did. I didn’t think in terms of color.
Before Jeb Bush took center stage in the Republican race for the 2016 Republican Nomination, I did not identify as Asian-American but as an American with a mother from the Philippines and I believed we lived in a post-racial America.
When I read that Jeb Bush had no remorse for using the term anchor babies, that he continues to maintain that Asians are the biggest perpetrators of “maternity tourism”, that he refuses to recant his statement because it is “true” - it made me angry. No, it didn’t make me angry: It made me furious. The guilt and indifference I vacillated between for the last twenty-six years was replaced by a deep-rooted anger towards racially insensitive politicians who don’t understand the social and cultural repercussions of their ignorance.
When Jeb Bush uses the word “anchor baby”, the rage I feel is unparalleled. Why? Because I think of my Mother and how she came to this country.
Prima Villanueva Esguerra came to this country as a Nurse with a work visa. She stood outside of the Philippine embassy every morning with the hopes of coming to America and when she did get here, it was because of her hard work and dedication. Her mother, Angela Villanueva Esguerra, was a businesswoman and the mother of nine. She raised my mother to study hard and encouraged her to follow her dream. My parents met at a New Year's Party in 1982 and when my father asked her to marry him in 1984, she didn’t say yes because it was an opportunity to get a greencard easily - she married him because she loved him and thought she could build a life with him. She even told my Dad she had to think about it and didn't say yes until a week later. She applied for citizenship in 1993 with my Lolo, housed family members as they transitioned from their life in the Philippines to their life in the States, and to this day sends money back home to help her family in their times of need.
So, Jeb Bush, don’t tell us to “take a step back and chill out” when you say that Asian people are “taking advantage [of] birthright citizenship”. Trying to justify your racism and cultural insensitivity by saying you are “immersed in the immigrant experience” because your wife is Latino in no way, shape, or form gives you the right to use derogatory and offensive terms. The term “anchor baby” offends us. It offends Asians, Latinos, and quite frankly, immigrants to this country regardless of their race or heritage.
Prima Villanueva Esguerra Colburn did not come to this country illegally to take advantage of birthright citizenship. Prima Colburn is Asian, specifically Filipino, and came to this country because the opportunities it presented were greater than what she could have accomplished back home. Do not invalidate her hard work and the sacrifices she made to make it in America. Nor those of her sisters, her nieces, or her cousins.
Jeb Bush, your racial insensitivity, your cultural ignorance, your poor choice of vocabulary, and your bigotry will not stand.
Before Jeb Bush took center stage in the Republican race for the 2016 Republican Nomination, I did not identify as Asian-American.
Now, today, I make a pledge to claim my heritage and take pride in my ethnic background. I am the child of a Filipino mother and an American father. I am an Asian-American woman in the Arts. I am an Asian-American Artist. I cannot sit idly by while men like Jeb Bush make wild generalizations about immigrants, perpetuate racism, and feign ignorance, dismissing the notion of political correctness. This is not the America my Mother came to and this is not the America I was raised in. I want to see an America in which my mother’s accomplishments are not diminished into one demeaning term. I want to recreate the America that my mother left for.
I am an Asian-American.