I would say in the larger picture, your article is accurate. I’d like to add my experience and observations concerning Filipinos in the Navy over my 20–year career. Yes, this is all anecdotal, but it is factual nonetheless.

In the Navy, Filipinos are not the largest minority, but they are certainly overrepresented due to decades of opportunity given to Filipinos who worked at what had been (until not long after the Pinatubo eruption) our base in Subic Bay, Philippines. I had close working relationships with dozens of Filipinos during my time, and there were a few overriding characteristics of the Filipino community in the Navy:

  • The Filipinos tried hard to look out for each other. The senior enlisted Filipinos would take younger, junior Filipinos “under their wing” and give them (sometimes stern) guidance on how to qualify and advance their careers. When I was younger, we whites and blacks called it the “Filipino Mafia”…but with the benefit of hindsight, I see this was necessary because it’s much easier for a young man facing significant language and cultural obstacles to receive guidance from one who grew up in that same culture. (side note — every sailor has one senior sailor who teaches him or her the ropes and how to avoid doing stupid things. We called them our “sea daddy”. Mine was a Filipino)
  • As a direct result of the above, Filipinos were generally among the most knowledgeable in their ratings (profession).
  • Filipinos were much more likely to re-enlist and make it a career. I’d say at least half, and perhaps three-quarters of all the Filipinos I knew tried to do so. Again, when I was younger, we non-Filipinos resented this, but looking back, this is quite understandable given that every single Filipino either grew up in grinding poverty (worse than anything most Americans have ever seen) or had family who was in poverty. In the Navy, with three squares a day, a clean, safe place to sleep, a steady pay check, and easy access to health care not just for oneself but for one’s household…yeah, they knew when they had it good. The rest of us who couldn’t wait to get out (I *never* looked forward to reenlisting) had no idea how good we had it.
  • While I knew dozens of Filipinos on a personal level, I served with at least a couple hundred in several commands over the years. Out of all those, only one was ever discharged through CO’s non-judicial punishment for misconduct. All others’ conduct was squeaky-clean. They were much less likely to go out drinking and getting in trouble like the rest of us. Looking back, I’m sure that this is because of the influence the senior Filipinos had on the junior Filipinos to keep them from during things they shouldn’t do.

All that would seem to support the “model-minority” mindset, right? But it doesn’t. There’s an old anecdote where two shipping magnates were discussing their workers at a shipyard in Greece. The first magnate noted how lazy and corrupt his Greek workers were — shiftless, good-for-nothing…you get the idea. The other looked at him and said, “That’s funny, because at my shipyards back in England, the Greeks are among my very best workers.”

The meaning, of course, is that immigrants are by their very nature out of their comfort zone. They cannot help but feel the pressure to strive, to succeed, to excel. This is why Trump’s goal of merit-based immigration is such a vast mistake — those who grew up poor have a hunger, a motivation to succeed that successful people often don’t have.

As you might have guessed by now, I’m a white guy married to a Filipina. Her family grew up in what they felt was the middle class, but would be grinding poverty by our standards. Over the years (using the chain migration that the Right hates so much) we’ve gotten about half the family here. All have full-time jobs — they’re not rich, but as you pointed out, everyone of working age has a job and they pool their money together to support the household. One young man is in the Navy doing very well, and another young man has since 2016 — just three years ago — graduated with undergraduate degrees from Rutgers and UPenn, and this year got his master’s degree from UPenn. I’m deeply proud of all of them.

Point is, they’re not some kind of “model minority”, but simply normal immigrants.

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Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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