Abstract: Decolonization Rising: Diasporic Filipinos Turn Towards Healing (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Decolonization Rising: Diasporic Filipinos Turn Towards Healing

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Joanna La Torre, MSW, Medical Social Worker, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Oakland, CA
Background and Purpose: Filipino Americans (FAs) have a chronic history of multiple colonizations, have historically received little research attention, and exhibit disturbing mental / health disparities including cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, diabetes, cancer, depression, suicidality, and addiction. Given the lack of literature, it is unclear what interventions may be effective in not only addressing inequities but also the history of marked colonizations. Emerging frameworks such as Historical Trauma and Colonial Mentality have begun to describe such disparate outcomes as functions of catastrophic harms exacted against whole classes of people and which transmit down through generations. A multi-disciplinary movement of decolonizing and re-/indigenizing FAs (MDIFA) is rapidly growing in the United States that takes aim at the impacts of colonization and which is thought to provide healing for the community.

Methods: Fortified by Indigenous Filipino psychology and a decolonizing methodology, this phenomenological study conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 12 international FA leaders in the movement of decolonizing and re-/indigenizing Filipinos. Data analysis followed a psychology phenomenology approach through five levels: 1) a descriptive account was gained from transcriptions; 2) coding ensued combining a closed system based on Filipino psychology /decolonization, and open system; 3) once themes / meaning units were obtained, redundancy was eliminated and meaning units were elaborated through relation with each other and the sense of the whole.; 4) an emerging analysis was obtained, illuminating the individual / collective psychology of participants; and 5) the researcher synthesized and integrated insights achieved into a consistent description of the structure of learning. An audit meeting was conducted to increase rigor, trustworthiness, and validate emergent themes. From a critical standpoint, these accounts are understood ecologically in relation to participants’ cultural, social, and historic contexts.

Findings: Five themes emerged: 1. Chronic psychosocial harms, that FAs endure racism (external) and exhibit Historical Trauma and all five Colonial Mentality factors (internal); 2. Intergenerational lifeways, that spirituality and ancestral connections are essential to the MDIFA; 3. Resistance, that resisting and healing from colonization is a function of decolonizing, re-/indigenizing, and the survival of indigenous practices; 4. Kapwa mentorship, that there exists an intentional strategy of seeking, receiving, and providing mentorship within MDIFA; and 5. Growth, that currently there is a growth trajectory for the MDIFA.

Conclusion and Implications: These findings and the paucity of research give voice to the urgent need for FA healing to occur. Much more research is needed on every aspect of FA life, culture, and health so that it becomes evident what measures most effectively impact the disproportionate outcomes faced. Such developments will be critical in shaping policies born of cultural competency, better yet, culturally embedded models for change. Decolonial interventions for FAs need codification, analysis, and comparative testing for claims to be validated. It is time now for the growing research attention on FAs to take aim at the of disparities faced, develop effective models that address colonization, and enact widespread healing.