The Soldiers Speak

Black Americans and native Filipinos discover "an affinity of complexion"

John W. Galloway, Twenty-fourth Infantry, San Isidro, Philippine Islands, November 16, 1899; from Richmond Planet, December 30, 1899. Galloway's record of conversations with Filipinos reveals the extent to which an "affinity of complexion" existed between them and the Negro American soldiers stationed in the islands.

Dear Mr. Editor:

We received the copies of the Planet sent to us at this point. You can imagine how much we appreciated them when we had not seen a paper of any kind for weeks, and as for an Afro­ American paper, I can not remember when I last laid eyes on one. The address of Mr. [Booker T.] Washington is the talk of the camp. Since coming here the boys' bosoms have expanded greatly. Their ideas have indeed broadened. They all say in chorus that Mr. Washington's ideas are destined to revolutionize America educationally, and as to the Negro, we feel the depth of his advice and feel the path of action outlined by him is the only practical one for colored youth.

Since dropping you a few lines from El Deposito, we have been constantly on the jump. First, at San Fernando, then Mexico, Santa Anna, Prayal Cabial, San Isidro. Advantage was taken of these "hikes" to study the Filipino and the Filipino question from the point that follows. The whites have begun to establish their diabolical race hatred in all its home rancor in Manila, even endeavoring to propagate the phobia among the Spaniards and Filipinos so as to be sure of the foundation of their supremacy when the civil rule that must necessarily follow the present military regime, is established.

I felt it worth the while to probe the Filipino as to his knowledge and view of the American colored man that we might know our position intelligently. What follows is a condensed account of the results. The questions were put to the intelligent, well-educated Filipinos so you may know the opinions are those of the sort who represent the feelings of the race, and may be taken as solid.

Ques. Do the Filipinos hold a different feeling toward the colored American from that of the white?

Ans. "Before American occupation of the islands and before the colored troops came to the Philippines, Filipinos knew little if anything of the colored people of America. We had read American history in the general, but knew nothing of the different races there. All were simply Americans to us. This view was held up to the time of the arrival of the colored regiments in Manila, when the white troops, seeing your acceptance on a social plane by the Filipino and Spaniard was equal to, if not better than theirs, (for you know under Spanish rule we never knew there was a difference between men on account of racial identity. Our differences were political.) began to tell us of the inferiority of the American blacks-of your brutal natures, your cannibal tendencies-how you would rape our senioritas, etc. Of course, at first we were a little shy of you, after being told of the difference between you and them; but we studied you, as results have shown. Between you and him, we look upon you as the angel and him as the devil.

Of course, you both are Americans, and conditions between us are constrained, and neither can be our friends in the sense of friendship, but the affinity of complexion between you and me tells, and you exercise your duty so much more kindly and manly in dealing with us. We can not help but appreciate the differences between you and the whites."

Interview of Senor Tordorica Santos, a Filipino physician. By the difference in "dealing with us" expressed is meant that the colored soldiers do not push them off the streets, spit at them, call them damned "niggers," abuse them in all manner of ways, and connect race hatred with duty, for the colored soldier has none such for them.

The future of the Filipino, I fear, is that of the Negro in the South. Matters are almost to that condition in Manila now. No one (white) has any scruples as regards respecting the rights of a Filipino. He is kicked and cuffed at will and he dare not remonstrate. On to another interview.

Ques. How would the Filipinos view immigration to any extent of American colored people to their country? How about conditions between them, living side by side?

Ans. "Of what I have seen of American colored people, as exemplified in their soldiers, I am very much impressed with them. This in the light of present conditions, when they have little opportunity to show themselves to us in a social way. . . is very encouraging.

"I have very little knowledge of what the American government will do with us in case they elect to hold us as a colony. I have heard that all confiscated lands will be opened for American colonization under some homestead law. . . but I had not counted the effect it would have upon us. . . . We are accustomed to look upon American relations on any basis, other than that of Filipino independence, as inimical to us. But since American sovereignty is inevitable and American colonization is a probability, I unreservedly believe that all my people would look very kindly upon your people as neighbors. What we are resisting is effacement. Contact with whites to any extent in whatever way we accept them means that to us. The colored people, being of like complexion to our own, the evolution that would come to us through contact would not be so radical, can be viewed in an entirely different light from contact with white people. In your country you are used to moulding all nations and races of white men into one­white Americans-that forms an example of what I mean. The same condition would obtain between you and my people, they would become good Filipinos.

"I wish you would say to your young men that we want occidental ideas but we want them taught to us by colored people. In the reconstruction of our country new ideas will obtain. In American political and industrial ideas we will be infants. We ask your educated, practical men to come and teach us them. We have a beautiful country and a hospitable people to repay them for their trouble. Our country needs development. Unless an unselfish people come to our assistance we are doomed." Interview of Senor Tomas Consunji, a wealthy Filipino planter. I wish to add, before closing, that. . . our young men who 'are practical scientific agriculturists, architects. . . engineers, business men, professors and students of the sciences and who know how to establish and manage banks, mercantile businesses, large plantations, sugar growing, developing and refining. . . will find this the most inviting fold under the American flag. Cuba does not compare with the Philippines. Another thing, too, when they secure missionaries and teachers for the schools here, see that they get on the list. They must be represented here. White men have told them we are savages. We need to be in evidence to convince the Filipinos of our status. I do all in my power to picture ourselves to them in a good light, but positions of influence among them is what will tell. They extend to us a welcome hand, full of opportunities. Will we accept it?

Yours truly,
John W. Galloway Sgt. Major,
24th U.S. Infantry

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Letters:

A Young Soldier seeks an opportunity to prove himself

Black Americans and native Filipinos discover "an affinity of complexion"

On the battlefield

Rape of a Filipino woman

Disillusionment in the ranks

A black soldier decries expansionism

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