What are the roots of prejudice? What causes people to develop their prejudices against other people? These brilliant teens in the 50s discussed the different issues surrounding prejudice, discrimination in an insightful high school exchange student debate in 1956.
Participants of the discussion included Yoriko Konishi of Japan, Ratnati Iskandar Dinata of Indonesia, Judith Reader of the United Kingdom, and Raul Contreras of the Philippines.
Filipino delegate Raul Contreras, 15 years old turning 16 in that same year, shared his definition of prejudice:
When a person loses track of the dignity of the human soul, and judge others not on the basis of their being persons, but on the basis of race, economic status, that is prejudice.
When asked if he had prejudices of his own, he shared that he had prejudices against Japanese people and explained that he got the prejudice as a result of World War II. “I guess I was still too young to understand what happened during those times. But I think that what my relatives, friends, and the people who are witness to that unfateful occasion, they just more than justify the fact. I think it’s justified for me to feel the same way because I know that my people suffered very much under that rule.” Contreras added.
The discussion went on with delegates sharing the countries’ differences in prejudice, such as in Japan wherein women are seen as beautiful when they are small and delicate but in the UK, they take pride in their tall height.
When the discussion led to the racial segregation that is currently happening in the U.S. at the time, he shared his experience during a dance organized by a civic group he had the privilege of attending wherein all the white kids and colored kids stayed on different sides of the room. To which the young Filipino debater argued:
“Isn’t it that in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, you mentioned something about, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible under God, with liberty and justice for all. The last phrase just doesn’t suit everything. I mean, with this segregation problem here and the discrimination against colored people, how in the world could you have liberty and justice for all?”
The video, posted on March 5, 2021, has since gone viral, with 1.7 million views on YouTube as of the posting of this article. It also sparked a lot of comments and sentiments from netizens.
May napanood ako na debate about “Prejudice”. This was dated 1956. They’re all Highschool Exchange Students. One of the participants is Raul Contreras a Filipino. Grabe. He’s well articulated and eloquent. And the way he answered, nakakaproud maging Pilipino!
— Zai Vergara☁ (@MAPPLEmonia) April 6, 2021
A lot of the netizens have also grown curious about the brilliant Filipino teen’s life and career. According to Kate Contreras, daughter of Raul who was surprised that such video of her father existed and unearthed the Internet, her father devoted his life to Crisis PR and advertising. He also handled late President Cory Aquino’s campaign. He died years ago due to kidney failure as a result of his lupus, according to her daughter.
At present, racial discrimination, prejudice, and violence against the Asian community and other minority groups have been brewing in some parts of the world at the height of the pandemic.
Perhaps this video of teens discussing prejudice from 65 years ago can help us be mindful of our own prejudices, their long-term effects on other people, and spread awareness to eradicate ongoing hate crimes that are prejudiced towards one’s race.
You can watch the whole video here and see the insightful debate for yourself: