If social invisibility is defined as the derivation of a social identity through nonvisible characteristics, Filipino-American social invisibility is the derivation of an ethnic identity given character by its chronic misrecognition and effaced representation in U.S. culture. Filipino-American social invisibility emerges from the culture of U.S. imperialism, specifically the historical legacies of colonialism and the racial ideology of orientalism that shut them out from the social processes producing institutional knowledge about race. Consequently, Filipino Americans experience the culture of U.S. imperialism as their exclusion from racial discourse.
The absence of a Filipino-American racial discourse necessitates that their stories take a shape different from those who are acknowledged in the U.S. racial imaginary. Filipino-American social invisibility sets the conditions for a new genre—the invisibility narrative. This social-invisibility narrative addresses the discursive absence itself and explores its effect on Filipino-American communities and identities. It possesses three distinct features: the triangulation of Filipino-American identity in relation to visible racial identities, an instance of misrecognition for a visible racial identity that turns and/or propels the plot, and the retrieval of Filipino culture through family members or a romantic interest. The article closes with a discussion of the invisibility narrative in three recent Filipino-American feature films: The Debut (2000), The Flip Side (2001), and Slow Jam King (2004).