Melissa C. Koh

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We’ve Stumbled, But We’re Not Hopeless

Personal

When I penned my previous post, I was disappointed by all that had happened. That we had allowed such violence to slip through. We have condoned it, and turned a blind eye to the police brutality innocent people face every single day. However, I’m beginning to feel more hopeful. We are finally seeing justice served for George Floyd. Prosecutors are now charging Chauvin with a heavier sentence of second-degree murder, and  are convicting the other three officers who stood by, complicit to Chauvin’s crime, doing nothing to save his life . Yet, while it is very heartening to see how our collective voices have made an impact, we shouldn’t stop here. This is just the start, and we need to continue using our voices in the fight to dismantle racism once and for all. 

Illustration by @thehardins

Racism is a form of hate. We pass it on to our young people. 

When we do that, we are robbing children of their innocence.” 

– Ruby Bridges

 

As we begin to see the effect of our collective actions against institutional racism, we cannot be complacent and neglect what is happening in our own home here in Singapore. Over the past few days, as I’ve been reading and learning more about the racial discrimination in America, I’ve started to become more aware of how lightly we regard racial discrimination in Singapore as well. It has made me reflect on how we treat people, regardless of race, gender or any other factor. 

Even though the strains of racism in Singapore and America are vastly different, that doesn’t mean that racism does not exist. We are fortunate that racial violence is not as predominant an issue here, but what we might be unaware of is the underlying racial tendencies in our everyday conversations. Casual racism and stereotypical representations of race are not topics to be joked about and I believe the root of our problem stems from a need to change our language.

Illustration by @ohhappydani

There are many ways to see a person for who they are, so why must we resort to identifying them by their race? What does the colour of one’s skin have to do with their place in society? Was race created to unify or to segregate? Ever since we were kids, some of our parents or grandparents may have used certain words or worse still, racial slurs as a way to identify people, or maybe even to shame them. Perhaps they thought it was harmless then. After all, it’s just a few words right? But it’s these same few words that have normalised racism, allowing it to fester to what it is today. Our parents were our role models and because of that, we reasoned that it was okay to use those words. It’s only as we’ve grown up, that we’ve realised the true impact of those seemingly empty words. But we must acknowledge that it was a very different time for them. It is not our place to judge or question the things they were taught but what we can do now, with technology and limitless access to knowledge and education, is to question the things we were taught in the past and correct the wrongs our parents thought were right. We have the chance to do it now and it is our job to educate ourselves and our loved ones of the inherent racist tendencies we may have and teach our future generation to do better.

Reading up on stories told by African-American mothers about what they face, I am at a loss for words. I don’t know what would hurt more – watching my child act out on racist tendencies, or knowing that I did not do anything to stop it. Our generation’s mistakes reflect the next generation’s values. I have the responsibility to teach Noah how to differentiate right from wrong and I must look back on my own actions and how I treat others before I can truly fulfil my duty as a mother. 

Beyond making an effort to change our language and the labels we use, there is so much more that needs to be done, and I couldn’t possibly summarise them all in a blogpost. But If you would like to be more informed about the racial issues in Singapore, I highly recommend taking a look at these educational resources. 

  1. Confronting Chinese Privilege in Singapore
  2. Examples of Racism in Singapore
  3. Cape Singapore
  4. Wake Up Ur Idea
  5. Other Tongues
  6. Home Migrants Singapore
  7. Noor.Mastura
  8. Notoksg
  9. Minority Voices
  10. Welcome In My Backyard

“There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race […]”

– Toni Morrison

 

As we continue this battle against racism in our own country, we are by no means diminishing the importance of the racial issues happening in America. Showing our support for the African-American community does not mean that we can’t do the same for our own minority communities. Instead, we can take this opportunity to reflect on our actions and to improve the world that we live in, in the hopes that one day our children will not be plagued by the same issues of racism like we are today. 

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