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The #Blacklivesmatter posts that made my cry: Drawing parallels between US and SG

By June 2, 2020Current

TL;DR – Reflections: If not for our intrusive policies, could #ICantBreathe tragedies have happened in Singapore too?

 

Handcuffed.
Face Down.
Knee on his neck.
They did nothing.

He called the officer “Sir.”
They did nothing.

He begged for his life.
He begged for water.
He begged for mercy.
They did nothing.

His nose bled.
His body trembled.
He lost control of his bladder.
They did nothing.

He cried out, “I can’t breathe.”
They did nothing.

Twelve more times.

“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”

They did nothing.

One last time, he gasped, “I can’t breathe.”
They did nothing.

He lost consciousness.
They did nothing.

A firefighter demanded they check his pulse.
They did nothing.

Off duty medical personnel begged them to stop.
They did nothing.

Deprived of oxygen.
His organs screaming.
His brain frantic.
They did nothing.

They watched George Floyd die.
His life fading.
A slow death.
They did nothing.

A lynching on the ground.
They did nothing.

For eight agonizing minutes.
Four officers watched.

He cried out for his Mom…
A grown man…
Crying out for the woman who gave him life….
As he feared joining her in death.
And still they did nothing.

A black man.
A gentle giant.
Murdered because he was black.
And still, they’ve done nothing.

Probable Cause exists.
A Double Standard exists.

The officers should be arrested.
And still they’ve done nothing.

Rest In Peace 🙏🏼🙏🏼 GEORGE

May justice be served.

~Dumisani Goba~

 

George Floyd was his name.

The name of the black man who was murdered in broad daylight, right by a busy street, by white police officers.

There’s something extra unbearable about the shades perched on top of the officer’s head, the nonchalant way his hands were in his pockets as he knelt his entire weight upon the black man’s neck for, what, nearly nine minutes, and how the police badges were on his clean, ironed shirt.

Unfortunately, this is a story that just kept repeating itself. George Floyd wasn’t the first black man to die innocently in a white police officer’s hands, but I hope that he’d be the last. Or at least one of the last.

It’s just crazy to me that African Americans do not feel safe in their own country, and they do not feel safe with the police.

The extent of how much they fear for their lives is quite unimaginable. Don’t believe me? Read these.

A white woman went bonkers and called the police on this man who was just birdwatching in Central Park. All cos of his race.

Read the full story here, or watch the video that the man had taken to protect himself.

Next story, this African American man runs his own electrical appliances repair business. But he doesn’t dare take night jobs to help folks out anymore cos it’s not safe for him out there at night.

A successful business owner, he gets pulled over by the police and questioned like a criminal. Even if he’s able to explain his business, even as he’s wearing a uniform, driving a vehicle and showing paperwork of his business.  And oh, most white people don’t seem to trust him, and don’t think he’s capable of repairing their appliances.

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This next story, too, is very sad. This African American does not dare to take walks alone even in his own neighbourhood. He only dares to do that when he’s with his daughters and dog. That’s his reality.

This man is actually an author and a keynote speaker. But walking on his own, all his white neighbours see is an intimidating athletic black man.

And these things have been happening for years.

Here’s an older story, written by yet another African American, Steve Locke, in 2015 and re-circulating like mad today. The story may be five years old, but the reality is definitely still very ‘today’.

Sadly, very little has changed.

Steve Locke updated his blog yesterday. He talked about his five-year-old post re-surfacing. He said nothing has changed when it comes to racism and what black people face in the States. But one thing is new though, this time.

This time, he has white people reaching out to him to ask, “What do we tell the children?”

“They want to shield their children from the terrible images of his murder. They tell me about “difficult conversations” they are having with their kids…. They are at a loss and they reach out-to someone on the internet who wrote a blog post-on how to talk to their kids.”

He went on to say that “the fact that people are asking me for advice on how to talk to their children is very sad to me. It means that they are segregated from Black people.”

“I am guessing there are no Black people with children in their social circle, at their kids’ school, on the soccer team, in their churches, in their homeowners’ association. I am guessing there are no books, movies, essays, historical societies, or any information at all available to them that would help them talk to their kids about the history of uprisings that are sparked as a result of police violence against Black people. I guess for a lot of them, this is the first time that this has ever happened.

Sad because after all these years, white people are still living in their own white circuit and they don’t have non-white people in their communities and networks of friends.

I suppose with this lack of interaction and communication, it’s only natural that people don’t understand and don’t trust one another.

The Singapore (Race) Story

Will the real Singaporean please stand up? What makes a Singaporean?

It’s hard to tell the Singapore Story without talking about our founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Curious how he identified and defined a Singaporean? He touched on this in one of his book, Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going.

“In Singapore, what will identify a Singaporean with the changing circumstances? An acceptance of multiracialism, a tolerance of people of different races, languages, cultures, religions, and an equal basis for competition. That’s what will stand out against all our neighbours.

My definition of a Singaporean, which will make us different from any others, is that we accept that whoever joins us is part of us. And that’s an American concept. You can keep your name, Brzezinski, Berlusconi, whatever it is, you have come, join me, you are American. We need talent, we accept them. That must be our defining attribute.

If we are at odds with each other, we won’t survive.”

It’s almost poignantly ironic that Americans seem to have lost the so-called American concept.

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Regardless, it’s still a good concept, and one that is critically important to multiracial Singapore.

To the younger generations of Singaporeans who take our multiracial harmony for granted, and perhaps even naively prioritise freedom of speech over everything else, lest we forget, racial issues are a perennial circumstance of Singapore’s position in South-East Asia.

Singapore, a multiracial meritocracy

From the start, Mr Lee’s vision for Singapore was of a multiracial meritocracy, “not a Malay nation, not a Chinese nation, not an Indian nation” but a place where “everybody will have his place: equal; language, culture, religion”.

That was the pledge he gave citizens on 9 August 1965, the day Singapore became independent.

Policies to encourage racial integration is essential

Just like how African American Steve Locke has described in his latest blogpost, when left on their own, people tend to stick to their own kind. Racial enclaves and communities will form naturally and organically.

The same for Singapore when we first gained independence. Interaction among the races was limited as many chose to live in their own enclaves, went to their own vernacular schools and even controlled certain jobs. This was probably a mixture of reasons, commonality of cultures, languages, etc. It’s only natural.

Then came some intrusive policies by the PAP government, including making English the main language of instruction in schools, for business and administration to spur economic development, as well as ensure that “no race would have an advantage”.

Later, it introduced racial quotas for public housing estates, where more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans live, to prevent the formation of racial enclaves. It went on to change the electoral system to safeguard multiracial representation in Parliament in the form of GRCs.

Like it or not, these policies forcibly altered the natural course of things and reshaped all of our lives on a day-to-day basis.

Over time, we grew accustomed to living next door to neighbours of a different race. Indians, Chinese, Malays and Eurasians worked alongside each other. Our children attended school with one another.

If without such policies, people are likely to stick to their own racial groups, live amongst their own racial communities. A lack of interaction can lead to misunderstanding and mistrust, and all these are bad for social cohesion.

Our EIP is highly intrusive, but maybe it’s more effective?

Over 80% of Singaporeans live in HDB flats, and these flats have an enforced ethnic quota under the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP). Maximum proportions are set for the residents from various ethnic groups in these blocks of apartments. This helps prevent the formation of racial enclaves and promote ethnic integration.

In one of my favourite interviews (it’s also a very well broadcasted one, with over 800K views, LOL), Senior Minister Tharman talked about the EIP when BBC Hard Talk’s Stephen Sackur tried to poke, needle and question him.

By the way, Sackur failed miserably and SM Tharman emerged like some charming political rockstar!

I’ve extracted the EIP part here, but you should watch the full video. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the 48 minutes of basking in SM Tharman’s magic and charm!

SM Tharman (then DPM and also Finance Minister) told the audience at the St. Gallen Symposium in 2015.

“Once people live together, they’re not just walking the same corridors every day, they’re not just taking the same elevators up and down, their kids go to the same schools… and they grow up together.

The lessons coming out of all of our societies show that neighborhoods matter… it matters tremendously in the daily influences that shape your life and the traps you fall into.”

An inclusive society doesn’t just happen naturally, and it’s even more difficult when we’re not a homogeneous people. The EIP is one of our most important policies that has helped to maintain racial and social harmony in Singapore by providing opportunities for social mixing among Singaporeans of different races.

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Look, I’m not here to say our EIP works wonders. Or that I’m all for government intervention in our lives. But I’m open to such solutions if they can help prevent, solve or at least mitigate social problems.

So I’ll say this: Until we have a better or alternative solution, I’m OK for the EIP to stay.

Steve Locke: It’s a human rights issue

In his latest blogpost, Steve Locke talked about how the racism situation in the United States is a human rights issue.

It is.

And it’s more than just fixing the legislation and law to solve the problem.

It’s also about the people, how they acknowledge that all of them are equal citizens to the country and accept that despite their differences, they all should be treated equally, fairly.

I hope no more innocent lives will be lost in such senseless ways in the United States no more. And I hope that the on-going protests will trigger a change that ought to have taken place years and years ago.

While our situation does not mirror exactly that of what is happening in the United States, it is not difficult to draw parallels.

 

Looking at what’s happening over there right now, I’m glad that while we’re nowhere near perfect, at least here, we’re free to walk around our neighbourhoods alone or otherwise and we’re also not scared for our lives if we’re approached by police officers.

Back to the St. Gallen interview with SM Tharman, when Sackur poked him about freedom of press, he said,

“And the freest possible media is not the only liberty we aspire to. I do think it’s a good idea, by the way, it appeals to my ideals, but it is not the only liberty you aspire to.

You do aspire to a liberty of being able to walk the streets freely, particularly if you’re a woman or a child, at any time of the night; you aspire to the liberty of living in a city that is not defined by its most disorderly elements; you aspire to the liberty of having the opportunity for an education and a job, regardless of your race or social background; and you aspire to a liberty of practising your religion without fear of bigotry or discrimination.

Those are very important liberties in many societies, and they are lacking in many societies.”

Exactly.

Leaving you with this beautiful video, and I hope for a more beautiful world when I wake up tomorrow.

 

 

 

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Maggie O

Author Maggie O

Digital extrovert. Social introvert (warning: 93% introverted!) In the day, I work to put cai-png on the table and ice-cream in the fridge. In the night, I read a lot and write a little. Also, all views expressed in my contribution pieces here are based on my personal opinions, and they do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of my employer (past, current and future).

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