Beverly, thanks for letting me share my thoughts on multi-racialism and multi-culturalism in Singapore.
Here we go:
Back in primary school, some of my classmates have different new year’s day. Festivals different from mine. So we celebrated Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and Deepavali. For Chinese, Malay and Indian kids. We celebrated everyone’s new year. We still do. For one another, with one another.
Our government made it so that we have to respect each racial group here. But nobody is complaining. Especially not the kids. There are concerts to enjoy, and cakes and cookies and soft drinks to bring home. We share our festive pastry with them and they with us. Sure, there will always be a conscious disassociation; a clarification of ‘them’ and ‘us;’ a distinction; but the distinction does not come with chalk markings.
My current neighbours wear a different skin colour. A national race different from mine.
My elder sister embraces a different God. A religion different from mine.
Some of my friends eat pastry and pasta every day. I eat bread and rice.
Some of the kids I’ve taught are from a different country. Soil different from mine. They are trying to get used to the Singaporean culture. I’m hoping to pick up some of their admirable Korean characteristics (like waking up earlier to get to work).
I like what we have here: exploration and mutual acceptance. It isn’t 100% harmonious, though. We don’t live in a Mickey Mouse world. About 85% on average, perhaps? And I'd say, this 85% is pretty good. We haven't had a severe falling out since our racial riots in the sixties.
Mrs. Teo Meiling, my English teacher when I was fifteen and sixteen, once remarked, “We shouldn’t tolerate differences. We should accept them instead.”
Underneath everything else, we carry the same bones. We house a heart with those bones; a heart we hope is big enough to accept the differences on the outside. And thank goodness for those differences! Thank goodness for our individuality! For our authentic quirks! Thank goodness you are you, and I am me.
In tribute to this day of liberation from prejudices, I have two children’s books to recommend:
Let’s Talk About Race Julius Lester (Newbery Honor Book Author) & Karen Barbour
A picture book for young readers (aged 6 & up):
“I’ll take off my skin.
Witness Karen Hesse (Newbery Medalist)
A story about the inhabitants of a small Vermont town in 1924, each either battling racism or ‘upholding’ their ill-perceived sense of righteousness, told in haunting fragmented, poetic voices. A Young-Adult fiction.
How are things like for your children or the kids in your neighbourhood these days? Do they still face slight or severe discrimination?
The MLK Blogfest will begin officially on Monday. Please remember to visit Beverly’s blog, Writing In Flow, then for more readings and links to other bloggers’ thoughts on this grand topic!
Have a good week, my lovelies.