Who am I and what is my real identity?
I am a beloved child of the universe, and my real identity isn’t defined by where I was born, what my skin colour is, what I do, what I have, or what others say about me.
My body isn’t the real me; it is only a temporary house I inhabit. It is a temple in which my spirit dwells for a season. I honour my temple by taking care of it and treating myself with respect and dignity.
The respect I accord to myself will translate into respect I accord to others, and others will also respect me the way I respect myself, through the law of attraction.
I am a multidimensional being, and there are many sides of me – for example, sometimes I am confident, other times I am fearful – I am simply being human, an imperfect being living in an imperfect world.
In a sense, we are complete, but it is a lifelong journey to remember we are already complete although we aren’t perfect. We all fall short and make mistakes, but the more we meditate on our inherent completeness and integrate this truth into our daily existence and our interactions with others, the more we mature and grow into who we really are intrinsically.
A useful exercise to practise and increase the amount of compassion in the world.
Social activists need to grow as humans as well because the greatest enemy isn’t outside, whether it is white supremacy or colonialism or patriarchy; it is the untamed ego or shadow side of us. (We can have a holistic t’shuvah understanding of ourselves, recognising that while we bear the image of the divine, we have a capacity to do tremendous good or terrible evil.)
When we succeed in bringing about a revolution and challenging and dismantling white supremacy, for example, the question is “what’s next?” Is the response “who’s the next enemy?” If so, it can become a means to not deal with our interior life and stay preoccupied with fighting against an external perceived enemy all the time. This can lead to infighting in social activist groups or movements as the members begin to turn on one another. But if the response is “how can I continue to create a better and more humane world?” then one can find creative ways to bring about or facilitate restoration and reconciliation. It might mean working through one’s own pain and suffering to experience healing and peace more and more; it might mean reaching out to help the oppressed heal from their pain and suffering; it might mean working with the white people who are aware and willing to bring about equality in real and tangible ways in society, and so on.
To be sure, social activists are human and have their own fears and egos and insecurities. But are they going to allow these to override their primary motivation in activism, which is a love for oneself and others and working towards their emancipation? If others’ freedom and well being are their top priority, they can choose to not their own hurt pride and wounded ego get in the way of their mission to alleviate the oppressed of their pain and suffering.
Social activists have to learn to develop a thick skin and a willingness to be open and receptive to questions and criticisms. They have to realise that as public figures who have a platform that is open to scrutiny from the rest of the world, they cannot be shielded or sheltered from opposing views or different perspectives. Instead, they can choose to learn from the criticisms and different perspectives to do their own soul searching, to grow and expand, to become stronger and bigger persons.
Social activists need to create a space for themselves to embrace their own brokenness, weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as that of others. Only then can they live an honest and authentic life, and continue to inspire others with their humanness.
Social activists can choose to learn from other role models who have been through struggles and upheavals themselves and who are open about their struggles. People such as Rob Bell and Carlton Pearson, who have suffered and been ostracised in their work to challenge oppressive systems and mindsets and who have worked through their struggles and shared openly about them, can serve as such role models.
A university student named Iwani Zoë from South Africa wrote a perceptive blog “Is Singapore a racist country?” Someone in this related article “Foreign student in NUS writes an article on racism she faces in Singapore” made a rather disparaging comment, saying “She lives in an utopian planet. Racism exists everywhere but it is up to the society and government to regulate and minimize its threats to societal upheaval.”
My response to his comment is:
“Yes, racism exists everywhere, but each of us can take a more active approach to deal with racism because we can’t always depend on the government to “regulate and minimise its threats to societal upheaval”, especially if we are dealing with less overt forms of racism such as the micro-aggressions we experience in daily life, as described in Iwani’s blog. In fact, sometimes racism is state-sanctioned, as evidenced in the white police brutality against unarmed black people and the mass incarceration of black and brown people in America, so the government in general isn’t always dependable.
Also, we are the society and we can do our part to deal with the issue of racism by having open conversations about it in order to educate and raise awareness among people about how being subject to discrimination and prejudice is affecting us; we can do so online through blogs and social media as well as offline. It is through such dialogues that we can find healing and no longer suffer in silence, and that the ones who are enjoying racial privileges can check themselves and not contribute to the problem of racism, such as by reminding themselves and educating their children to not stare at those who look different from themselves and to not subscribe to negative media stereotypes of other races for a start.
Already, in America, and increasingly around the world, the issues of anti-black racism and white supremacy have become an open conversation (thanks to Black Lives Matter and the like), to the extent that more and more white people themselves are acknowledging that they are benefitting from the white privilege system and are choosing to stand in solidarity with the oppressed. While it might not be possible to create an utopian planet, we all can indeed find ways to make this world a better, more humane and equitable place for everyone by sharing our experiences, accepting our differences and celebrating our diversity.”
“The government can legislate but they cannot change behaviour. That comes with education and inner motivation.
The bottom line is that we must embrace our racial diversity. Contrary to what some have said, I think racism is rather mild in Singapore.”
My response is:
“Less overt forms of racism, such as the aforementioned daily micro-aggressions, can be as insidious and detrimental as armed race riots because they create despair, resentment and frustration for those who have been subject to discrimination, prejudice and marginalisation. (It may also result in self-hatred and low self-esteem, as one may wish one was born white or fairer skinned.) To be honest, I myself used to think that racism is rather mild in Singapore compared to some other places, until I realise I have been living in a privileged bubble as a majority Singaporean Chinese and see for myself how many non-Singaporean Chinese, or darker skinned people in general, have been stared at or subject to racist jokes or made to feel as if they don’t belong to the community here as much as the Singaporean Chinese do.
To quote Professor Adeline Koh, “Singapore Chinese, as they are termed, enjoy systemic, racialized and institutional privilege in the country as opposed to the countries’ minorities (primarily racialized as Indian and Malay).” The question is: Do we own and acknowledge the fact that we are benefiting from the system of Chinese Privilege in Singapore? The next question beckons: Do we exert our Chinese Privilege by pretending that it doesn’t exist, and benefit from it all the same—or do we recognize that we are, like other minorities in Singapore, also a person of color, and should be more sensitive to what they are saying, because we go through exactly the same thing when we are not in Singapore that they do at home?”