"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." – Desmond Tutu
ICYMI: Last week, George Floyd, an unarmed, African-American man was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis after being arrested for attempting to pay for a pack of cigarettes with a fake $20 note. Floyd was arrested and was pinned to the ground with a knee to his neck by the police officer. Despite repeated calls for the officer to remove his knee, the officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, resulting in his death. Since then, ongoing protests against racial profiling, inequality and police brutality have rocked cities across the United States.
Unfortunately, the murder of George Floyd isn’t the first or only instance of such occurrences in the United States. Less than four months ago, Ahmaud Arbery was jogging before being shot by two white men in broad daylight. Or more recently, you may have heard of Amy Cooper, a white woman who called the police on a black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), who was bird-watching in Central Park. All of which has led to this current outpouring of anger and sadness through multiple protests in America.
Kickstarting the conversation
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things have been tense and sad lately, but let’s take heart⠀ ⠀ EDIT #1: i want to reiterate that even though the issue (it being the current unrest in america) is far away from us, it doesn't mean that anti-blackness and racism doesn't exist in our community here.. so these are some ways you can help that will truly mean a lot ⠀ ⠀ EDIT #2: stressing again that this is a simplified summary of the situation and ways to help! if you would like to know more about privilege, cultural appropriation, and black history and activism, i HIGHLY recommend reading @bubyseok's twitter thread!!⠀ ⠀ EDIT #3: seeing plenty of debate around the idea of whether we as Singaporeans should be focusing on BLM when we have our own deep-rooted casual racism to deal with. yes! i wholeheartedly agree there's a problem here that we don't talk about often, and that it may seem to many we're attempting to learn about others when we should be looking inwards. however, we can focus on multiple issues at once! just because we are bringing awareness to a topic doesn't mean we're downplaying others. ⠀ ⠀ to reiterate, the scope of this post was made for 1) people to have a rough idea on the current George Floyd situation, 2) to learn specific ways to help the situation from abroad (i.e. petitions and donations), and 3) to learn something extremely applicable ANYWHERE: general ways to help solve the racism issue by starting with yourself!⠀ ⠀ instead of putting down issues in other countries for the sake of highlighting issues here (and of course, vice versa), instead of criticising locals for not knowing enough, how about we graciously share resources and knowledge to each other in our replies? let's make this a fulfilling discussion! 🙆♀️🍎
You might be wondering: what has this got to do with us here in Singapore? Though these issues don’t seem to directly affect us or our family, it doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Parents should still talk to their kids about race, privilege and how to counter racial socialisation and racial bias. On the contrary, we should already be in conversation about the topic with our children. Despite having legislation that protects us and our families from violent forms of racism in the country, societal privilege, anti-blackness and causal racism do exist in Singapore, even if we don’t realise it.
So, if you haven’t already started the conversation with your kids, it’s not too late. It’s the perfect opportunity to start, and it’s crucial now more than ever. Recognise your privilege and the inequality around you, and choose your words carefully when you speak to your kids, family, friends and strangers you meet, especially in a country that strives for racial harmony.
Talking about race
Great – so you’re thinking of starting a conversation with your kids about race. But do kids even understand what we’re talking about? In an article for the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM), Dr. Erin Winkler, an associate professor in African and African Diaspora Studies, says, yes. “Adults often think they should avoid talking with young children about race or racism because doing so would cause them to notice race or make them racist. In fact, when adults are silent about race or use ‘colourblind’ rhetoric, they actually reinforce racial prejudice in children,” she says. “Starting at a very young age, children see patterns and try to assign ‘rules’ to explain what they see. Young children infer that the racial inequities they see are natural and justified. So despite good intentions, when we fail to talk openly with our children about racial inequity in our society, we are in fact contributing to the development of their racial biases, which studies show are already in place.”
If you’re looking to understand how kids at different ages perceive race, The Conscious Kid has a great Instagram post (below) that briefly explains why it’s never too early to start talking about it.
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🚨It's never too early to talk about race.🚨 "Adults often think they should avoid talking with young children about race or racism because doing so would cause them to notice race or make them racist. In fact, when adults are silent about race or use "colorblind" rhetoric, they actually reinforce racial prejudice in children. Starting at a very young age, children see patterns — who seems to live where; what kinds of homes they see as they ride or walk through different neighborhoods; who is the most desirable character in the movies they watch; who seems to have particular jobs or roles at the doctor's office, at school, at the grocery store; and so on — and try to assign "rules" to explain what they see. Adults' silence about these patterns and the structural racism that causes them, combined with the false but ubiquitous "American Dream" narrative that everyone can achieve anything that they want through hard work, results in children concluding that the patterns they see "must have been caused by meaningful inherent differences between groups." In other words, young children infer that the racial inequities they see are natural and justified. So despite good intentions, when we fail to talk openly with our children about racial inequity in our society, we are in fact contributing to the development of their racial biases, which studies show are already in place.” (Dr. Erin Winkler, 2017) Images by @pretty_good_design, adapted from work by the Children’s Community School. #Parenting #RacialBias #TeachersOfInstagram #AntiRacist
At this juncture, take some time to watch this video (below) of black parents explaining to their kids how to deal with the police, and learn how these issues have affected black lives in the United States.
Tools to help you educate the next generation
The easiest way to start a conversation is to look at the resources that you can tap into. And, there’s plenty! For example, there are tons of children’s books available that can help parents kickstart a conversation about race and anti-racism. An article in the Washington Post links to several great suggestions, or you can check out The Conscious Kid’s list of 31 books instead.
What about anti-racist activism? Embrace Race has a great list of children’s books for you and your kids to get started on. Books for Littles also has a curated list of children’s books on dismantling anti-Asian racism, which may be more suitable for those of us living in a Southeast Asian country like Singapore. Oh, and don’t forget our own curated list of books that celebrate diversity, too.
Older kids and parents who’d like to read can also check out BuzzFeed News’ article, The Essential Reading Guide for Fighting Racism, which lists books that can help you understand the emotions behind the protests happening right now. Or, you can check out this anti-racism resource complied by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein for more articles to read, podcasts to listen to, films and TV series to watch to educate and inform yourself.
How else you can help
Now that we’ve started educating ourselves and we can talk to kids about race, here are some other ways you can continue to help the community around you. After all, what good does it do if we only use our words, but not take any action to combat racial prejudice in our local community?
Here are some ways you can do so:
- Take some time to sign petitions to seek change.
- Help out non-profit organisations locally whenever you can, like by volunteering with OnePeople.sg.
- Donate to international and local charities if you have the means to do so.
But perhaps the best thing you can do is to notice the pattern of your language and change it if necessary, be brave enough to correct your family and friends, and to use your platform to speak up.