Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Racism, What’s Your Response?
I am saddened by the killing of the innocent life of George Flyod and the recent demonstrations and looting in America. We need to confront racism and deal with effects of racism not just in the USA but all over the world.
Everyone is racist, well, to some extent. Even if you believe that you are not a racist the system you are in perpetuates it and you insidiously become part of it. So, before we point a finger to what’s going on in the USA, let’ take a good look at ourselves.
Our basic identity is, more often than not, defined by who our parents are, where we are born and where we live and work. We perceive others through similar lenses thus subject ourselves, and others, to stigma, prejudice and discrimination.
To counter the pernicious nature of racism is first to embrace the value of the dignity and worth of every human being. Our common humanity, regardless of skin colour, nationality or station in life, binds us as one. Imbued with inalienable rights, by our Creator, all of us have both rights to be treated and the responsibility to treat others, as we would like to be treated by them.
The basic tenet for human relating is respect for differences. We are all made different. We need to accept ourselves as to who we are and, hopefully, be able to celebrate our differences. We can see strengths in others and value the different cultures and perspectives. We should not discriminate base on differences, oh well, but we still need to acknowledge differences and ensure the right resources are justly accrued to the different ones, based on need.
In my American Racism class at University of Pennsylvania, we were taught to tackle racism at different levels: individual, interpersonal, organizational and societal. From dealing with the personal to the structural factors that perpetuates violence against humanity, challenging racism requires a holistic and comprehensive approach. We need to grow in cross cultural sensitivity, to be mindful of structural racism inherent in the educational, justice and economic and political arenas. We should advocate for just laws and legislations against racial discrimination, hate crimes and racist acts.
Do not be quick to cast blame as or when “the oppressed becomes the oppressor”, but we need to analyse the situation: not blaming the victim, but righting the underlying conditions. That does not absolve the perpetrators of violence to be responsible for their actions, but requires accountability from both the person as well as the system that perpetuates racism.
So, to tackle racism let’s start with dealing with our own prejudices and sense of privilege, with the realization and awareness of our common humanity. Yes, Black lives matter, certainly ALL lives matter!
Dr TAN Ngoh Tiong,
Professor, Singapore University of Social Sciences
3rd September, 2020