Her thoughtful look as she chewed the last morsel of her salad appeared heavy on her shoulders. My wife and I knew that our eldest girl was going through the maturing process on understanding the surroundings around her and is even beginning to form her own thoughts and principals on society and people. So, we sort of guessed what thoughts would’ve been running in her head at the dining table during that dinner.
“You still having that spat with your school mate about Black Lives Matter?”
A few days before, she had an online argument on social media with a school mate. It was during the early tensed days when images and visuals of the US unrest were literally in our faces. And that got teenagers around the world sharing their support or their thoughts on racial discrimination.
Because it was on social media, anyone and everyone who had access to my girl’s Instagram account by following her, was privy to this spat. And very quickly, judgements were made, sides were taken, making it all more important for her to be on the right side of the argument. Suffice to say, without divulging the details, my wife and I were personally proud of the stance our daughter took in this argument.
Her premise was simple. If we are to show support online, we are also to practice what we preach with our own actions in the real world, not just in the virtual world of social media. So, the argument was made by our girl, why not start with ourselves at home in our own country. She argued that while we show support to those fighting for equality abroad, we should show compassion and equality to the discriminated in our own backyard.
The timing of her assertion was uncanny as Malaysians, more recently, took exceptions to many of the downtrodden immigrants fleeing away from their harsh conditions seeking shelter here. There was anger that immigrants, illegal mostly, were threatening our very sensitive ecosystem when fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Yes, Papa. But I was thinking more about the documentary we watched last night. It’s so sad that racism is so deep in our society and yet we can’t see it because of how normal it has become.”
The night before, we had watched Netflix’ ‘13th’. It was a documentary that explores the racial inequality in the US. While watching, we compared to the situation in other countries, including Malaysia. We couldn’t run away from the fact that there are many similarities where we see ourselves as the discriminated and as the ones discriminating.
While the fight for justice continues throughout our lives because discrimination is so deep rooted in our societies and our psyche, my daughter saw a lot of hope and potential to better ourselves and start the change from within. She didn’t see herself being a people’s champion that would change the solid and systematic entrenched racism in our environment. Rather she thought she would start being more sensitive internally when dealing with humans as their unique selfs, now she has the awareness of what’s it like being on the receiving end of racial discrimination.
“I won’t turn away from that Bangladeshi worker working so hard in the hot sun any more”, she says. “I won’t ignore that chatty Indonesian laborer any more….I won’t see Indian teenagers with tattoos and earrings as gangsters any more.
I couldn’t help being more cynical than my daughter. I’ve made generalized ideas of people from different races based on my lifetime experiences and anecdotes from my closest of friends. And it’s very hard to turn it off like a switch. I wish I had that honesty and ideals my daughter talks about over these past few days. But, alas, I think having that conversation, and internally questioning myself or introspecting myself seems like a first of many steps towards being a better person who doesn’t discriminate on the color of skin, or any physical attributes for the matter. We have to strive towards it.
I’m glad that I can learn from the lenses of my children. Their thinking, and their maturity, can be astonishingly adult-like but more importantly liberal that focuses on equality and humanity.
Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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