Black Lives Matter & The Performance We Play

Friday, 5 June 2020

It's hard to talk about race.

It feels distant yet so close. Twitter and Instagram flood my feed with black posts on #BlackLivesMatter, which has opened a bigger discussion on race. Everyone has their opinions on what we should care about. Some right, some more right. 

Somewhere in the middle of this divide, I'm typing as I tend to do. Away from violence, almost clear of the vitriol, in the comfort of my home. I can donate and sign petitions, but I can also turn off my phone and watch reruns on TV. Trying to bury the uncomfortable truth in my stomach. That I'm terrified and angry - at myself mostly. 

Wondering why the world has suddenly gone dark, and if what I'm doing, what I am, is going to be enough. 


My cat, Tigger passed away on Sunday. We buried him on Monday.

With everything burning online, and my emotions were running wild, I decided to be selfish for a while. I switched off my phone and watched reruns on TV. But I couldn't sleep any better though. I cried, thoughts rummaging in my head. So I decided to write this, in hopes of making sense of my feelings through all of this.

Particularly how I accumulated such anger, hubris, and loss.

I have lived in two different worlds. In one that doesn't feel I'm Malay enough for them, and another that feels I'm not western enough. Until now, I'm still trying to find a place that lets me be myself. Though I'm not sure what that is yet. 

When I was in Exeter, I learned how to navigate spaces to accommodate others - even if that meant keeping quiet. Because when I am loud, I become a liberal Muslim feminist who reeks of social justice. Somehow indoctrinated by the left-wing agenda and the Quran. To many, I'm not a real person. That's fine. I've thought that before.

When your being gets called into question so many times, it crumbles and builds up. Over and over again until you forget what your being is at all. But I am, and will always, be a Malay Muslim who should put her foot in her mouth. 

Seriously.


I think back to University, and how socially aware I thought I became. 

Through the many academic books read for my degree. My essays written on the subtle racial divide in England. The slow realization that no matter what, I will always feel othered. My education and experiences weaved together into three years of depressive outlook on society, but an optimist for the new generation. Yet, bringing this knowledge home is almost impossible. Our two worlds are so different. 

It'd be easier to remain ignorant. I can forget the rallies, the events, the pain because I'm safe now. I don't need to speak up anymore, I don't need to care anymore. It is no longer my life. It would have been easier to say nothing at all, but that's not me. I wish it was.


America is entering another week of protests due to the brutal killing of George Floyd. 

His last words were; 'I Can't Breathe.'

They echo and reverberate too loudly.

I think about the suffering the black community has always faced. The frustration and disdain that has burst into what it is now. People are angry, they are exhausted. I am too but there is a pang of guilt gnawing in me. Knowing that I am safe when they are not.

I hate myself because all I can do is empathize and be an ally, to donate what money I have and sign petitions online. Though I doubt that will change the systematic racism embedded in the nation, it is the only thing I can do right. That, and evaluate my own behavior.

As I write this at midnight, the self-hatred in my throat is bubbling. It has been for weeks. I cannot help but think that all of this is performative.


I hope I'm not the only one who feels this way. 

That perhaps this performance is all show and nothing I have done matters. What I do feels important but I question why it matters so much to me. If it is all for the good or the perception of good. There are days I can comment and retweet with my own ideas. Often haphazardly as I've come to understand.

My words are angry, they are mine. I can post things without thinking too - without intending to hurt but they do. I regret that the most. I can share, and post and call out whatever I feel like. I can get emotional, hollowed-out, and broken down in this fight. But the fact remains; this is not my fight. 

It never was. 

I am not black, I am not in America, I will never know the struggles of being black in America. What we are seeing online is only a snippet of the injustice. I am far away from it - that is an uncomfortable privilege. One I am learning to accept. 

Even if this world has become much darker, there is still light for me. The worst I've encountered do not weigh in comparison to the many underprivileged communities that deal with discrimination every day. My own experiences of racism don't matter because where I am now, it doesn't matter. 

As a Bruneian Muslim, I have privileges that many do not. The implicit biases, racism towards minorities, and anti-blackness in the community are subjects that we are slowly discussing now. I feel that's good. As an ally, what I can do with my privilege is to elevate their voices. Listen and never silence, even if it is born out of anger. Even if it is directed at me.



Racism is not a competition. 

If it were, the only winners are the oppressors. Asians have encountered an obscene amount of racism during - and before - the pandemic, Muslims are still attacked for their faith. In Brunei, minority groups being treated poorly by the many. All these things can exist at once, and we can still say, Black Lives Matter.

It does not, and cannot invalidate, the Black Lives Matter movement. 

It is urgent, it is here and it may change the world. 

Saying that #BlackLivesMatter shouldn't be controversial. Saying people with a platform must speak up shouldn't be controversial either. I regret the way I said it but I do not regret the context. Black boxes on a page don't matter if we don't educate ourselves and others too. To reach out and discuss in our lives in any way we can. 

I struggle every day with being enough, for a better society. I'm going to make mistakes as an ally and I definitely have. But what I will continue to advocate, for allies across the world, is to assess our own prejudices and internalized racism. An examination of what we are in the dark. 

In the dark, I am still a small Malay girl who is afraid of being too much or too little. Navigating new spaces while learning about racism in my own country from friends and others alike. I hope to learn something new every day, even if it's uncomfortable. 

Especially if it is uncomfortable.


All I can say now is that we must listen to the black voices that have been silenced for so long.  I ask that we, myself included, keep an open mind. I ask we continue to sign petitions, donate, and remember that their pain is not ours to keep.

If you'd like to donate, @AmaninaS is organizing a collective donation from Brunei to BLM protestors in Oakland/Bay Area. She will help distribute the funds to Peoples Breakfast Oakland, a black grassroots organization serving people in Oakland; bailing out Black folks across Alameda County, and Black Earth Farms, grassroots pan African & pan Indigenous farming collective; delivering free food to black folks affected by Oakland uprisings.

For more information, Pieces Project has a google doc filled with petitions, donations, and helpful content to educate ourselves. You can find it here.

I'm tired, I miss my Tigger, and thank you for reading.

With love,
Bash

#BlackLivesMatter.

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