Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, Everyone!
Full photo set here.
Full photo set here.
Rape and sexual assault are terrifyingly common. There isn’t a woman alive who has not had the fear of rape and assault instilled in her. When it happens to you, it is hard to know where to turn for support.
In Singapore there is only one organization dedicated to supporting victims of rape and sexual assault–SACC (Sexual Assault Care Centre). Right now SACC needs our help to raise enough money to build a drop in centre, and the Singaporean government is willing to match our donations dollar for dollar. Please join me in supporting SACC with your donations.
SACC provides the following specialised services to support victims and survivors of sexual assault.
- Drop-in centre - On Monday-Friday, from 10am to 7pm, SACC will provide a safe space where you can immediately consult an on-site social worker and receive counselling, without any prior appointment.
- Helpline support – Call 6779 0282 to speak to a trained volunteer and receive support through the phone. You can also make an appointment to see a social worker or counsellor for further help. The helpline runs Monday-Friday, from 10am till midnight.
- Email support is provided on a daily basis. Write to email@example.com Emails are monitored every few hours.
- Befriender Service – Trained befrienders will accompany you to the police, the hospital or to court to report and follow your sexual assault case, providing information and emotional support through the various legal and medical processes. Contact the helpline or email to ask for a Befriender.
- Counselling and Case Management – Many sexual assault survivors find it helpful to talk to a counsellor. AWARE’s counsellors have the experience and sensitivity needed to support sexual assault victims. They will provide follow-up care counselling to victims of sexual assault. All support is provided on a strictly confidential basis. The cost of counselling is 1% of your monthly salary per session, at a minimum charge of $10 per session for those not working.Counselling is conducted at AWARE’s office on weekdays. Call the SACC Helpline or email us to ask for counselling support.
- Legal advice – Call us to make an appointment with an experienced lawyer to explore your legal options.
more info here
All donations of $50 or more are eligible for 2.5 tax exemption in Singapore.
We need to provide you with a tax-exemption receipt for you to claim this relief when filing your taxes next year. If you would like this receipt, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, Singapore IC number and address, and we will mail you the receipt.
August 19th–I was sitting at my laptop when Elanor came over, dressed in her gymnastics uniform. I glanced up, half hoping I could finish my tweet or my facebook comment–or whatever it was I was doing–before she was ready to leave.
“Am I black or white?”
I looked up at her. “What?”
“Am I black or white?”
I’m not ready for this conversation. I thought it would be years from now. Fuck. I have to talk about racism. How do I–as a white parent–explain race and racism to a five year old biracial child? Shouldn’t Ravi be the one to do this? Why isn’t Ravi here? Do I mention Ferguson? If we were in the US I’d have taken her to Ferguson rallies. What about the “no indians/no prcs” in the rental market in Singapore? The Little India riot? I don’t know what to say. I’m not ready.
All of this flashes through my mind as I try to come up with an answer.
“Well, you’re not black. Your dad is Indian and I’m White–so you’re biracial.”
“So am I Indian or am I White?”
Please let that be enough. Let her be happy with that answer. Give me time to figure out what to say next. To talk to Ravi, to P, to other non-white friends and ask for help.
I’ll spare you the full conversation. But it was deep, and it was hard, and I was brutally aware of my white privilege for every last second.
I read Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman at some point in the last year. They discuss (among other things) research that has been done into how white parents do and don’t talk about race. The following quotes are all from Chapter 3.
“…Hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. They might have asserted vague principles in the home–like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin we’re all the same”–but they had almost never called attention to racial differences.
They wanted their children to grow up color-blind. But Vittrup could also see from her first test of the kids that they weren’t color-blind at all.
More disturbingly, Vittrup had also asked all the kinds a very blunt question: “Do your parents like black people.” If the white parents never talked about race explicitly, did the kids knwo that their parents liked black people? Apparently not: 14% said, outright, “No, my parents don’t like black people”; 38% of the kids answered “I don’t know.”
In this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions–many of which would be abhorrent to their parents.
Combing through the parents’ study diaries, Vittrup noticed an aberration. When she’d given the parents the checklist of race topics to discuss with their kindergartners, she had also asked them to record whether this had been a meaningful interaction. Did the parents merely mention the item on the checklist? Did they expand on the checklist item? Did it lead to true discussion?
Almost all the parents reported merely mentioning the checklist items, briefly, in passing. Many just couldn’t talk about race, and they quickly reverted to the vague “Everybody’s equal” phrasing.
The other deeply held assumption modern parents have is what Ashley and I have come to call the Diverse Environment theory. If you raise a child with a fair amount of exposure to people of other races and cultures, the environment becomes the message. You don’t have to talk about race–in fact it’s better not to talk about race. Just expose the child to diverse environments and he’ll think it’s entirely normal.
I have talked to Elanor about racism before. But the more I thought about it, the more I realize I’ve presented it as something that was in the past. It used to be against the law for Mommy and Daddy to be married because we have different skin colors. Before Martin Luther King, black kids couldn’t go to school with white kids. A really long time ago white people thought it was okay to own black people. Our interracial marriage is legal. Kids of different colors go to school together. Slavery is over.
I don’t believe we–the US, Singapore, the world–are post racial. But I haven’t been ready to tell that to my five year old.
Recently I said to a friend that before I could talk about privilege, I need to point out the ‘isms. I’m comfortable talking with Elanor about sexism and heterosexism. Unintentionally, I’ve not brought racism to her attention. I never mentioned the Little India riot last December because we were in the US and I could shelter her from it. I haven’t talked about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri because we’re in Singapore and I can shelter her from it. Racism has been the elephant in the room.
Fortunately (?) I had two examples to share with Elanor about how people make assumptions based on race from the finalization of our PR status at the ICA.
When we got the paperwork with the details that will appear on our identification, we found two errors.
Ravi’s language was listed as Gujurati.—He doesn’t speak it, at all.
My religion was listed as Christian.—I am an Atheist.
Both errors were clearly the attendant’s assumptions. The paperwork that was sitting right in front of them clearly stated that Ravi’s primary and only language is English and that I am an atheist. I know this because I’m the person who has filled it out. The file is over an inch thick, and every last line about language specifies English and religion specifies Atheist.
I looked at everyone’s paperwork. Ravi–Free Thinker (closest thing to Atheist here, apparently). Elanor–Free Thinker. Rhiannon–Free Thinker. Me–Christian.
I look again to see if Ravi’s was the only error in language.. Me-English. Elanor-English. Rhiannon-English. Ravi–Gujarati.
I pointed out the errors to the attendant and had her fix the paperwork before I signed for myself and the girls, and called Ravi over to sign his form. End of story. I never thought that the attendant was pursuing a negative agenda–they just filled out the forms without thinking. White person? Christian–after all, most are. Indian of Gujarati heritage–must obviously speak Gujurati because most do.
Ravi and I discussed the incident quietly while the girls were singing along to Frozen in the backseat after our appointment. But it was a very short conversation that can be boiled down to “Well, that was racist on their part. Shrug. Sigh.” Then we moved on to what was I going to cook for dinner, and what was the game plan for the upcoming weekend–did we have plans yet? Neither of us mentioned it to the girls.
Today I shared those microagresions with Elanor–an illustration that even though we want to live in a world where everyone is treated the same, people still make assumptions based on skin color. Sometimes those assumptions are irritating but not dangerous, and other times they can hurt people–a lot. I didn’t get into Ferguson, although if the drive had been longer, I might have.
I taught Elanor one of the most important lessons I feel I can impart to her–to answer the question “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” with Why do you want to know?
I told her that people will want to ask her this question because they can’t immediately put her in a racial box. That sometimes it will be a relevant question–maybe if she’s talking to someone about India or she’s talking about her family’s history or something like that–and if she’s comfortable, she’s free to share. But that other times–MOST OF THE TIME–it will be totally irrelevant to the conversation, and she should ask them that. That she is allowed to say “I’m not going to discuss that with you,” or “I don’t think you need to know that,” or to keep asking Why do you want to know?
Ellie kept asking about colors–about what she was.
I showed her a picture of President Obama. I told her that like her–his mom is white. That his dad is black, and hers is Indian. Her response was “He’s so cute!” which is Elanor-speak for “I like him because I can identify with him.”
She asked again if her dad was black. I reluctantly used the word brown, but said that we don’t use that word–we identify with ethnicity. That Latinos, Indians, and many South-East Asians are similarly shades of brown. That her dad is Indian.
“What am I?”
I give her options–that she can identify as biracial, as white, as indian, as eurasian (explaining what eurasian means), as mixed. That it’s partially up to her.
“I’m going to say I’m Indian,” she tells me. I’m not shocked, as she has a strong connection to her Indian heritage.
In that moment, though, I was thinking about Rhiannon, who is so light skinned she is assumed to be white. While Rhi has the option of identifying as Indian, I wonder if she will. As Paula commented on the National Identity post “I can relate to R and her potential issues of being half Indian (for me Native American) but looking more Caucasian and how that can make you feel a bit of a disconnect from the rest of the family who are “darker”. Its insulting and disheartening when you are viewed as “not native enough” by those outside of the family because of it.”
I am very lucky to have a supportive network of friends that cross all sorts of lines–class, religion, education, background, sexuality, and race. I try to be aware of my privilege. I try to address racism when I encounter it. I consider myself an activist (although more in the realm of feminist and LGBT issues). Yet, like those parents in Nuture Shock, I am uncomfortable talking about these issues with a five year old. If she were a 10/11/12 year old like the ones I used to teach, or older, I could do this so much more easily. My five year old who is currently asleep and eager to check her tooth box in the morning to see if the tooth fairy came? I wish I could fall back on “Everybody’s equal.” But I don’t have that luxury.
Much like national identity this will also be an ongoing journey of identity and discovery for Elanor, racial identity will be a long term journey for Elanor. How will she identify? How will she handle all those inquests about her racial background because she looks exotic? What sort of racism will she encounter in Singapore? What sort of racism will she encounter in the US? How will she deal with it? How different a journey through these identity issues will her sister have? What will these conversations look like in a year, in five, in ten?
In the end, all the discussions I have had/continue to have about race, the reading, the listening, the learning? I still feel unprepared and lacking confidence when talking about race/racism with Elanor. But I’m going to have the conversations anyway.
So before Emily and her family left Singapore, we got the kids together for a few last playdates.
Do you guys remember this shot from July 2010?
We miss you guys already.
**spoiler alert** I’ll discuss some of the plot of the show as compared to the movie, so spoilers for both.
I’m a huge Broadway/Musical nerd, but I’m also a bit of a snob. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of the “jukebox musical”–a musical built around the music of a specific group (“Jersey Boys”–Frankie Valley and the The Four Seasons, “Mamma Mia”–Abba, “American Idiot”–Greenday, etc). Sometimes the plot is specifically about the artist or the music–“Motown:The Musical” was written by Berry Gordy about his experience creating and building the Motown record label. Other times the plot is an excuse to hold together the music that the creators wanted to highlight, such as “Rock of Ages.” I don’t particularly like jukebox musicals, and as a rule I mostly avoid them.
However, I have a weak spot for 80’s rock. I grew up singing along to Whitesnake, Poison, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, and so forth, so Rock of Ages is live version of an awesome mix tape. I managed to resist the every-so-tempting lure of “Rock of Ages,” even when Bret Michaels from Poison was performing. I lost the battle when the movie was announced with Tom Cruise as Stacie Jaxx. That was just brilliant casting. And I will confess that while the opening notes of Phantom of the Opera’s Overture make me tingle, I would also love to go to a rock show at the Bourbon Room.
When I saw that Rock of Ages was playing at RWS, I decided that the time had come to pony up some Broadway cash for a jukebox musical.
I entered the show with only the movie for reference. Unsurprisingly, the stage and screen versions are two different shows. What works on stage–such as having Lonny Barnett narrating the show and constantly breaking the fourth wall–wouldn’t have translated to film.
I felt very quickly disoriented as the villain of the stage show is a German land developer named Hertz Klinemann and his son Fritz, rather than the Mayor’s bible thumping wife Patricia Whitemore. There is a grassroots organizer named Regina (“rhymes with vagina”) fighting to keep Klinemann from ripping down the strip and putting up a Foot Locker among other things.
There are some musical changes as well. For example while Def Leppard opened their catalog to the movie, allowing us to see Tom Cruise sing “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (if you’ve never seen it, here’s a link), they have not given the same permission to the stage show.
I don’t want to give too much away, because if you’re discovering Rock of Ages for the first time, or if you’re fellow movie fan, I want you to enjoy the show without me spoiling all of it. If you want a more in-depth analysis/spoilers of the changes, read this.
Your experience of Rock of Ages is all about the attitude you enter the theater with. Personally, I pulled out my jean skirt and paired it with a black top and knee high black boots and used a heavy hand with my eyeliner. I entered the theater ready to rock out and laugh. So I had a blast. Do you love 80’s rock? Laugh at raunchy jokes? Not mind the music turned up to 11? You’ll love it.
The stand out performer by far is Justin Colombo, who plays Lonny Barnett. Colombo’s comedic timing is a thing of beauty. He doesn’t just connect with the audience–he flirts with it. Within five minutes we were eating out of the palm of his hand. It’s so clear he’s loving this role, and if last night was any indication, he’s nailing it.
Vocally, Dominique Scott as Drew and Kadejah Onè as Justice knock it out of the park.
The book is absolutely the weakest part of “Rock of Ages.” The music is killer–which is why they built the show around it. But, as I’ve already said, the issue with jukebox musicals is that the plot is flimsy. In the case of Rock of Ages the dialogue is painful at times. There’s nothing about the stage version of Sherrie that makes me care about or root about her, and her lines are some of the worst in the show. Shannon Mullen is clearly talented, but she’s limited by the part. Making Sherrie sympathetic is one of things the movie does far better than the stage.
Rock of Ages is not a must see show, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. If you have a free night between now and August 24th and you miss acid washed denim, you should go order your tickets now.
**Sistic specifically says that kids under 13 will not be admitted. I saw some children in the audience that were much younger than that, so it wasn’t getting enforced. That said, this isn’t a kid-friendly show, so my advice is to leave them with a sitter. Who wants to be reminded that you’re a mom/dad when you’re there to rock?**
Two years ago, Elanor often identified purely as Singaporean or Indian, so we began to explain that she is American. Not in a “here is our flag, learn the pledge, sing patriotic songs, learn the composition of congress” way, but reinforcing that while home is Singapore, HOME is the US. Over the past year, she has begun to say “I’m half American, half Indian, and half Singaporean,” which is so damn cute I can’t bring myself to correct her fractions. My impression, though, is that she was very comfortable in her identity.
I always expected that we’d have discussions about identity and confusion and other typical third culture kids concerns at some point down the road.
We sat down to watch the National Day Parade last weekend on television, and over the course of the program, I watched Elanor get very twisted up over identity.
“We are all Singaporean” “But I’m American”
She had a difficult time with the constant repetition of “we are Singapore.” Obviously as an adult, I can understand that of course it’s going to be full of nationalistic rhetoric. Every time I end up at an American hosted event like Toys for Tots, I get a dose of nationalism as well. Separating rhetoric from fact is a skill that many of us learn over the years. But at five, Elanor is still quite literal and it’s tough for her.
“This is your president, Mr. Tony Tan” “But he’s not my president, is he?”
The idea that yes, Tony Tan is her president because she lives in Singapore, but that Barack Obama is also her president even though she doesn’t live in the US is something she is still processing. I was listening to an NPR (national public radio from the US) podcast in the car, and they referenced Obama. Elanor piped up with “YAY! Obama is my president.”
Worth noting–she couldn’t identify Obama if I lined up a bunch of pictures.
Does that mean Elanor is rejecting Singapore? Or that she no longer thinks of herself as Singaporean? No.
When it came time to say the pledge, Elanor stood up and tried to say it. They have been learning it in school, but she couldn’t remember all the words. She also knew the song Majulah Singapura (the SG national anthem) but not the words. Singapore is still very much her home.
Ravi and I are taking this for what it is…her way of expressing her confusion. Those discussions we thought were months or years down the road are here right now, and they’re going to be present for years to come. In January E will start Primary 1 at a local school. Every morning as part of the morning assembly, they raise the flag and say the pledge and so forth. She will need to decide for herself if she wants to say it (which she may, and I have no issues with) or if she’ll stand quietly and politely instead. We can’t decide for her–ultimately it’s her life and her choice. It might feel really uncomfortable to be the only kid in a class of 30 who doesn’t say the pledge, and she may want to say it to fit in. Or she may decide not to because she’s choosing to identify more strongly as an American.
Right now Ellie is also struggling because we’re not going back to the US this year. It’s been 8 months since she has seen her grandparents or her friends (apart from facebook and Skype). In the past she didn’t have this active sense of loss because she was too young to have it, and she’d often forget even going in between trips. December 13/Jan 14 is very recent, and she has very strong memories of playing with her cousins, building snowmen, going to NYC, spending time with friends and family…and she misses them. Being told that our next trip to the US is next June at the earliest (school holidays) is hard on her. I get it. To be totally honest, I’ve been missing the US, too of late. But for me it’s more of a “I wish I could be at my friend’s birthday party physically instead of via Skype” or “I’m really craving some food I can’t get here” or “I want to go to Target.” Unlike E, though, I have perspective and I know that the homesickness will pass. I understand that our calendar is just full of commitments between now and next June, and that sometimes we have to be practical even if the choices make us sad.
As a biracial third culture kid, identity is going to be something E will wrestle for years to come. Her people are from Mumbai and Gujurat, but also have been in the US for almost 400 years. She’s half gujuarati, but her second language is Mandarin instead of Gujurati or Hindi. She’s half caucasian, but her sister is the one who can pass for white. (And in Rhi’s case, she’s half Indian and looks caucasian.) She speaks a hybrid of Singaporean and American English with a Singaporean accent–she gets annoyed that I say “herb” the American way (erb) or that I say aych instead of haitch when I’m referencing the letter h. And on and on and on.
What Ravi and I can do is answer her questions. Ellie and I have been reading books from the “American Girls” series, which is giving her a connection to the US. I keep meaning to show her a picture of Barack Obama online. She’ll visit the US plenty over the years. We’ll support her, and help her in her journey to figure out who she is as best we can. And when it’s appropriate, we’ll also keep our mouths closed. The rest will sort itself out over time.
Filed under: Assimilation, Holidays, Identity, Singapore | Tagged: american expat in singapore, biracial, expat bostonians, expat life, identity, singapore vs american identity, third culture kids | 5 Comments »