Thursday, June 4 – Hip Hop, Deep Thoughts and Black Lives Matter

By Masia One ORCHARD ROAD, SINGAPORE

I want to address and de-construct a common perspective that has come up with my Asian friends, namely: #AllLivesMatter. Yes, All Lives Matter. Yes, it’s not just about “Black vs. White – it’s everyone vs. racists.” These sentiments come from the most open-hearted of my friends, who embrace all cultures, who cried when they watched videos of police brutality and who are outspoken about racism in their local communities. I love you all, I feel you, and I used to be in the same mindset. Not long ago, I got into a Facebook argument on Rosina Kazi’s page after there was an open criticism of Lilly Singh (IISuperwomanII) appropriating black culture without giving back to the people she took from. I proposed that she grew up in Brampton, Ontario, where Black slang and style is thrown around on the daily. Certainly, that influence is a part of her and not appropriation? My intent was to prove that, at the very least, it came from a natural progression, and perhaps people should teach her rather than condemn her. I received an onslaught of angry criticism in response to accusations that I was “anti-black,” “a problem,” and a “culture vulture.” I was taken aback, thinking that such threads would give room for conversations and not immediate attacks. I was defensive because my intent was pure.

I realize now that my intent matters a lot less in the face of the pain, abuse, and injustice that has been faced by the people critiquing me – because it’s not about me. Sometimes the best way to learn is to shut up, listen, understand, and correct misconceptions. Black Lives Matter is NOT a term of confrontation or an exclusionary demand – it is aspirational. In other words, stating “black lives matter” does not insinuate other lives don’t matter. It is a rallying cry for a shift in statistical numbers that prove beyond a reason of doubt that black people are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed than a white individual. There is systemic racism inbuilt into our communities given to a privileged whiteness that doesn’t provide the same level of safety to “people of color.” Prove it? The systems set in place to protect police officers, doctors, elected officials, the elite, and the wealthy do not reflect the same level of privilege and safety for those facing police brutality, health care, racism, and mass incarceration. Just take a scroll on IG and see the diversification of posts: people protesting in the streets for their right to LIVE, contrasted by Asian media creating bedroom lewks cause it’s sooo hard to be at home.

I was an immigrant moving to an all-white neighborhood in Canada, and I did face racist taunts of “chink,” “learn to speak English” (although I spoke fluent English from the time I was born), and worse when I entered the music industry as a female Asian rapper. But I can tell you, I’ve never had a gun held to my head by a police officer because of the color of my skin, or had family wrongfully sent to jail for their melanin. We are privileged whether we like it or not, our skin color gives us more privilege than we realize. I haven’t even touched on the generational hurt and pain from slavery, KKK, segregation… I have the longest-running career of any Singaporean as a Hip-hop artist, bar none. Hip-hop is my life story, and even so, I am a guest in the house that black lives built.

From these lessons learned, I represent myself as the #FarEastEmpress to reclaiming my crown from the colonizer and, more importantly, to remind my fellow Southeast Asians brown, yellow, black, rojak – that we are royalty. Part of reclaiming the throne is facing some hard and uncomfortable truths that we speak from privilege and can correct our misconceptions. Perhaps it’s the geographical distance, but I ask this Far East Kingdom to go deeper than that place of discomfort and really think what it would feel like to be KILLED (not made fun of) for the color of your skin. As a Singaporean, I support Black Lives Matter.

Masia One