Over winter break, while travelling outside of Boston and Singapore, someone tried to rob me.
Statistically speaking, this was bound to happen at some point in time, but numerical probability is fairly different from someone trying to choke you while simultaneously trying to grab both your phone and bag. (In hindsight, this was probably a benefit to me; maintaining those three points of contact must have been hard)
Before anyone freaks out, I am physically fine, with my belongings intact. While being shaken (not stirred) I managed to push him off, and he left me alone after that. And while I am joking about it, I also recognize that if he had a knife or a gun the whole encounter would have gone by very differently, and I could very well be dead or seriously injured right now.
I don't, however, begrudge him particularly for having tried to rob me, though I do wonder why he gave up so fast. Instead, after yelling "Kan" at him, I stared furiously at every single person around me, standing mute as statues, each looking at me and none helping. No one had moved to help me fend him off; each continued to stare at me after, while moving away, as if I was some kind of free art exhibit roaming the streets that had suddenly turned on them.
I begrudge, although perhaps I should thank, every single person who had hollered out "Chino, Chino!" and "Ni Hao!" and "Japonesa", with a special shout out to the two policemen who jeered "Chinito, Chinito quiere?", who made me constantly hyperaware of my surroundings and the possibility of physical harassment. I begrudge having been some kind of racial exhibit, some kind of mystery to be decoded.
And I especially begrudge the system that failed people, both there and worldwide; I am angry for the woman I saw who had to get water out of the drain and gutter, for the people who are pushed into crime to survive, for the ones who cannot get jobs to live.
And I am angry because this doesn't just happen in random country X, far far away; this happened to Amos Yee and Devaki Nadarajan, both harassed in Singapore while people stood by mutely. These slurs happen to people in America on a daily basis, where personhood is reduced to race and all you are is an exhibit of colour, to be watched for amusement. And in every single country, people are being swept under the carpet, left to fend for themselves, because some system has decided it has done "enough" for them.
I am incensed because at the end of the day, someone trying to rob me isn't anything special, wherever I am in the world; people standing by, refusing to help, isn't out of the ordinary. Reducing people to their race, cajoling them, and passing it off as harmless fun is normalized; people being poor and hungry and desperate is a given.
And so I refuse to externalize this to some other country and say I am blessed to be from Singapore; I equally refuse to shrug this off and say it's a part and parcel of life. I am angry, and I will continue to be angry, and I will continue to work until I die to change these things, because somewhere somehow there is a better world than this and I refuse to not find it.