Shasha Ali
New Zealand

Being White

Being white
Is not about a colour
It's about the systematic washing
Of our minds, our emotional and intellectual capacity
Into a blanket of unstained neutralised default status t/c
We are all equal as humans, or a version of
We are all equal before the law
The manmade law, by the people
Who refuse to acknowledge that they operate
And manufacture the very invisibility of being

You see
Being white
Is not about a colour
Because here I am stained since birth
In what my Mother swears is due to her mistake of drinking Milo
Throughout my time in her womb
My mother, pure Javanese
Indonesian-looking like Chinese
The prized wife who is white in the world of my people
The constitutionalised native of Singapore
Who bathed me in talcum powder
To hide me to shame me to blame me to teach me how dirty
My skin is
My skin, the tint
Of my father, who creamed himself apologetically with Nivea day and night
Of my grandfather, who allied with the British soldiers in World War 2
Of my grandmother, who rampaged the streets with the ways of black magic
Trying to find a pathway out of the poverty and misery
Of being not white.

Tell me
What is it about being white
That makes you feel guilty
Surely it's not your fault that you are born in this day and age
And been passed on the legacy of past murders, rape and slavery
Just as much as
Surely it's not my fault
That I am born in this day and age, still brown,
Still bearing the debt of surviving in a world
Where you MUST speak English to get a paycheck
To pay for power, water and rent
And participate in the rationale of being a national of Asia
And not yet a citizen of the Aotearoa
And getting visas waivered in the States
Benefits of the industrialised aftermath
Of my people
Being fucked by the ruling Chinese government
That made Singapore the idolised first world nation
That rose out of the slums of
That bloody Third World.

I cannot ever be white
Even if I stupidly wanted to
I am always visibly
Charred and shaded
The marker of discrimination
And pain!
Your invisibility cloaks you
Wraps you
Warms you
Holds you alive

White People who reject being white
Somehow talk of transcending all colours
Seeing people as people, they say
Seeing cultures as cultures, they say
Seeing places as places, they say!
But can you not see!
The blood dripping off every person you touch
The tears streaming through every mountain and ocean you fly over
And every step you take across the border
Is our ancestors' spirit you shake
While we sleep awake.

Now tell me
If being white is not a colour
And I will rest
Where the lines are drawn
In your supposed solidarity
With me
And my people
Of colour.

Biography Shasha Ali
‘I am just living in my skin and making a home out of my body.’
Shasha is an indigenous Malay Singaporean activist based in Tamaki Makaurau. The former vocalist of defunct Asian punk band Melting Pot Massacre, she was also an advocacy spokesperson for national immigrant women’s NGO Shakti, on issues related to gender-based violence within ‘ethnic’ communities. Shasha believes decolonisation begins in our soul, and does what she can to express her politics through her writing, food and friendship.

P L E A S E stop telling me anymore
I hold so much history already
My backbone cannot take
The weight of all the blood
Sweat and tears
That have been washed by
Monsoon rains flooding villages
That no longer exist
My legs are breaking
From the running away
Of home after home after home
That you tried to build
To shelter me from your misery
My palmlines bleed
From the cracks of wombs
That refused to house a soul
To pump the veins of this
So-called women's movement
A movement
That has been parked
Like an unmetered unlicensed taxi
Broken in and making no money
From a generation of youth
That is saying

I have no more hands
To hold these books you've written
For us
I have run out of galleries
To frame these photographs
You posed in
For us
And my hair is too short
To pull and braid in the weaves
Of your revolution
And definitely not long enough
To tie these in
With theirs.
My struggle now is to keep up
With all these youngsters
Who want me to listen to their
Who need me to be silent in
Their spaces
And earn
Their respect
It is their time now to speak
It is their lives to lead
They fight for rights
That was simply not enough
That was simply not good enough
From you.

They are going to be okay
That is what I have been told to
To you.
So please stop telling me
What I have to do
It is too much for me
To carry through
To them
For you.
Dear Mothers of Women of Colour
The Island - Rosie Whinray - 2015