So, I endeavor to apologize genuinely when I have, unintentionally or otherwise, caused harm to people through actions or ignorance. While I do try for respect for fellow human beings, and also trying to gradually work on social justice related work now, there had been times I was not on board with it. Other times, I have been part of the problem, even if unintentionally. Here I am, coming clean about it.
Years ago, I was not the person I am now. In that time, I have made mistakes that, while had no malicious intent, came from a place of shortsightedness, ignorance, or bad information or misrepresented information. To that end, I want to address several things that have come to mind.
For anyone who had been around me when my trauma was freshest: I apologize for thinking the worst and seeing the worst, and acting defensively and hypervigilant. While I can honestly say no harm was intended, it did not mean harm did not come from my actions. I needed to get help, and help I went to get. Ever since I had worked on better coping mechanisms, and while recovery is not so easy and cut, I am at a place to say I actively work on making sure I do better. No excuses here. I will save the details for therapy otherwise.
I also apologize for the times I exhibited ignorance when learning about South Asian Religion, which I was learning out of a place of genuine love. There is much I had to learn when I was at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Just as I had accidentally hurt people I love, I have done the same for my other loves.
One particular situation that has stuck out to me was when I was researching what people did during Shivaratri. I cannot find the original slide presentations to be specific so I will say what I remember. Something I said during the presentation triggered the idea of people drinking alcohol during the time. While I may have known some practicing Hindus who did, in hindsight, I was thankful that someone in the audience corrected me because it is more traditional to drink bhang (bhah-ng), which is not made with alcohol at all. Fortunately, it was in familiar enough company that I could own to that misunderstanding there, and clarify that many Hindus did not drink alcohol. In an ideal world, it would not have been a misunderstanding at all. I felt I was supposed to have known better, having considered myself a practitioner of Hinduism at the time it happened — albeit almost exclusively Goddess-worshiping, so less informed of some holidays than I wanted to be.
Nonetheless, I now want to own up to that mistake and to do better in the future. It verges close to the realm of cultural appropriation/misappropriation now that I am learning more about this angle of postcolonial studies. Because there is a debate on whether one can be a Hindu to start if they come from a non-Indian background, I have also been less inclined to call myself one, out of respect. Though there are Southeast Asian identified Hindu groups in Asia that are not from Indian families, I still want to respect the nuances in the debate. The fact Hinduism as a term has been heavily debated etymologically further reinforces this for me. With anyone who identifies as Hindu ever since my presentation mistake, when my academic background comes up, I am very transparent with them on having made these mistakes and express my regret. Since I engage people digitally in this blog, though, I also want to give the same respect.
Being Multiracial, I know how too well it can be when people get something wrong and painful, especially when it does a lot of damage, emotionally or socially; I recognize I also dealt with far less of this compared to people who are not White-POC Multiracials. I hope the way I handled my feedback in the presentation will have corrected any damage it might have caused, but there are so many cases where considerable damage has been done by the dynamics that led to my mistake. Colonialism is a disease, and all of us have been made ignorant because of the information produced from it, whether we benefit from the system, only partly benefit from it, or are negatively impacted without benefit. Not even the most careful scholars are immune to its influences, which is in part what has fueled distrust of scholars (with reason). Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read this part of the apology. I also especially thank everyone who has forgiven me for this snafu.
I also want to take time to apologize to anyone who I did not stand up for when I should have. This is especially for people from my own community. I generally try to stand, but I know there had been cases I did not because of my own fear of my safety. Prior to this time, I did not because I was still bought into our oppressive system’s dynamics, and now I am trying to make amends for that. This not having done anything has happened locally and also a few times in the digital space, which has become increasingly dangerous. I took my passing ethnically ambiguous privilege for granted, and I am less for it. This will be challenged as I proceed into the year. I will also keep learning how I can do different, as the power imbalances are that embedded.
I want to do better. Since this past year has happened, I have done my part to, if I cannot directly “say” something, then I do something to help. It is a start, but I have much, much more work to do.
People I have lost touch with but loved them, I am sorry. I have tried to get into the accounts where I could be in touch with you and so much time and things had passed, that I do not remember them anymore. I hope we one day can meet and have pleasant conversations. During those times, I was trying to get away from some cyberbullies, and I may have accidentally lost touch with people I loved, too. If I cannot find you all again, I will think fondly of you in my thoughts and prayers, and hope they do a little something good. I miss those times we could hang out.
This 2019, I am going to do better. If I must make a similar blog post in 2020, so be it. I want to start with doing a little more to be a better person, even if I must be called out a few times on the way.