The Race Against Intolerance: One Woman’s Crusade to Out-Run Prejudice!
Some people run to banish stress. Others stay fit by investing in running shoes rather than expensive equipment. Serious runners develop a passion for the sport and, when that passion is borne of living in a world with too much prejudice and hatred, well, that's one of the best reasons of all to run. Meet Venice Ng Shi Si. She's a woman on a mission. Distance? Check. Heart rate? Excellent. Her inspiring mission? Change the world, one footfall at a time. Once you read her story, you'll want to run alongside her!
Q: How did you get the charity running bug?
Venice (laughs): Easy. My boyfriend/running buddy knew I was devoted to finding ways to combat the evils of racism and prejudice so, when he suggested that I power up my mission by running marathons with him for charity back in 2013, he didn't have to make the suggestion twice.
Q: So, did you actually make a pact to merge your anti-racism crusade with running?
Venice: We did. No linked pinkies or oaths. Just our pledge to use charity races as a conduit for good. We have a lot in common. We both believe it's a privilege to run, particularly since some people yearn to run but can't due to their physical limitations/restrictions. In such cases, we're their legs; their surrogates. If we start feeling like we must slow down, stop running and start walking, we say,
"Wait! Others are counting on us."
Sure, it's a mental challenge, but what great accomplishment isn't? And the two of us don't always run alone. We hope to work with more different beneficiaries and complete races with them so, when we cross the finish line together, it's amazing. We've all got grins from ear to ear!
Q: You're from Singapore. Be honest, do you think Singaporeans do everything they can to support charitable marathons?
Venice: From my viewpoint, they could do more. I think some of them may be skeptical about donating to charity when it comes to monetary value. On the other hand, I feel the people of Singapore are becoming more empathetic and help up local or overseas charity causes. I'm beginning to sort out the types of people who donate to charity races I run. Some people have their preferences. Some will financially support a race benefiting a child or the elderly, for example. I always look for the empathy that I know exists in people and I help them see how important it is to financially assist people who aren't as fortunate.
Q: The topics of marathon running and racism couldn't be more diverse, but you have a bird's eye view on the topic. What are your views on racism in Singapore?
Venice: I'm always forthright about the racism issue. After all, my efforts to call attention to prejudice occupy my waking hours! Yes, there are social stigmas tied to race issues. Skin colour cannot be hidden, yet feelings and hatred can be hidden, which is why this is such an insidious problem. Do not get me started on the assumptions people make just because someone's skin colour is different, which can lead to stereotyping. I race to send a powerful message. I speak out. I call people on their words, especially when they make fun of other cultures. I believe we can change the world one person at a time or, in my case, one good pair of running shoes at a time!
Q: You speak so convincingly. Is this personal for you?
Venice: In the most perfect of worlds, I hope someday to say that my experience with racism is so far in the past I can barely recall it, but I'm not there yet. I was victimized by racism. There's no easy way to state that. As a bi-racial child, a Chindian, it was difficult growing up in a Chinese family with dark skin. I was cruelly called "maid" in public. Sometimes, I was so frightened, I kept quiet. These days, I cannot imagine letting anyone verbally abuse me, whether the person does it in English, Chinese, or Hokkien! I'm not perfect. Sometimes, I let unkind comments pass because I am tired or cannot deal with conflict but, usually, I am ready to stand up for myself.
Q: You've got your running shoes and running platform. Sounds like you believe you can bring people together by merging the two.
Venice: You bet. When I run for a charity, people come together—if only because they are cheering for me! In addition, I am not the only person committed to being an agent of change. Many dedicated people are doing all they can to make the beneficiaries of their charitable runs successful while they broadcast their anti-hate philosophy. As a bonus, we experience the joy and fulfillment of crossing finish lines carrying that message of helping someone in need and bringing smiles to their faces.
Q: You sound hopeful. Do you believe racial harmony is important in Singapore?
Venice: I do and I'll tell you why. A lot of the old bigotry and racism is old school. Young people learn racial harmony in primary and secondary school. Imagine little girls playing dress-up in traditional costumes. How can you hate someone when you see their heart and become their friend? Translate that to the competitive world of marathons. I run with people of all races and creeds. Together. We train together. We share fitness tips. We celebrate each other's wins. If Singaporeans could experience the bond we runners feel toward each other, our National Pledge, "Regardless of race, language and religion," would be more than words. It would be reality!
Q: Is there something you would like to say to victims of racism?
Venice: I'd like to assure victims that they're not alone, and they can fight back, not with fists or words but by refusing to accept verbal abuse. Walk away. Whether someone makes fun of you or says unkind things, you do not have to listen. Walk away. Do it enough times and you will feel proud of yourself. Trust me; I've been there. I had to develop a strong backbone. When I refused to be victimized, people started respecting me; some are even in awe of me! Fighting prejudice is not easy, but maybe you could think of it as running a marathon. Keep running. Keep your head high. Leave people who say awful things about you in your wake. And never give up until you reach the finish line. Never.
When it comes to inspiring others, Venice Ng is in a class of her own. She not only uses her personal history and profile to fight injustice but has also found a healthy way to advocate on behalf of people who cannot speak for themselves: she runs races that end with many winners. Want to emulate this courageous woman? You can!
Take part in this year Orange Ribbon Run and show support for the cause to promote racial and religious harmony with the philosophy of respect, understanding, trust and friendship.
Choose any combination of actions: run marathons, support charities, speak out against racism, teach others to be tolerant, and look for opportunities to undertake acts and deeds that show the world you believe in a future of tolerance and love. Chances are, once you start running the good race, you will not ever want to stop!
Wish to show your support for Venice Ng and do more for charity? You can donate and help raise fund for a cause at SimplyGiving.com/edilovenice. You can also check out her Facebook page at @edilovenice for any of the latest charitable activities she may have embarked on.