A letter from our founder.
Hello again. Daryl here. I hope you’re all safe and well, difficult as that may be.
The atelier reopened this week. It’s not much, and we’re only still beginning to adapt how we work to this new normal in which human touch is risky and closeness is forbidden. But our artisans are doing well, and that’s really all you can ask for these days.
More importantly, we've reopened into a broken, uncertain world.
I’ve seen the video; we’ve all seen the video. We watched as George Floyd was killed in broad daylight, suffocating to death with a knee on his neck.
And all for what? The audacity to be born black, in a country where that fact is often a presumption of guilt, and a marker that denies its bearer certain rights all human beings should have.
The right to due process; to have grievances not just heard but also acted upon; to be able to work and live without the constant fear that the system is always just a step away from snatching away everything they hold dear — these are rights inaccessible to many black people in the United States. Black lives matter, but the society we’ve built tells us they do not.
And we see the same pattern repeating itself, over and over, for communities of colour all across the world. In Peru, and the Philippines, and in almost every other indigenous community we work with at the atelier, systemic racism and discrimination allows people of colour to be mercilessly exploited, both by companies and by their own governments.
They are seen not as human beings, but as assets to be moved around on a chessboard and discarded when unneeded — or worse, actively hunted down by the people who wield power over them.
Here too in Singapore, the racist way in which we treat our migrant workers is a source of constant shame. They sacrifice their personal freedoms and their lives to come over and build our schools, our roads, and our hospitals — and we reward them with cramped dormitories, appalling conditions, and violations of their labour rights.
And the rest of us continue to turn a blind eye while all this happens.
We have burned this way of life, this rot, so deeply into our systems that it has scarred our very thought processes. And all of us, collectively, as a society, are ultimately responsible for allowing these abuses to continue.
We write our social contracts in a way that does not respect the fundamental dignity of a human life.
It’s there in the way we expect people to be grateful that we’re providing them with a livelihood despite their disability, or saying they’re lucky to not be shot on sight.
It’s there in the way we systematically silence their voices, quashing dissent in an effort to maintain our already-warped status quo.
And it’s there in the attitudes we take, tolerating their existences but never welcoming them into our hearts.
Some of you might be wondering why it took so long for us to release a statement on this, when plenty of other, less activist brands have already done so. Shouldn’t Musubi have said something by now?
The truth is that I wrote this letter two weeks ago, and then I rewrote it again, and again, and again — getting simultaneously angrier and more depressed with each iteration, until I could not continue.
Does the state of the world fill you with a deep sadness? Does it sear your insides and fill your eyes with tears? Does it make you wonder why you bother to wake up in the mornings? Because I know it does me.
As a company, we’ve always been unabashedly naked about our activism. I make no apologies for our approach, which is by design.
I’m not interested in the kind of impact that fits neatly into the square frame of an Instagram post, or the character count of a single tweet. Fighting injustice is neither easy nor tidy, and performative acts of contrition don’t bring about real, lasting change.
Musubi has been set up from the very start not just to speak out about injustice, but to directly correct it. We have fought to help communities have their voices be heard, in as straightforward a manner as possible — so that they will be known for the depth of their culture and the beauty of their work, rather than being defined by their religion, or their disability, or the colour of their skin.
But whilst it’s nice to think that we’ve had some success in getting their voices out there, what’s currently happening is a slap in our faces and a reminder of our harsh, shared reality: that the hurt runs still deeper and we’ve barely even begun to fix the problem.
And I will freely admit that the work is tiring, and draining, and rarely gets better. Folks who know me will attest that I often describe our impact as akin to pissing into the ocean, for all the good that it does.
But there’s no giving up, and no staying silent — because if we do, then we’ve already lost.
So, as a society, we’ll take the time to grieve, and to listen — because that’s important to the memory of the people we’re trying to remember. And then, when we’re ready, we’ll take the concrete steps necessary to rewrite the terms of our collective social contract and bring about a better tomorrow.
We’ll volunteer at our local shelters. We’ll make financial contributions to charities supporting marginalised peoples and fighting for justice in our local communities. We’ll speak up at work when our colleagues have to face down discrimination and harassment. We’ll stare our collective oblivion down, right in the eye, and say the words, “I refuse.”
Because, when it comes down to it — what else is there?
Whatever you decide to do, I challenge you to make real changes in your life.
I challenge you to demonstrate the depth of your commitment towards realising a world in which tomorrow is less pathetic than today.
I challenge you to be a candle in the dark.
Stay safe out there, everyone, and keep believing that change is possible. We’re going to have to dig very, very deep for this one, and find the strength we didn’t know we even had.
Not just to make things right — but to make them better.
on behalf of everyone here at Musubi