Tsomo’s Speech at the Tibetan solidarity rally for HHDL in Toronto 4/26/2023
Tsomo is from Tibetan Women’s Association of Ontario. The following is a speech she gave at the Tibetan Protest against disinformation on the Dalai Lama in Tornoto, Canada.
To my fellow Tibetans, what I am going to share today will trigger some of you and I am sorry. But we know all too well as a people who have endured seven decades of colonial dispossession and displacement in Tibet and in exile, that we have no choice but to be resilient and resist.
For non-Tibetans who are outsiders to our community and culture, and who don’t understand why the past two weeks have been so traumatic for us, I want to share few things we experienced and are experiencing as a collective:
As we saw the global media cover a heavily-edited clip, manipulated for click-bait headlines and stripped of cultural and contextual considerations, Tibetans witnessed a violence that was both familiar and new.
When the world rushed to pronounce that interaction between His Holiness and the young Indian boy was motivated by harm, it was not only an attack on His Holiness and his life-long legacy of spreading and practicing his messages of love, compassion and world peace, it was also an attack on our way of being in this world.
In great distress, we had to justify our way of being. That as Tibetans, what we saw in that interaction is a familiar affectionate behavior between young kids and grandparent figure in our culture and community.
Those who were unconvinced by the cultural context of this interaction, they asked us for evidence. As if it’s too audacious for Tibetans to be trusted on to speak about the Tibetan culture.
Those who were convinced by the cultural context, yet applied their foreign lens on Tibetan culture and declared that ours is ‘backwards’, is ‘disgusting’, and ‘has no place in this so-called modern world’.
As if our colonizer China using the same rhetoric in its attempts to annihilate our culture and identity was not enough.
Then there were those who have always denied our agency as a people and our right to self-determination. They grabbed this opportunity to repeat their violent rhetoric that our “backward culture” deserved invasion and colonization.
In addition to witnessing such profound harm on virtual spaces, we are now witnessing its real-life implications.
Our young kids are being bullied and harassed in schools, by their peers and teachers for their faith in His Holiness. Our community is having to convene supportive listening spaces and panel discussions with health professionals to discuss how we can cope with the collective trauma we have experienced in the past two weeks and how do we mitigate the harm.
Racism. Ethnocentrism. Colonial violence. These are the impacts of careless coverage and dissemination of a few seconds of heavily-edited clip, manipulated for click-bait headlines and sensationalism.
In words of a Tibetan sister Tenzin Pema, “All because one day, the world decided to view an incident — such a pure, unadulterated act of love, compassion and faith in our culture — through their base-minded lens”.
For non-Tibetans who are outsiders to our community, it might be too much of an ask to understand the cultural nuances of who we are as a people. But from this episode, what we do ask is to pause, think, listen and trust the people of the community before passing judgement.
Because it might cost you a few minutes of research, but it will save a marginalized community from further marginalization.
And to media, do your journalistic due diligence of investigation and providing full context to a story. Because the impacts of failing to do so have been devastating for a community already experiencing ongoing colonization in their homeland and the precarity of exilehood.
And my fellow Tibetans, yes, all of this is so unfair. We didn’t deserve to go through this, but as with every obstacle, we will overcome this too and remain steadfast in our fight against the Chinese colonial occupation of Tibet, where the real focus on Tibet needs to be.