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Singapore MSM instigating racial ill feelings against Chinese again

Song Hong

Jan 4, 2020
Viet Nam
These days, reading Singapore MSM, you get the feeling that Chinese is world number one racists.

In every countries where communities mingle, people joke around one another culture. This wont ends on in newspaper everywhere except Singapore. GoS is telling Singaporeans this is BIG insult and aggression. And it is always Chinese is wrong, never minorities are at the wrong side.

And GoS just pluck anecdotes from minorities on the streets without even verifying their accounts. These people come out spill lies and sht against Chinese,

GoS is putting flame on fire and stirring discord.


The Big Read: To stamp out everyday racism or microaggression, treat it as anything but casual

After all these years, Mr Asyraf still remembers how some of his close friends who are Chinese called him a "black monkey" in his teens. A remark made by one of them — “if I turn off the lights, we won’t be able to see you” — also remains firmly etched in his mind.

While he did not like such comments, he did not think much of them at first.

“I was just laughing along with it. But now when I think about it, it’s f***** up,” said Mr Asyraf. The 28-year-old marketing professional, who is Malay and has some Indian heritage, declined to be identified by his full name.

"It’s always jokes and they’re always about my skin tone and my appearance,” he added.

At a bakery in Kembangan buying some kueh last year, Ms Sherlin Pravin Giri elicited a confused look from the cashier when she began speaking in Malay.

She told the cashier that she could speak the language because she is Singaporean, to which the latter replied: “But … you look like … Bollywood.”

Such experiences and several other encounters of such forms of racism recounted to TODAY in the past week, are but a slice of what ethnic minorities in Singapore face in their everyday lives.

While the fact is that racism exists in Singapore, its manifestation in the form of jokes or casual remarks is especially rankling for the victims since they are often expected to take them in their stride. Those interviewed by TODAY stressed that such nasty wisecracks, even if uttered without malice, have no place in society.

Mr Asyraf said that despite always reacting jovially to his friends’ banter, their remarks made him feel insecure about his physical appearance growing up.

“When I looked in the mirror, I really didn't like how I looked. There were times I thought it'd be easier if I were born Chinese,” he said.

The topic of racism has become less of a taboo in Singapore society in recent years, with some of the public discussions focusing on how minority groups can speak out against it.

But in the first place, as those interviewed pointed out, why should the onus of stamping out racism — including its most basic form — fall on the people on the receiving end, instead of the perpetrators?

In Singapore, the term “casual racism” has been used by academics and government officials alike to describe such acts.

The Australian Human Rights Commission defines casual racism as conduct involving negative stereotypes or prejudices about people on the basis of race, colour or ethnicity. It includes jokes, off-handed comments and exclusion of people from social situations based on race.

Unlike overt and intentional acts of racism, casual racism is not often intended to cause offence or harm, the commission adds.

However, illustrating how the choice of words is important in any discussion on race and ethnic relations, the term "casual racism" has come under fire for making light of the impact and consequences of such behaviours.

“There’s nothing casual about racism,” said Mr Sharvesh Leatchmanan, 25, the co-founder of Minority Voices, a website and Instagram page that captures first-person accounts of racism and discrimination faced by minority groups in Singapore.

“Whatever the intention is, it’s still racist,” he said, adding that downplaying these acts of racism as casual comes across as a means to absolve the responsibility of the person causing the offence.

Definitions are important, reiterated Dr Nazry Bahrawi, a Singaporean assistant professor of Southeast Asian Literature and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“The adjective ‘casual’ denotes that racism is accidental or unexpected. However, ethnic minorities including those in Singapore have taken to social media to highlight that racism is more common than we think," he said.

Since it is more regular than people think, “everyday racism” would be a more appropriate description, he noted.

An even better term is "microaggression", he added. It refers to comments, questions or actions that cause discomfort or even hurt to someone, stemming from that person’s belonging to a marginalised group. This can take the form of stereotypes or bigotry.

“If we want to see real change, I think Singapore needs to be bolder about accepting that the issue is not ‘casual’ but could in fact be more widespread and systemic than we’d care to admit,” Dr Nazry said.

“Otherwise, we can have all the dialogue in the world, and we would only be talking around the issue without making much progress.”

The idea of what constitutes racism — especially among youths today — has shifted from a binary “racist or not racist” to a scale of how much harm was caused, said Mr Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, founder and board member of the Centre for Interfaith Understanding.

This is why some people have a problem identifying that their actions are racist, he said. “They may think that racism is something spectacular, such as the physical violence committed in other parts of the world.”

A CNN article in 2020 noted that microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional and sometimes even well-meaning. However, they communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial messages or assumptions to the receiver.

In the Singapore context, individuals from minority ethnic groups also face microaggressions in everyday life, be it in the form of words or actions. Here are some examples:

“You’re good-looking/hardworking for your race.”

Why it's offensive: These comments can be seen as backhanded compliments that imply something negative about a race. Compliments such as being good-looking or hardworking are human attributes and not a feature of any race, said Mr Imran.

What to say instead: “If we want to offer a compliment, simply say ‘You're good-looking or hardworking’,” Mr Imran said. “To add ‘for your race’ implies the assumption that one’s race is generally ugly or lazy.”

“I can’t see you when I turn off the lights.”
Why it’s offensive: Racist jokes are often used so that people can defend their racist notions with the pretext that they were just engaging in light-hearted humour, said Dr Mathew Mathews, head of the Institute of Policy Studies Social Lab and principal research fellow at the institute.

At the heart of it, these jokes play on the vulnerabilities and insecurities of the victim, said Dr Mathews, who is also a board member of OnePeople.sg, an advocacy body championing interracial and interreligious understanding. They normalise racism and reduce them to "fun" or "casual" remarks that shouldn't be taken too seriously, he added.

What to say instead: Simply put, Mr Imran said, don’t make such jokes.

Using terms that are, or have come to be, derogatory.
Why it’s offensive: Some of these terms may have had neutral meanings in the past, but have come to be derogatory over the years, said Mr Imran.

“Mangkali”, for instance, is a bastardised form of the word Bengali while “keling” was used to refer to South Asians assumed to have come from the historical region of Kalinga in India, he said. Some terms like “matrep” or “minah”, which are terms to describe a subculture, may or may not be a racial slur depending on the context, he added. But words like “ahpu neneh”, a distortion of the word “brother” in Tamil to refer to a body part, are a total insult.

What to say instead: “It is important to refer to a person in dignified ways rather than using words that are demeaning, even if the intent is to appear close and friendly,” said Mr Imran.

“I’m not racist, I have a friend from an ethnic minority group. You’re being too sensitive.”
Why it’s offensive: Racism is a way of thinking that essentialises a race and views the races through the lens of superiority and inferiority, said Mr Imran. Having a friend from an ethnic minority does not shield someone from being racist, he added.

What to say instead: Always avoid being defensive when called out and instead, try to understand why a person felt hurt by a remark that he or she perceived as racist, Mr Imran said. “Try to see the world through the lens of another person's lived experiences. This will make for a better conversation over issues that have hurt others, particularly of the minorities who may not have the same privilege as being in the majority."

Gripping your child's hand tighter or pulling him or her away when passing someone of a different race.
Why it’s offensive: Unless the person does this when passing by all strangers, the child will inevitably learn to avoid people of that race even though they may not understand why, Dr Matthews said. "They are simply being socialised that some people of a particular race can be dangerous," he added. "Research has shown that children pick up on such cues in school and from home, even when they are not taught explicitly about race and racial differences."

What to do instead: The person should ask why he or she does that, Mr Imran suggested. “Is it because you have entertained a negative view associated with that race?”

He or she should also question why certain social problems are associated with a race, Mr Imran added. “Is it because of their overrepresentation in a lower social class that is often linked to crime? ... Is it because of their race or other sociological factors such as the social environment that does not provide or support a positive development of a person?”

Once people uncover their own biases, they will start to behave differently, Mr Imran said. It will also help people think about their own privilege and hopefully, question how to use that privilege to help others instead of judging them, he added.

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