What is Singaporean Chinese Privilege?

Maybe some education is in order. People have been telling me that not everyone comes from the same critical thinking tradition and framework that I do. I understand that. I wasn’t always as awake as I am now. So sometimes, I gotta explain some stuff do you understand the meaning and context in which it is used.


So what is Singaporean Chinese Privilege?

Singaporean Chinese Privilege is not: About you. Privilege is not your fault. Privilege is not anything you’ve done, or thought, or said. It may have allowed you to do, or think, or say things, but it’s not those things, and it’s not because of those things. Privilege is not about taking advantage, or cheating, although privilege may make this easier. Privilege is not negated. You can’t balance your Chinese privilege against my female disadvantage and come out neutral. Privilege is not something you can be exempt from by having had a difficult life.

Singaporean Chinese Privilege is: About how Singapore society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal. It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf.

Almost everyone who is reading this had some form of privilege. If you are a member of three marginalized groups, in ill health, and poor, you’re still able to access and use the internet, both demonstrating and conferring privilege that many people do not have. As a girl, Indian and curvy, I am disadvantaged in three ways, but I have the privilege of having had an education that affords me to be able to think about this stuff. That’s something many people in Singapore don’t have.

Some privileges are easy to demonstrate: Can you go into a random restaurant and order food? That’s not something that those with food allergies, diabetics, celiacs, or a range of other conditions can count on.

Some privileges are harder to demonstrate: If you get a job, to what extent was that based on the way you look, your gender, your accent, your connections? How can you tell?

And this is the point. Indians and Malays by and large cannot walk into a place and get a job based on their qualifications alone. They need to know someone, or be better than everyone else to get that job. While for Chinese Singaporeans they just have to meet the minimum qualifications (sometimes they don’t even need to do that) and they will get it just for being Chinese. And the fact that many Chinese people who read this will get angry and swear up and down that they got their jobs or opportunities because they are qualified, the fact that you don’t even see the racism behind the hiring process is EXACTLY WHAT PRIVILEGE IS. Go ask who else interviewed for the job. Check out their qualifications. I will bet you money that an Indian or Malay person who is just as qualified or more qualified than you applied and didn’t get it. Go ask the few minorities in your workplace. I will bet you more money that in some way or other (ability to speak more languages, higher education, previous experience in a similar job that you don’t have) they are more qualified than you.

Adapted and modified from http://brown-betty.livejournal.com/305643.html


How to get rescued

You know, if an Indian and Malay person are ever lost in a desert with no hope of being found, they should start talking about Singaporean Chinese privilege.

Because within a heartbeat a Singaporean Chinese would turn up and try to wedge themselves into the conversation by telling them how it doesn’t exist.


Adapted from sleepydumpling.tumblr.com

One of the comments I get from people, even Indians, is this one, “Why are you so angry? Why do you talk about this all the time?”
Now, I don’t just talk about it cos I’m pissed off about it. I talk about it, and out loud, because I WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO GET ANGRY. Indians and Malays in Singapore are used to being told to shut up, to not talk about our discrimination, to agree that our humanity is worth less than theirs, to agree that the systemic racism foisted on us is our fault because we didn’t work hard enough. After awhile, you become numb to it, some even internalize it and spout it back. You start to think that this is just the way it is, or worse that this is how it’s always been and always will be, and therefore has no chance for change.
That’s what they want you think. If you accept it, you’ll never fight it. If they can make you blind to it, you’ll never fight it. If you can tolerate it and go on, you’ll never fight it. And then they win.
And that’s one of the big things this blog aims to do. It is here to make you angry, to make you realize your oppression, and their privilege ,and to stop you from being so fucking tolerant of it.
Because then, finally we can change it together.

“The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”

-Assata Shakur: An Autobiography

You’re dividing Singaporeans instead of uniting us!

One of the more common crap I hear, related to the “We’re all human/ Singaporean!” and “Why must you talk about race?” is this one.

“Some people complain that those who work for social change are being ‘divisive’ when they draw attention to oppressive systems organized around one form of privilege or another. But when members of dominant groups mark differences by excluding or discriminating against subordinate groups and treating them as ‘other’, they aren’t accused of being divisive. Usually it’s only when someone calls attention to how differences are used as a basis of privilege that the claim of divisiveness comes up.”

Allan G.Johnson

The “Everything is Me” version of Chinese Tears

So when you talk about racism in Singapore, Chinese people get really upset. There’s lots of reasons why. Today you shall get just the first of many.

This one is easy. These are the people for whom everything revolves around them. They have no idea there is racism because they haven’t ever felt it. The Chinese Supremacist dialogue is the only one they’ve ever been involved in and when they are confronted with a discourse that doesn’t put them front and centre, the lose their minds. It’s just completely jarring to hear that the reality you’ve been living in isn’t real.

And so you’ll get this.

“me! me! me! what about ME!!! This isn’t about me and everything is usually about me but consider ME! Here’s something you didn’t consider— ME!”

Usually it’ll come in the following format.

” But many Chinese people are poor you know? There are many Chinese people who don’t go to university. Consider how the elite people treat us so badly! Here’s something you didn’t consider-that lower class Chinese people are just as disadvantaged.

Sigh, shake your head and walk away. These people aren’t ready for even the smallest amount of truth. You gotta let this one go.

Why are you reacting this way?

Sometimes you can’t take it. The frustration, the anger, it all boils over. You yell/ scream/ call them names. They jump on this. They say you are emotional, violent, too sensitive. They say you making statements about Chinese racism is generalization, that you are racist. They will ask why are you reacting this way? Don’t ever feel bad about it.

You say…

“Usually the Malay/Indian “racist” has been produced by the Chinese racist. In most cases where you see it, it is the reaction to Chinese racism, and if you analyze it closely, it’s not really minority racism.

If we react to Chinese racism with a violent reaction, to me that’s not Malay/Indian racism. If you come to abuse me, humiliate me, take away my rights, and I yell at you for it, to me that’s not racism. Yours is racism, but my reaction has nothing to do with racism. My reaction is the reaction of a human being, reacting to defend himself and protect himself. ”

— (Adapted from) Malcolm X

Be silent!

This one’s just generally for Chinese people trying to stop us from talking about racism in Singapore. Use this when they say “Why are you talking about this?” or “This isn’t as important as bringing democracy to Singapore!” This one is as much for you to remember as for them to know.

You say…

“Not one single hurtful thing ever got changed by someone grinning and bearing it.

Hurtful things changed because people have said ‘That hurts me. Stop.’

And every time you try to silence someone and tell them that they shouldn’t be hurt, shouldn’t be offended, shouldn’t choose this battle, that this isn’t important and that other things are more important – you are serving the hurtful rather than the hurt.”

But you’re racist too!

Sometimes they have no choice. They know they are racist, that we live in a racist society and that they are participating in and perpetuating it. They will then turn the tables on you and say “You said (insert whatever). You’re racist too!” This is stupid. There is no such thing as Reverse Racism.

You say…

“In the instances when Indians/Malays say things like ‘Oh I can’t stand Chinese people’ or ‘Damn Chinese people’, they aren’t saying ‘Oh I think they are inferior, I want to humiliate them, abuse them, wipe out their people and generally treat them like shit!’, they’re saying ‘Damn, after many many decades of Chinese people thinking I’m inferior, humiliating me, abusing me, trying to wipe out my people, and generally treating me like shit, I don’t wanna deal with them.’ The context is completely different.”

Why are you so sensitive?

We’ve all met them. Those Chinese people who revel in their moral superiority and belief that simply by saying they are not racist, that means they are not. And that means that whatever racist thing they say that you are offended by just means you’re the sensitive one.

You say…

“Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive simpletons.”

Why are you blaming me?

Every now and then you will get lucky. You will meet a Chinese person who will admit racism exists in Singapore and that it is a problem. Inevitably however, they will tell you it’s not THEIR problem. They will say it’s not their fault and that you are making them feel bad for something they have no control over. It usually sounds like this. “Why do you have to make me feel bad for being born Chinese by pointing out the fact I get benefits from a Chinese supremacist society?”

You say…

Because you and your ancestors have constructed a society where me and my people have limited access to. We are told we are not good enough, not beautiful enough, not smart enough and to keep us there, we are restricted from the power to cause change.  We are supposed to be on the bottom of the social hierarchy and you keep us there by denying us affirmative action, equal access to employment and scholarships in education. Then you tell us it’s our fault for not working hard enough to get what you got just for being Chinese.

You think you feel bad motherfucker? Try being me for a day.