Do not be silent

Whenever we talk about our oppression, Chinese people WILL tell you to shut up. They’ll do it in nice ways sometimes (why race? why can’t we all just be Singaporean?). Sometimes they’ll do it by trying to tell you what their experience is instead. (I felt it when I was in Australia!) Sometimes they’ll outright tell you to shut the fuck up. DO NOT. Do not be cowed. Do not feel alone. If you don’t keep saying it, they will say it doesn’t exist. And they will use your silence to prove they are correct.


“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Zora Neale Hurston

I’m not racist but…

There’s a lot of this going around. “I’m not racist but..” and this is usually followed by racist words. This is a variation on the theme. This is the one where they say “I’m not racist but I’m just not attracted to brown skin/Malays or dark skin/Indians.” This is not acceptable. You have to push these people to ask WHY they are conditioned to believe so.

You say…

“Attraction is not just about a feeling. It’s a heavily mediated experience and part of an industry that pumps billions into creating images of what women should look like. It can be hard to decipher what you are attracted to versus what you have internalized as attractive. This goes for both how we see ourselves and how we see others, and it leaves a lot of room to fester for some really messed up ideology about size, race, and sexuality. Chinese standards of beauty get conflated with romantic ideals and create ideas of what romantic femininity should look like, all serving to uphold a certain standard of beauty. This impacts our self-esteem, the kind of energy we put out there, the types of people that are drawn to us, and ultimately who we end up dating.”

(Adapted from) Samhita Mukhopadhyay

Why can’t we just have ‘human’ rights and not talk about race?

So once in awhile you’ll come across Chinese people who will say racism does exist, but we should move past it and not talk about race and instead concentrate on how we are all part of the human race. This is crap. See it for what it is. This person does not want to hear about your oppression. He wants you to forget it and join him in the fight for democracy/liberal human rights/ anti-PAP/ whatever nonsense the liberal media has told Chinese people they should care about that month.

You say…

“The notion that we should all forsake attachment to race and/or cultural identity and be ‘just humans’ takes place within the framework of Chinese supremacy, and this has usually meant that subordinate groups must surrender their identities, beliefs, values, and assimilate by adopting the values and beliefs of privileged-class Chinese. Rather than promoting racial harmony, this thinking has created a fierce cultural protectionism.”

— (Adapted from) Bell hooks | Killing rage: Ending Racism

For the Indians/ Malay racism denialists

Sometimes it’s not the Chinese. Sometimes it’s our very own people. The liberal elite class who have bought into the majority discourse so much/ so badly want to be accepted that they only date Chinese girls and learn Mandarin. You know them; the ones who say  “I’m a member of x group and I’m not offended” when you point out racism.

You say….

“You not being offended doesn’t mean that you’re right and the other person is wrong. Not being bothered by something is not a right or wrong issue. It only tells me something about you.

It could just mean you’re particularly oblivious and lack understanding or context. It could mean that you’ve bought into a subordinate position demanded of you by belonging to a marginalized group. It could mean that you’re just childish and naive and believe that little things don’t tie into bigger things (they always do). Just realize you’re not special by saying this.

Not to mention, even if you are a member of X group, you’re still talking over and thereby trivializing and disrespecting the experiences and feelings of other people; you’re not contributing to the discussion, you’re derailing it, which indeed says a lot about you: “the expression of my irrelevant opinion is more important than your voice and expression of pain and concern.”

I have never seen it therefore there is no racism!

 When Chinese Singaporeans say there is no racism in Singapore and that Indians and especially Malays should not be asking for affirmative action, aka ‘special privileges’ because we live in a meritocratic society.

You say…

“According to a well-known philosophical maxim, the last thing a fish notices is the water. Things that are unproblematic seem natural and tend to go unnoticed. Fish take the water they swim in for granted, just as Chinese Singaporeans take their race as a given, as normal. Chinese Singaporeans may face difficulties in life-problems having to do with money, religion, or family-but race is not one of them. Chinese Singaporeans can be sanguine about racial matters because their race has not been (until recently) visible to the society in which they live. They cannot see how this society produces advantages for them because these benefits seem so natural that they are taken for granted, experienced as wholly legitimate.’ They literally do not see how race permeates Singapore’s institutions-the very rules of the game-and its distribution of opportunities and wealth.

Malays, Indians, and other people of colour in Singapore are racially visible, and everyone seems to notice their race. For them, the same culture, law, economy, institutions, and rules of the game are not so automatically comfortable and legitimate. In a Chinese-dominated society, non-yellow colour brings problems. And if people of other colours cry foul, if they call attention to the way they are treated or to racial inequality, if they try to change the distribution of advantage, if they try to adjust the rules of the game, Chinese Singaporeans (whose race and racial advantage are invisible) see them as asking for special privileges. They are seen as troublemakers.”

—(Adapted from) Michael K. Brown et. al, Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society

Racism isn’t just some Chinese guy calling you apu neh neh

When Chinese Singaporeans (or anyone) tells you that racism is personal, not systemic and the answer is education, not changing the system.

You say…

I think the problem is that many people in Singapore think that racism is an attitude. And this is encouraged by the system. So they think that what people think is what makes them a racist. Racism is not an attitude.

If a Chinese man dislikes me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to deny me employment or any other opportunity, that’s my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude; it’s a question of power.

— (Adapted from) Stokely Carmichael

Singaporean Chinese Privilege

When a Chinese Singaporean says that they understand (they usually don’t) your grievances but they should not be held responsible because they didn’t choose to be born Chinese.

You say…

“Privilege is not something I take and which I therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and egalitarian my intentions.”

Harry Brod, “Privilege, Power, and Difference”

Racism is just someone’s personal problem

 When you hear someone telling you that racism is just someone’s belief and therefore you should respect their opinions/ that it’s not such a big deal/ that there’s nothing you can do about it.

You say…

“The habit of considering racism as a mental quirk, as a psychological flaw, must be abandoned.”

Frantz Fanon (1967:77)

What is racism?

When people tell you that racism is about people being mean to one another, and if you just educate them, things will get better, or worse that nothing can be done because it’s just a personal failing on the part of these people.

You say……

“By failing to grasp racism as structural phenomenon, racism has, therefore, been regarded as (1) a disease afflicting certain individuals, (2) a phenomenon that does not affect the social body and its institutions, and (3) a social problem that has to be analyzed “clinically,” that is, by separating the “good” versus the “bad” apples in the population through surveys on racial attitudes.”

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva & Gianpaolo Baiocchi, “Anything but racism: how sociologists limit the significance of racism”