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.

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