There is a audio recording circulating the Internet in which two Chinese Singaporean men are poking fun at an Indian Muslim food stallholder by insisting on ordering pork, despite the stallholder repeatedly telling them he serves only halal food.
I was furious when I heard it. It isn’t funny at all. It’s not just extremely insensitive to Indians and Muslims. It is downright racist.
Full-time blogger Xiaxue posted it on her blog and remarked that it was “super funny”. Her post alone attracted over 260 comments, most of which agreed with her.
It turns out the recording was staged — the “Indian” character was actually a Chinese guy and the recording was done at his house. This according to the girlfriend of one of the men who recorded it. However, this does not detract from the gravity of this offensive recording.
Coming hot on the heels of the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother in which the participants racially abused Indian actress Shilpa Shetty, this clip and its response has revealed an even uglier side of Singapore. At least in the UK, the participants were roundly criticised by the public. Here in Singapore, most Chinese (including the makers of the podcast) don’t even realise that it is wrong. It makes me wonder if our façade about being a model of “tolerance” and “racial harmony” is a farce.
Chinese Singaporeans really need to engage in some serious introspection about our racist attitudes towards minorities. I have often heard comments from Chinese Singaporeans that “there is no racism in Singapore”, unlike in Australia and the UK. Who are they to make such judgments? Those of us in the majority race would never know what it is like to be a minority in your own land, unless they have lived in as a minority before.
“Chinese speaking environment” preferred
Another thing I’ve noticed recently is how job recruitment ads have evolved. Previously, they used to say “Mandarin speaker required”. Now the wording of choice is “Chinese speaking environment”, with the hope that non-Chinese will shy away from even applying in the first place. We all know that this is just another way for some companies to avoid employing minorities. Just look at these ads and judge for yourselves.
One of them, Zeal Infotech, asked for a Java programmer who is preferably “able to speak Mandarin” as the candidate “will be working in a Chinese-speaking environment with Chinese Singapore Citizens and PRs, or with Singapore PR invitation letters”! [read: We welcome all Chinese, even if you’re a foreigner, but non-Chinese Singaporeans should think twice before applying.]
This shameful state of affairs has got to stop NOW if Singapore is to become a developed society. It begins in the home. Parents need to realise that every casual generalisation about a certain race leaves a lasting impression on their children, many of whom carry their “inherited” racism for a lifetime without even realising it. But where parenting has failed in this aspect, the education system needs to revise its curriculum to not just preach “tolerance” (which leaves room for people to be racist behind closed doors or under the cloak of anonymity), but inculcate a genuine revulsion for all forms of racism — including employment bias and racist jokes.