"No Pork" podcast proves racism is alive and well in Singapore

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.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

57 thoughts on “"No Pork" podcast proves racism is alive and well in Singapore”

  1. Erm, no, mate, I am a Singaporean Chinese who likes to speak with an Australian accent.


  2. You see what happens here? You post about Singapore racism and you have all these people come here to defend it and post racist comments.

    By the way, you people here always say “The whole world is racist”. You have NO idea what you’re talking about. I lived for 3 years in Canada and 3 y ears in the United Kingdom. I never saw ANY racism. Same people in Singapore live in these countries (Chinese people and Indians) but they’re ALL treated with respect. That’s because these people respect you for being human and don’t care if you have small eyes or dark skin.

    In Singapore that’s all they care about. Singapore pretends it’s multiracial but the fact is you have so many people here who are casual racist. It’s not like Nazis who want to be violent, but in Singapore it’s “casual racism”, they don’t harm anyone but every day you can see by the way they act and the way they talk.

    I returned to Singapore when I was 25 years old and got a job at a tech company. I remember a job interview where we had a few chinese applicants and one Indian applicant. The Indian guy was WAY more qualified than the other guys, he was very nice, polite and educated. But the boss guy has a meeting with us and talks about who to hire but he doesn’t even mention the Indian guy! So I brought it up and I had to argue until finally he accepted that the other guys were NOT as qualified.

    This is just one example from my own opinion, but listen around you, look at what you see here and you’ll find out.

    What’s sad is that Chinese people used to be victims of racism by colonialists, back when Singapore was first set up, and in the West a long time ago, Chinese people in Canada were treated like garbage. but NOW, so many years later, in Canada we are respected and treated like human beings.

    So why Singapore still so primitive? Why can’t we grow up like Canada did? It’s like we can’t learn from history. We used to be the victims, and now that our old masters (British) aren’t racist anymore, now we’re becoming racist instead.

    I think I am moving back to Canada. I don’t want to be a Singaporean Chinese if it’s going to be a part of this kind of community. I’d rather live in a place where people have grown up and learned to treat each other as equals.

  3. Look, Jenny, I worked overseas before too, and racism is there, just more subtle.

    This is not a case of racism. Criticizing and satirizing religion has got nothing to do with religion.

    What religious people don’t understand is that religion and race are two completely separate entities, a fact that Gerald Giam, for some reason still doesn’t understand.

    Maybe I am just too smart for the both of you.

    Beast FCD

  4. Jenny,

    You made really sane observations….

    I moved to Singapore to get Asian experience and was out in a year. Small things bothered me. After living in States, I could not tolerate the mean looks, talking behind back, the shooing away of the sales guy..Singaporean Chinese have this chip on their shoulder and look down upon minorities. Whites are looked up. I know people bring white guys to deals becos it seems that gives a bargaining chip. Singapore is still a primitive society that has third world people filled in a first world city.. The Chinese are still living in the middle kingdom and feel superior and consider all ethnic minorities some lower form of human…

    I was out of there in a year and back in US….

  5. BTW I know a Chinese national who said Singaporean when asked of her nationality… How sad she is lying to cover up the prejudice associated with being PRC national ( china man ) in Singapore.. LKY needs to be ashamed of himself of running this dictatorship where people are living in fear in his Hitler regime. I remember the day he came back to parliament to counter a member’s comment about equality of races in Singapore. Singapore is all about ‘Fear’ and as you work like a machine listening to their commands in that artificial world, they will reward you with condos and money. So much for being a human being with opinions and feelings…

  6. Personally from my own experiences, i believe that it is the inherent fault of the families and communities that circulates and paint a tainted image of what a race should be, would be or could be according to their own specific racial traits and behavioural entities.

    For many years i have lived and inter-mingle amongst people of other races (Brazilians, Latin Americans, Indians, Chinese as well as Europeans) and once you get over that obstacle or stereotype, you will notice how similar they are to you.

    They all have family values, progression values and economic values that are similar to many countries. With dreams and visions of their own future.

    The modern society in which Singapore is now a more affluent country with its wealth, education and status being the best amongst its neighbors – have done little to improve the societal-economic-racial tensions between its own local populace.

    I was truly shocked and angered when i took a cab (taxi) from IMM Jurong East, to my home. The cab (taxi) driver looked at me and asked me rudely – “Wei, You Ang Moh or Mother Father Chinese?” ( Yes he said those ).

    I was truly shocked, who is this man to be discriminating me. I felt insulted and told him , i am a proud true blue Singaporean. ( Whatever be my race or skin color ).

    The Chinese man cab (taxi) driver was sharing with me
    (i was apparently ignoring his rude racist comments)
    how dirty the ( MALAYS / MELAYU ) are by hanging their clothes outside of the HDB flats and etc (which i will not mention here).

    I boldly replied to him – “Why dont you come and visit my home estate area and see how ” MY “(Chinese) neighbours hung their laundry out to dry”.

    (My Chinese neighbours all hung their laundry outside of their flats – dont ask me why, i just respect their decisions).

    He kept quiet for 2 minutes, then kept on insulting how dirty the Malays Muslims and Indians are.

    And i was like – do you know MISTER – in EUROPE –
    if we do not like it, we will keep quiet and walk away.

    Why do you need to insult those innocent people, have they chopped your children’s head off and boiled them white like a Hainanese Chicken rice? No right. So stop cussing.

    The Chinese man cab (taxi) driver was so angry; upon reaching my home, he unbelted his seatbelt and starting shouting vulgarities in Hokkien ( yes i know hokkien , hakka , cantonese , mandarin and other dialects – i have stayed in CHINA – big deal ) towards me.

    Took out my wallet and gave the cash to him. And i walked away. He even threathened to call the police and i told him – i am not the one with the racist remarks , it is you. So shut up before ” i ” make this into a court case.

    He kept quiet ( malu as you would call it ) and took off.

    Surprisingly , that man (according to his superior racial remarks about how good and squeaky clean his family is) has a daughter and a son who are graduates from National University of Singapore and they married a MALAY & an INDIAN. NO WONDER.

    So you see guys, there is no such thing as racial superiority or ethinicity. What must be ensured is that we are all driven towards a societal balance and economic prosperity. We are the ones who holds strong and firm to the beliefs of upholding our nation to its best performance and towards its peaceful and enduring nature of open-ness towards all who comes to our shores. Remember – all of our ancestors were migrants. We are not of this land. We must protect and stand strong together.

  7. I seem to be having trouble , subscribing to your RSS feed. It comes up with error 451. Let me know if its a common error or if its just me . Ive tried opera and firefox. Im using Norton Firewall and im not sure how to turn it off . Im not that good with Netbooks. Ill bookmark your site and see if you have responded. much appreciated

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