The hottest non-Covid related news in Singapore has come from a random Chinese guy who confronted an interracial couple and started berating them for being “racist” because they were “interracial” and not dating within their own community. The guy in the relationship, who happens to be ethnic Indian, was told that it was “predatory” for an Indian guy to be dating a Chinese girl. The girl had the good sense to video the entire exchange and it’s become an internet sensation.
The confrontation, which was recorded, can be seen on YouTube.
As this story involves Singapore’s much-hyped “racial harmony,” the powers that be were quick to weigh in. Our Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam weighed in and expressed his anxiety that Singapore’s race relations might not be moving in the right direction.
The only positive thing that one could say is that this is probably a “lone nut” incident. As a rule, Singaporeans tend to keep their feelings pretty much to themselves and only vent online. Whatever our feelings about “race,” these are usually aired online in a post. Incidentally, this incident is “race-specific” rather than “nationality-specific”. If you look at the “anti” sentiments online, you’ll notice that they’re directed against “Indians from India” or “Chinese from China” rather than Singaporeans of Chinese or Indian descent.
It’s heartening that Singaporeans of all races did come out to support the couple.
Having said all that, the experience was undoubtedly traumatic for the couple. What they had to encounter was disgusting and should not have happened to them in the first place. Mr David Parkash, the man involved, has taken to Facebook to express his feelings.
While this incident is disgusting, we should consider what we need to do in order to improve our intercommunal relations. This incident has shown that while Singapore’s race relations are pretty good (we’re not about to experience a “George Floyd” moment), more can be done and the powers that be can take a more active role in trying to get people to “mingle” more. Sure, whenever something happens, the Government will come out swinging the club for racial harmony and make all sorts of announcements about how racial harmony is hard-won and cannot be taken for granted. We have laws like ethnic quotas in housing estates to prevent “ghettos” from developing.
However, while these measures have been successful, do they go far enough? While race relations are good on the surface, we’ve not reached the stage where people think of “skin colour” as incidental; and, to a slight extent, the system keeps a simmering of racial tension around because, well, it’s convenient.
Let’s start with election season and the hunt for the next Prime Minister. Singapore likes to present itself as a multi-ethnic place that does not discriminate against anyone, unlike say, our neighbour to the north, which has very specific laws that discriminate in favour of a certain community.
Yet, despite that, we still maintain the official line that the “older generation is not ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister”. You have politicians who still talk about how dark certain parts of the country are because the majority of people there are South Asian labourers.
While I won’t go into whether the older generation is ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister, I do wonder why a government, which is so proud of fostering “racial harmony”, not leading the effort to change things?
I’ve argued in a previous posting that the best way to do that is through fiction. In America, there was David Palmer, from the show 24, who was a black president long before Barak Obama. Get people used to seeing possibilities on TV so that they will get used to it in real life.
The second area where the Government needs to pay attention is the concerns of ethnic minorities. When ethnic minorities voiced their “disapproval” of an advertisement where a Chinese comedian donned “brown makeup” to play a member of an ethnic minority back in 2019, they were told to be less sensitive. The minister leading the charge was none other than Mr K Shanmugam, who berated an Indian rapper for complaining about “Brownface”. Why do we not listen and solve things when they’re relatively harmless instead of waiting till interracial couples get accosted on the streets?
Do we need to wait for our “George Floyd” moment? I’d like to think that, as a society, we won’t get to that stage. However, it will take leadership that will take a more proactive role in encouraging genuinely good relations among our many communities.
This article was first published in http://beautifullyincoherent.blogspot.com/2021/06/the-convenient-racist.htmlFollow us on Social Media
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