Month: March 2012

How racism undermines Singaporean identity

Written 28 Mar 2012, edited 26 Jun 2014; unpublished

Let me get this out of my system: racism is wrong on so many levels—but particularly so in Singapore.

I am a Singaporean and I am outraged, generally, at racism. Maybe part of this outrage comes from the fact that lots of Singaporeans—and Singaporean Chinese—don’t see it as such a big deal, or are seeking to make excuses for Ms Lai Shimun’s comment (“she was tired”/”everyone makes mistakes”/”everyone’s a little bit racist”). So maybe part of this is my Chinese (kinda-sorta-)middle-class English-educated liberal (CMEL*) guilt, overcompensating for the fact that other Singaporean Chinese don’t seem as outraged.

Maybe a part of it also has to do with the way I was brought up and the formative experiences I had, in particular the books I read that reaffirmed how we are fundamentally all the same. These included Number the Stars (Lois Lowry), Friedrich (Hans Peter Richter), and The Diary of Anne Frank.

But a huge part of it has to do with how I view Singapore and Singaporean identity, and my reflections go way past the issue of Ms Lai Shimun’s racist tweet targeting Indians.