In light of recent events regarding racism in Singapore, here’s something we want to get off our chest
So if you’ve been following the grapevine of Singapore news lately, you would’ve heard about racism rearing its ugly head in the community. The gist of the story: an Indian-Singaporean actor posted about his audition for a local film, where he was told to portray “a full-blown Indian man” with a thick Indian accent. The actor was offended because he was portraying “a caricature of [his] race” and was “reduced to [his] accent”. Disturbed? We haven’t even gotten to the ugly part yet.
What was meant to be a gesture of social justice resulted in an all-out war of words… and races. His post polarised opinions of netizens – some took his side and called out on the racist mannerism; others (many from majority races) essentially told him to suck it up and be professional in his respective industry, ignoring the issue of race altogether. You can see how sticky this situation is.
While we can’t speak professionally for the film industry, we can be sure of one thing: casual racism does exist in Singapore.
At Honeycombers, we have teammates of all races and nationalities and believe that everyone deserves equal, unbiased treatment. That’s why we chose not to sweep the issue under the rug; at some point in our lives, we have experienced racism whether as a victim or an observer, and it’s not something we’re willing to brush off with an awkward chuckle. Still don’t believe racism exists in a peaceful country like Singapore? Listen to what we have to say.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my adult life surrounded by friends and colleagues who aren’t in the slightest way racist, so it’s always a shock when I encounter racism in Singapore. One particularly memorable incident happened eight years ago while taking a train. I’m frequently searched, but I’ve always chalked it down to bad luck. But this time, the security officer said, “Sorry ah boy, you look like a terrorist”. I don’t know what a terrorist is supposed to look like these days, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t dressed like one – Dinesh Ajith, Honeycombers Lifestyle Writer
Things that are said to me pretty regularly: “You’re so pretty for a Malay” or “Wow, you Malay went to university ah?”. We know what both imply. This happens to all my friends too (a friend of mine regularly gets mistaken as a secretary or clerk despite her senior position in an account firm!). Something else that worries me – I’ve witnessed Chinese kids calling their Indian friends “apuneneh” (followed by shaking of their heads) while their parents look on, bemused. Ain’t nothing funny about that – Nafeesa Saini, Honeycombers Lifestyle Writer
A taxi uncle recently took one look at my white skin and blonde hair and launched into a diatribe about how easy my life is, how I can afford the high life, and don’t know anything about real, hard work. I’ve lived and worked in Singapore for seven years and felt rage at the assumption that expat = wealth. Shame I couldn’t afford to tip him – Georgina Hockley, HoneyKids Asia Lifestyle Writer
Racism DOES exist in this country, but it is generally mild compared to other countries. Personally, I’ve encountered casual racism when trying to find a job or renting an apartment. Recently, while enquiring about an apartment, the house agent asked “What is your race?” over the phone. I refused to answer his question and told him it was completely irrelevant even though I knew I wouldn’t have any issue. Answering his question would’ve meant I was allowing him to do it to others too. Not today Satan… not today… – Hubab Hood, Video Producer
I am well aware of the privilege that exists amongst the majority of Singaporeans – unlike some, I never take it nonchalantly or for granted. It greatly disturbs me sometimes the things that others presume they can get away with, while striking up ‘innucuous’ conversation with me as their fellow racial ‘brethren’. A Chinese taxi driver once told me in Mandarin (which I fully understand) that “I wasn’t really Singaporean unless I spoke Mandarin”, in a condescending manner that really ruffled my feathers. The last I checked, our national language was Malay? – Kevin Ho, Honeycombers Editor
Find the need to be defensive when race comes up as a political discussion amongst minorities? You’ve probably not experienced racism. Ever mentioned how rude a certain person of colour is to you? Nooope, you still haven’t experienced racism. Ever had your race ignored or mocked via discourse or the media? No? Mate, you definitely haven’t experienced racism then. Face it, it’s time for Singapore to stay woke – Camelia Khalid, Honeycombers Lifestyle Writer
Some of my friends change the way they speak to me by adopting a false and exaggerated ‘Malay accent’ because of my race. When I ask them why they had to do that, they laugh and say it comes automatically when they’re with me – Shahfiqah Sukor, Honeycombers Editorial Intern
Here? I’m discovering a new code around class and race. My family is from the Philippines. The amount of times people have assumed I’m my kids’ nanny – and suddenly switched their behaviour towards me when they realise I’m not – is so distasteful. One standout? Going apartment-hunting with my husband and his sister, who are Caucasian. You can imagine how that played out – Selina Altomonte, HoneyKids Asia Editor
“The colonial days are over. It’s time for you to go home.” This is my home, has been for 10 years and is the only home my children know – Tracy Tristram, HoneyKids Asia Lifestyle Writer
Why can’t we all just get along, huh?