Rising anti-Indian sentiment in Singapore

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Dear friends in Singapore, I am writing because there appears to be an uptick in anti-South Asian prejudice recently, and I hope the moderate and sane among you can do what you can to extinguish little fires if and when you see them.

Seemingly harmless statements like “Eh, why Indians again ah?”, if left unchecked, can lead to resentment, if even in the smallest, most subconscious of ways.

Of course I don’t support the actions of her highness the sovereign, or her imitator, but there is no need to make it racial. Have you heard about the Chinese and Malays and Others who have threatened safe distancing ambassadors, including one who tried to stab them? (Check out this YouTube video called “Compilation of Crazy Singaporeans during Circuit Breaker period”, bottom of this post)

Why do I say there is an uptick? Three things have alerted me:

a) Last week three or four separate Chinese friends were doxxing the wrong Indian lady. I had to respond to each individually, most didn’t even know it was a crime.

(Some said: “Nothing to do with race. Just curious.” My response: “When is the last time you doxxed a Chinese?”)

b) Individual Indians have written to me to share their experiences both in real life and online. Some of the commentary online is really vile.

Two things have surprised me: first, usually moderate Chinese will be quick to stand up and knock down the racists, either directly or with humour (“Is it because I’m Chinese?” being a great example). This time the moderates seem to be silent, possibly because of our overall cognitive dissonance amid COVID. Too much on our minds.

Second, there seems to be more anti-Indian sentiment coming from some Malays online than I’ve seen in the past.

To be clear, I know these racists are just a tiny minority in every group. I am not suggesting it is broad-based.

c) My race video published last year (see above) has over the past week suddenly become popular among some Indians. People are sharing it as a form of solace, solidarity, I’m not sure, and then sending me random messages of thanks.

Some wondered why I had only published on Facebook. I have now published it on YouTube. Feel free to share it if you think it’s helpful.

Finally, what are the reasons for the uptick? This is complex, and will take some time, but I believe in a nutshell there is a conflation of some anti-migrant worker sentiment and the more recent anti-sovereign sentiment, set against the backdrop of long-standing anti-CECA feelings.

The conspiracy theorists will argue that Singapore’s politicians are only too happy for this anti-sovereign, anti-South Asian rubbish to distract society while they are facing tough questions. (“Deny responsibility, find a scapegoat, incite a culture war”)

At the moment I have no reason to believe such theories. I am however keeping a close eye, looking to see how authorities handle online abuse, among other things.

No doubt, Singapore’s politicians have repeatedly in the past used race and religion as tools to further their own agenda, as I discuss in above video.

Take care, stay safe, be kind to everybody, whatever their skin colour or station! We are all in this together.

#sovereignmyass

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Singapore leads the world in coronavirus fight

Ruling party politician sanitises public housing lifts

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Every day Singapore’s leaders make great sacrifices for the people. The Honourable MP Low Yen Ling (middle) is seen spending a Saturday guiding a seven-person team through the intricate task of cleaning an elevator.

To the Honourable MP’s right are three South Asian workers. They are wearing imported sneakers that their cousins working in Qatar cannot afford. They are wearing masks because they are either sick or are at serious risk of contracting the virus. In Singapore only the sick and frontline healthcare workers wear masks, as per our WHO (We Help Ourselves) Guidance Rules instituted in 1965.

Since one Bangladeshi worker has contracted the virus, every South Asian migrant worker is a potential carrier. Transmission can occur in their lush dormitories or on Sundays at Serangoon Road, the recreational area Singapore has graciously designated for these workers. (“Edgy, hipsterish, popular among backpackers,” says the Singapore Tourism Board. “Complete darkness,” says a ruling party politician #tellsitlikeitis)

The Honourable MP, standing next to one worker, is not a virus carrier and hence needs no mask. Likewise for the Chinese men.

The men are dressed in descending order of formality to show their respective positions in the Ai-Pi, Ai-Chi hierarchy (“Want cheap, want good”, in our delightful Hokkien dialect.) If the Honourable MP wants to say something to the workers, she will pass the message down the food chain. The man in the blue shirt will then relay it sweetly to his workers.

If the three Chinese men perform well, they will have a better chance of appearing next to the Honourable MP in future photographs. If not, they will undergo retraining so they can work in comfortable jobs riding subsidised electronic bicycles or rental cars.

Singapore thanks all seven for their contribution to total defence. Our benevolent government has given each Chinese one stack of toilet rolls. And each South Asian an equivalent gift: a year’s subscription to The Straits Times.

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[Above is satire.]

Image: MP’s FB

For the record, as explained in previous post, I think the Singapore government has done a pretty good job in its response to the virus outbreak.

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On racism and xenophobia in Singapore

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“Do you think that the hatred Singaporeans feel towards foreigners is because of an identity crisis, as you suggested, or because the government has failed to provide sufficient basic services, like housing and transportation?” a young Filipino journalist asked at last week’s book launch (see here).

The crowd released a collective gasp when they heard the word “hatred”. I was shocked. I mentioned in my reply that it was too strong a word to use. Regardless, the fact that she said it bothers me, and has prompted me to share some thoughts.

These are casual observations and musings that build on the one serious analytical piece I’ve written on race, Chapter 8: Colour Matters, in Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore.

As such, please treat each of my main statements below as postulations, to which I invite discussion and debate. Any thoughts and responses are much appreciated.

Note: Though racism and xenophobia are somewhat distinct, they often get conflated in contemporary Singaporean discourse. I will therefore sometimes discuss them collectively.

1) In Singapore, the moderate voices far outweigh the racists and xenophobes

In the immediate wake of the Little India Riots, there were some anti-South Asian racist and xenophobe rants. However, there was an instant backlash from voices of moderation. Same thing with the furore over the mooted celebration of the Philippines Independence Day in June this year. In both instances, I was heartened by Singapore society’s collective rejection of racist and xenophobic strands.

Continue reading

Government bans “69″ sexual position

position-69The Singapore government today banned the “69” sexual position following police reports that many residents in the posh Spanking Condominium complex have been engaging in the sexually unproductive act.

The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) had called for the police investigation after observing abnormally low fertility rates at Spanking Condominium. According to the NPTD, the expected total fertility rate of Spanking residents is 0.1, which means that the
 average female “Spanker” has almost one child less than the average Singaporean. Continue reading