Racism has been a viral topic in recent times, with the video of interracial couple getting racist remarks circulating widely, triggering reactions from many walks of lives in Singapore. It is no secret that Singapore is a multiracial country and therefore differences between races are often very clearly visible. The video of a Singaporean teacher confronting a mixed-race couple telling them that each race should marry their own race is a very regretful and concerning event.
Our honest take on this matter is that we should be free enough to do what we want, including marrying someone of a different race, as long as we do not hurt or cause harm to others. If there is no hurt or harm caused to others by our actions, then what is the problem? The couple who is the subject of the video has our full support on this matter. We find most of the claims made by the teacher were somewhat irrational, irrelevant and unpurposeful, but he was right about one thing: Don’t think racism does not exist in Singapore!. If you define racism as a thought or a mindset in which someone or something of a particular race is more superior to others because of race, then racism does exist in Singapore. It’s just that most of us have the tactfulness to not act or say it out. We will share more of our own experience dealing with racism.
When Covid 19 hit Singapore dormitories very badly in 2020, many of our migrant workers were infected and there was a very clear struggle in the construction industry as pretty much most construction workers stay in dormitories. When our workers were finally given the green light to resume work, we felt that it was important and necessary to pull the workers out of the dormitory and move them to some sort of private housing, both for company and workers’ sake. That was when we started to realize how racist many of the locals were, deep down. We tried contacting many landlords who were interested in renting out their apartments, and a huge majority of them turned us down after we told them the workers were migrant workers from Bangladesh. Some of the typical responses we had were “No foreigners”, “Prefers Chinese” or “Not compatible”. It was quite saddening and disappointing that our migrant workers from foreign countries were seen as “undeserving” of accommodations which were deemed normal or standard by many only because of one’s skin colour. When minister Lawrence Wong announced new dormitory plans, he even urged Singaporeans to not have the “Not in my backyard” mindset. This racist mindset of many locals is despite the fact that some economic sectors could not run at all without foreign workers.
As a contractor, we also often get asked where our materials come from and it is our ethical and professional duty to answer honestly. For a few products which come from China, we often get doubtful remarks or condescending questions about the products. From time to time, we always have responses like “I do not want China-made products”, or “I am concerned if it is made in China”, or “I prefer European materials”, or “China products are not good”. These comments are made very often even without seeing the actual samples or products. Sometimes we feel like replying: “Aren’t your Chinese ancestors also made in China?”
Objectively speaking, in choosing construction materials, iit is more important to assess the climate or weather condition of the country of origin of the products. Based on our experience, many Western construction materials do not last as long as they claim to be in Singapore’s climate and weather. It is the Asian construction materials (from Malaysia, Myanmar and China) that tend to last long in Singapore because our weathers and climates are not too different from each other. A question to ponder: If you plant two different trees in Singapore, one seed from an “ang moh” country and one seed from China, which tree do you think will live longer in Singapore climate? Not all China-made products are bad; many Apple Iphones are actually assembled in China.
While Singapore looks like a first world country from many perspectives, we are probably not so advanced in terms of resistance from racial stereotyping mindsets. Most of us are civilised enough to not say or act it out, so on the surface things often look “quiet” and “peaceful”. It is when you dig deeper into unseen or private conversations or incidents that you realize that racism cannot be eradicated. Racism is very much like Covid-19: it is nature. Racism will remain with humanity as long as humans enjoy drawing lines of differences from each other. There is no way of fully removing racism or the virus, we can only try to manage them as well as we can with proper rules and serious consequences of breaching them.