Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Racism at My Doorstep

Singapore's National Day is approaching and it's suddenly made everyone feel very patriotic. I feel it too. That's why I almost wanted to do a Top Ten list of why I love my country. I really do. I love that it's safe for my kids, that almost everything is accessible by public transport, food is cheap, and all that.

Today we headed out to the bus stop, and across the busy road, I spotted a man yelling. Poppy asked what he was doing so I simply shrugged and said he might be crazy because there are some crazy people who just like shouting, right? Many of us have encountered such folks. There is even one in our neighbourhood who walks around backwards. Even when crossing the road. I kid you not.

So I just happened to look across the road at Crazy Man and realised that he was looking at me. No surprise there because crazies often make eye contact because they think you've stolen their money or something. But then I heard what he was saying.

Hold on to your chairs, ladies and gentlemen.


Yep, you read right. I heard right. He said just that. My fellow Singaporean said that to me.

You know, when we were honeymooning in Vietnam, I was mistaken as a Vietnamese. When we went to Thailand, the locals thought I was Thai. In China, the locals called me 乌鸦 (or 'crow'; I think they were referring to me as being after Max's money) and told to '中文' (speak Mandarin).

Here in Singapore, taxis drivers often ask me after staring in their rear view mirror, "You Malay ah?". At playgrounds or at the market, Filipino domestic workers come up to me and speak to me in Tagalog.

I get it. I have a 'global face'.

I have friends who have had beer cans chucked at them from moving cars and told "Go back to China, you chink!" in Australia, friends who have suffered verbal abuse in New Zealand, I've been ignored in queues in Canada.

But this? This, in my own country. Right on the very street that I live on. I'm enraged. In emoticons, I was much more than 'double dot open bracket'. And what is with this sudden exploding urge to maintain blue bloodedness within the country?

Why us? Why me? Why?

I'd like to think of us as an average kind of family. We live in a 3-roomed HDB flat, we pay our bills (sometimes not on time), we eat at hawker centres, and now, thanks to school, our daughter says "Like that so cute one" and other gems.

Max is the most localised angmoh I know. He wears Bata slippers, drinks kopi-c-kosong at the coffee shop, orders from the vegetarian stall at the hawker centre (hands up, Singaporeans who have never done that), and even has the standard ah pek uniform - the tattered white singlet. If he were to walk around with a paper bag over his face, you could never tell the colour of his skin.

To be singled out and yelled at by a stranger in public all because of our marital choices: did we deserve that?

I now think about my kids. How will they be treated when they grow up, coming from an inter-racial family? Aren't we so proud to be a country with 4 main races that live together harmoniously? Or does it only mean each race living within its own and only interacting when it comes to taking pictures for National Day banners? What happens when there are 2 races within a family? Like that how?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one, especially those of whom have grown up in an inter-racial family, or are part of one now. 

PS So what did I do in response to that man? The most mature thing of course. I showed him the finger. And no, it wasn't the one of victory. And when I told Max what had happened, he did the same. I'm not proud of it, but I felt the need to show Mr Crazy that I had heard his comment and I did not appreciate it, and that gesture was the first thing that came to mind. And no, the kids didn't see.


  1. I presume Crazy Man was Chinese? Not doing a good job of trying to win one for the race at all! I think the anti-foreigner sentiment is starting to mess with whatever semblance of racial harmony we once had.

    Anyway, he deserved the finger, and you deserve to sleep on it and feel better tomorrow!

  2. Wow! What an a**. I wonder what is Singapore becoming. There is a lot of pent up anger in singapore nowadays.

  3. He must have been chided by foreigners or is a super old fashion man. And trying to bully you!! Don't like this kind of people who don't know best. It's enough to snigger but not to the extent of bearing such audacity!!! I personally think your children will not experience such racist thoughts when they grow up. Our generation are much more educated than that. Hope you've cooled down!!

  4. He definitely deserved the finger! But I must say tt u're v brave to ve done tt! I'd ve probably juz walked away, worrying wat he may do next. Btw, I love how u described Max :)
    There are quite a few loonys ard where I used to stay (Redhill). Maybe one of em popped by yr street...!

  5. What that happened in our multi-racial shores of Singapore? How could he?
    But props to you for making your stand that you are accepting none of his nonsense! Don't play play with Adora!

  6. Shocking that this happens in this day and age.

  7. Not a nice thing at all... and to think that Singapore prides itself in being multi racial etc.

    Maybe he's had a bad experience with a wife / girlfriend / daughter / relative / neighbour running off with someone of a different race. The narrow minded him cannot accept it, and thus it has only made him more bitter. No excuse, though.

    It's things like this which upset me. Thoughtless words and presumptions, and making sweeping assumptions. Generalisations, vocalised.

    No one has any damn right to judge anyone else based on the choices they make. I'm so sorry that you had to bear the brunt of his ignorance and stupidity.

  8. This anti-foreigner/racist sentiments are getting quite bad these days - to a point that this guy could do this to a stranger. It is really non of his business anyhow, especially to make judgements on another person whom he does not even know. U did the right thing by showing him the finger - I would have done the same in your shoes, together with the remark "Non of your bloody business stupid man!"

  9. Sorry that you had to hear that comment from that seemingly really crazy man. Especially when it's near National Day. You don't deserve it in the least and no one should be in the position to judge you or your family. Inter-racial marriages happen all around the world, some people are just plain jealous maybe. =) Kudos to ya, girl!

  10. Horrible. I mean like keep your comments to yourself.. Cant believe ignorant people still exist especially in a supposedly multicultural developed country like ours.

  11. When I was in NZ during sorta an exchange program, I was given all kinds of second class citizen treatment. Workers in the Uni canteen refused to acknowledge our simple questions such as "Excuse me, where do I get the cutlery from?" to cashiers ignoring us and just charging the next person behind me when I have been queuing like anyone else. Weirdest moment - @ss came up to me in a supermarket and told me "go back to china you chinks". I turned around and saw the wife with kids who gave me a smirk. Went up to them and asked if she is v proud to have done that in front of the kids.

    When I first started dating the man, I had interesting experience too - old folks in Bedok hawker centre would literally STARE at us as we queued for food and my hubs is local!

    Right now, Dumpling is in a kindy where there are kids from mixed marriages. She asked me what her race was the other day and I was stumped. I do have that naggy thought at the back of my mind as to how "different" would she feel she is when she goes to formal school next time. Hmmm

    1. You lagi brave! What was that woman's reply? Hey you know what, I wouldn't be surprised if they thought Singapore was in China.

      Dumpling's race should be... Eurasian, no? I think that's what's on Poppy and Calla's BC though when we registered Calla's birth, ICA wanted to put Caucasian. WHAT? I give birth to her and my blood is not recognised? No way, jose!

    2. The silly woman was shocked and quickly wheeled the kids away (2 of them, i trolley). I am quick tempered la, it was a horrid experience just having everyone being nasty to us - from Uni to parks to supermarkets and stores. I was at the eggs section so I figured that I am "safe". :p I mean, what else can he throw at me besides eggs? LOL

      Under BC - I think Dumpling is labelled as "others". Hahahahahaa


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