Just 3 stories, if you could spare 5 mins for me to share…
“She’s on quite a lot huh!”, quipped my brother of how the camera seemed to favour a pretty face in the audience during the SG50 parade. I replied: “Not just her, but a few other chio bus too… Well done lar the cam op haha, happy faces liven the mood what…”
Post-parade, our ‘CSI’ netizens quickly unearthed the identity of one of the pretty faces, we learn she is of Chinese nationality. An online shit-storm ensued, curiosity turned into anger and hate: “China ppl can go NDP.. Singaporeans like me ballot for 6yrs still cannot get” “Told you NDP is for PRs and new citizens” “Wah lao she’s tiong not even sgprean” “Omg! Sporean very difficult to get tickets but y they easily get.. need 10inch makeup I guess..” “Govt indirectly supports PRCs… Sick and tired of hearing them.”
Why so quick to judge and pile on the hate? We did not know anything about her really then, besides the fact that she is a Chinese national.
If I had tickets and foreign friends dear enough to share them with, I certainly would – for I am proud of Singapore, and would love to share the occasion with them, and show them what makes us, us.
While the recent outpouring of grief at LKY’s passing seems to suggest online cynicism doesn’t necessarily reflect the true sentiments of the majority, I am nonetheless saddened by the bigotry that exists amongst us.
So if I may share these stories:
— Story 1 —
Friends often asked if I was subjected to racism whilst studying in Australia. Aussies are racist, or so they’ve heard. I always replied no – people I have met were overwhelmingly warm and welcoming, and that I’ve been influenced into smiling more at strangers, and learning to greet people with a warm “How was your day?” Except for these two incidents:
The first: I was walking home from school this one night. A bunch of teenagers, apparently drunk, was driving by and shouted at me: “Hey chinaman! Show us your kung-fu!”, and proceeded to throw a slurpee at me, narrowly missing me but staining my jeans all the same.
The second: I was putting up posters for a Singapore Students’ Association dance party in school. Just as I was stepping away from the noticeboard, this burly white security guard came by and ripped my poster off, crushed and trashed it. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “It’s obscene,” he replied. While my poster did feature an Asian girl – dance party mah – it was in no way indecent. I looked up at the board at the other posters of ‘caucasian’ parties, much ‘wilder’ in their imagery, and said: “What about those? And you could have just told me instead of trashing my poster”. “You can take it up with my supervisor”. And I did, but he sided with his guard.
Having been on the receiving end of such hate and discrimination, I imagined being in the shoes of the Chinese girl from the parade: How would I feel if I had been invited to say, a game of Aussie Rules Football by my friends in Australia, only to have someone comment: “What’s this Chinaman doing at our Aussie game?” “It’s AUSSIE Rules, not Chinaman Rules!” Not good.
— Story 2 —
I shared a day ago, afterthoughts from watching “1965” the movie. What I didn’t share was how my family got to watching it in the first place…
See my Mom teaches in a language school, and many of her colleagues – Chinese teachers – are Chinese nationals. It is the fact that her Chinese colleagues, curious about Singapore, having brought their entire families to watch “1965” and attempted to discuss it with her, that prompted her to suggest we watch it too.
I groaned when she first suggested the movie, “huh? reviews not good leh, and trailer also not impressive.” “Just watch it as a documentary lor, my colleagues said they learnt a thing or two, and it wasn’t all bad” replied Mom.
I’m glad we did catch it, for discussing it post-movie I learnt a precious bit of family history. I have my mom’s colleagues to thank.
In the same vein – when I was in Beijing couple of years back for work, I was suitably embarrassed when over dinner, my Chinese firm partner chose to discuss Singapore and rattled off our demographic numbers and pros and cons of LKY’s policies faster than I could keep up.
Meeting Chinese clients and introducing myself as from Singapore, I often get a look of admiration and an accompanied respect: “新加坡？好地方啊！” (“Singapore? That’s a good place to be from!”). And mind you, one such client was a Yale graduate and no frog in the well.
I’ll never forget turning up for a client meeting to realise they had brought voice recorders – to record every pearl of wisdom us Singaporean consultants have for them.
Are we deserving of such admiration and respect? Do we even know our history as well as some of our foreign friends do, to be trumpeting our “true-blue Singaporean-ness.” I wonder.
— Story 3 —
I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a parcel weeks back. As luck would have it, my doorbell was faulty and I missed the delivery. I then received a SMS from the courier to reschedule the delivery for another day.
Realising I barely missed him by 5 mins, I called back immediately. Through his halting english and accent, I could tell he was a Chinese national. He explained he spent 5 minutes waiting, knocking on my door and calling me in vain – my phones logs did show that – and was already on his way to his next delivery.
I tried building rapport and showing respect, knowing he attempted the delivery fair and square and was not obliged to return. This was near 11pm and he was obviously rushing to finish his deliveries for the day. Switching to speak in Chinese I said: “包裹真急着要，您还走不远吧？方便绕回来吗？真辛苦你啦！” (“Really need the parcel urgently, have you gone far? Is it too much trouble to make a trip back? Thank you for the hard work!”). Perhaps feeling the sincerity and respect, he promised to return after his next delivery.
And when he returned, I thanked him with a firm handshake and he responded with a hearty smile and said: “没事！应该的！今天就忙了点” (“Not at all! It’s my job! Am just a little busier than usual today”). But I knew it was above and beyond and was sure to write a note of compliment to DHL.
Respect is a two-way street.
– – – –
I am hoping, my fellow Singaporeans, that we not be too quick to judge someone, just based on where they come from.
Be more gracious and welcoming. Keep ourselves in check and refrain from “tiong”, “pinoy” this and “bangala” that.
They are not our punching bag for everything wrong with Singapore, most are here making an honest living in search of a better life for themselves and their families – not unlike our grandparents whom, if you forgot, were immigrants too!
Try to separate your criticism of our immigration and manpower policies from that of the immigrants and expats themselves.
Sure there are blacksheeps, and some assumptions seem true of individuals of certain nationalities more often than not. But judge the person for who he or she is, not by his or her nationality or race.
If we believe being born here alone gives us the the right to lord over all who come after, regardless of what they have contributed or may have to offer, then we are really no different from the worst of our neighbours up-north.