Saturday, November 15, 2008
Singaporeans -- Colour-Blind? I don't think so!
It was personally challenging when I read an article in the Straits Times (15 November 2008), titled Are we ready to be COLOUR BLIND? written by Zakir Hussain. NOT JUST YET is his sub-title. It is a response to the president-elect Barack Obama's presidential win. In my opinion, generally Singaporeans are racists. It is supported by many friends of mine who are foreigners, living and working here. I have learned to adapt with the systems in SG that demand you to define your race. And they recognize 4 races: "Chinese", "Malay", "Indian" and "Others". This categorization is somehow strongly planted in the mind of most Singaporeans -- and thus you will confuse them if physically you do not represent the so-called physical-identities of each of the aforementioned race. And it just doesn't concur with Indonesia. With more than 13,000 islands and hundreds of ethnic groups, Indonesians would be in many cases undefinable to fall into any of these 4 categories. Mixed-race marriages are common in our country. As one of the children born from mixed-race parents, I had difficulty to define myself. I never really thought of what race I belong to. But then I learned that I am "Others" here, in SG. A real example is being a patient of one of the government-restructured hospitals in SG since 2004, I did have to tick the box "Others" as my race in all documentational papers. This is worsened by SG's physical geography as a small country. Wikipedia says that SG has reclaimed land with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed, and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area has grown from 581.5 square-km in 1960s to 699 square-km today... If you were born and grew up in such a city-state, traveling overseas was not a major thing happened in your life, and you were placed in a such condition that strongly planted a mindset in you that you were to define people in 4 racial categories, you came for the majority race -- plus a strong belief that you are one of the best nations in the world -- narrow-mindedness and racism would inevitably take place in you. The worst part is, I think, meritocracy. Here in SG, it is about a strong atmosphere that you are what you do, you are how-you-perform, and you are what you look. Being in the education "industry" over the past 3 months, knowing and learning more about SG's education world, I witness that meritocracy is strongly mirrored through its rigid education system. However, narrow-minded people are just everywhere in this world. I remembered Kak Pet's funny story that happened to him when he was in... Canada (?). Apparently, people around him at that time there didn't know about Singapore's existence and asked him funny questions, like whether Singapore had McDonald's, etc. LOL. My aunt who lives in California also hates narrow-minded Americans too. ^________^ One of the good impacts of the flowing stream of foreigners into the country, is I believe, so that Singaporeans would learn about multi-ethnicity... to learn for being color-blind... and to think out of the box from categorizing people (on the basis of race, skin color, or even merits). It has hurt me a lot, dealing and living with Singaporeans, I should admit. But on the other hand, I personally thank God for placing me here, a good training ground for me. And I continuously encourage myself to understand them... sympathize with them as I realize that they have lived a much stressful life since they were a child.