Singapore may be highly advanced in terms of education and technology however there remain social fault lines that need to be addressed. This paper aims to outline a common form of racism against Singaporean Indians and how this affects the particular individual and the society. The paper will also cross-reference to the USA and discuss the situation of American-Indians living there. Recommendations to solve this problem will also be further discussed.
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Section II – THE ISSUES AND WHO ARE INVOLVED
The population in Singapore is about 4.9 million people, 3.7 million people are Singaporeans and Permanent Residents while the rest are foreigners. The ethnic distribution of Singaporeans is as follows, 9.2% of Singapore’s population is Indians, 13.4% of Singapore’s population is Malays, 74.2 % of Singapore’s population are Chinese, while the remaining 3.2% of Singapore’s population are Eurasians. (http://www.singstat.gov.sg/pubn/reference/sif2010.pdf)
From the above mentioned statistics Indians are one the minority groups in Singapore while the Singapore population is dominated by the Chinese race.
The following paper will highlight the racism against Indians in Singapore from the majority race which is the Chinese population. This topic has been chosen because the author has experienced racism in many forms from the Chinese population in Singapore, thus the author is able to relate to this topic better and give better suggestions to solve the problem on hand.
According to Nadra Kareem, “one of the major causes of racism is because of the skin colour, where the minorities are rejected by the society and suffer verbal abuse because of their ethnic background.” (http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/a/internalizedracism.htm)
The following are two quotes taken from interviews (conducted by me) to strengthened Nadra Kareem’s statement.
I was about 13 years old when this incident happened, I went to the swimming school with my female group of friends. I and my friends did not really know how to swim, we just went for the sake to try out something new. My group of friends were wearing our swimming costume and we were about to enter the pool when a Chinese man said to his wife “Charcoal coming inside the pool lets go.” At that point I felt so insulted. I did not know whether to scold him or just simply run away to escape the humiliation. From that day onwards I lost the interest in swimming and I have never worn a swimming costume.
The following statement illustrates the point that colour is a cause of racism, naturally swimming costumes tends to show more of the body and the Chinese man had to comment on her colour as “charcoal”. The respondent’s body is shamed by being referred to as charcoal (in relation to its black colour) and on a worse note the Chinese man felt that by the respondent entering the pool it meant that the man and his wife should leave the pool and that they cannot be in the same pool together. On a whole this incident is extremely damaging to Indians’ confidence in their body.
During primary school there was an incident whereby a Chinese boy from my class would cover his nose and encourage other students to cover their noses because he thought I was smelly and dirty. When I confronted him he told me that it was his parents who told him that Indians don’t bathe at all. That day I convinced myself that I did not want to socialize with the Chinese.
In both instances it can be noted that there are actually racially-motivated racism by the Chinese against the Indians in Singapore based on their colour. The multiple disgraceful terms such “charcoal” and “dirty” is mainly to mock the Indian body as inferior to theirs. Ardis C. Martin, M.D. states that” if ones culture continues to be devalued it results in low self-esteem.” (http://ap.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/32/4/338) In both cases above, the respondents felt insulted by the remarks that they received. Vinodini did not ever want to swim again while Thevandran did not want to socialise with Chinese to ease his pain.
Section III – WHY THIS PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION AFFECT SOCIETY AND IS IMPORTANT
The racism of Chinese against Indians in Singapore should not be treated lightly and must be treated seriously. One only has to look back into Singapore’s history and remember of the two racial events that nearly tore apart Singapore – The Maria-Hertogh Riots and 1964 Race Riots.
On 11 of December 1950 the court decided to award custody of Maria Hertogh (who was raised by Muslims) her biological Catholic parents. Outraged Muslims protested the decision which eventually led to rioting when images showing Maria Hertogh kneeling before a statue of Mother Mary were published. Rioting in Singapore lasted 3days. Many properties were destroyed but more importantly 173 people were injured and 18 were killed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Hertogh_riots)
The 1964 Race Riots was a series of riots that took place in Singapore in July and September between Chinese and Malay racial groups. The racial violence killed 36 people and a further 556 people were injured. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_race_riots_in_Singapore)
The following two events illustrate how racial conflicts can destroy Singapore.
To deal with this situation the government has continuously and actively promoted racial harmony as the key pillar of the nation through various policies and measures emphasizing tolerance, understanding and respect among the different races and religions in Singapore. (http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20100429-213067.html)
Singaporeans are also constantly regularly reminded in official speeches of the racial in events in Singapore’s history and how it threatened to engulf the nation in turmoil. (http://www.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/sp/nationaldayrally2009/090817_hard_work_on_harmony.html)
The situation in Britain/United Kingdom will now be discussed, whereby Indians there are one of the minority race groups and they are discriminated violently and viciously by the majority groups.
Even though the situation in Singapore regarding the racism against Indians by the Chinese may be seem as tame as compared to the situation in Britain/United Kingdom, lessons has to be learnt from those countries to prevent our nation’s future from becoming bleak as Britain and United Kingdom.
Section IV – WHERE CAN WE START TO FIX THE PROBLEM
Racism of Indians by the Chinese in Singapore results in marginalisation between the two groups and thus creates divide within the multi-racial society within Singapore. (http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20100429-213067.html)
There are many measures put in place by the government to tackle the issue of racism between the different racial groups. During Mr Lee Hsien Loong National Day Rally speech in 2009 he mentioned about Singapore’s efforts at fostering harmony among the different races and religions. (http://www.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/sp/nationaldayrally2009/090817_hard_work_on_harmony.html).
The reason for doing so is to create social interaction between different races and thus promote cultural diversity among them. Examples to promote national integration between the different races include through promotion of public housing, national service, educational policies, the mass media and grassroots organizations.
One such measure I suggest to tackle the issue of racism against the Indians by the Chinese is to implement a system in primary schools whereby for one day a Indian student will have to live a Chinese student’s house. The next day the Chinese student will have to live in the Indian student’s house. This thus creates the social interaction required to foster harmony between the different racial groups. The reason for implementing this system during primary school is because young children are impressionable and through interaction at this age it will continue a trend to interact with other races as they grow up.
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Martin Luther King once said “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I totally agree with him, through the implementation of my idea it will help Chinese in Singapore to judge Indians based on their character and nothing else, thus creating a harmonious and multi-racial Singapore for all to see.
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