Singapore is a great nation. In fact, it is one of the very few nations where there is an actual notion of racial harmony. At times, though, this is broken. We often hear stray incidents of racism, ranging from casual to blatant. Our reaction also ranges from shock to indifference. I do not blame the unsurprised – small things like these tend to happen in big countries like Singapore (This is an adapted hackneyed statement one of the Indian Superstars says in one of his hit movies)
No. I am not taking racism casually. I am from India. I am a FT. I also happen to know what an FT is called locally. I choose to ignore it because some form of discrimination exists everywhere. But when incidents like these happen, we all start doubting our values.
A few months back,a Singaporean was allegedly called an ‘Apu neh neh‘ by a 5-year-old in the MRT . The worst part is, his mother nodded and giggled. In another incident, a few days back, an Indian FT was trying to soothe his 2-year-old kid after a doctor visit. He was told to ‘crawl back to the shithole where he came from.” Another journalist, a 4th generation Singaporean, shares her experiences about some unintended but prevalent racism in Singapore.
Roshni Mahtani, the founder of Tickled media, and by effect, my boss, wrote an article about the discrimination she has faced throughout her life. She hates being asked if she is a Singaporean!
When there are so many races, racism is eminent. We have our own brand of Donalds roaming around. But does it give the country a bad name?
I think not! Because among us are mums like Samantha.
Sam is a Singaporean mum. She travels by MRT every day, gets her daily dose of Kopi and is Kiasu to an extent. But that does not make her a quintessential Singaporean mum. What makes her Singaporean is her way of raising her kids.
I was talking to her about the issue of racism and how, as a parent, she deals with it.
“Actually for me“, she says, “I have never pointed out that we are ‘different’. I think, to kids, people are people, and they are all equal, unless we teach them that they are not.”
And she is so right! But what happens when kids see discrimination at other places?
“I think it’s about being a role model, so we don’t say things that point out a certain race. So far, my kids play with kids of all races”
And it is no surprise that her son’s best friend is an Indian. Then she went on and made a very good point.
“I think there are a lot of teachable moments out there in our everyday lives. So it’s about catching those moments and making it a teachable one. I think being gracious is a value that we should instil in the kids, regardless of who the receiver is.“
So it is not a surprise that her kids give their seat for elderly, help out others in lifts. She recalls that her son once told an elder aunty not to say ‘funny stuff’ when she made some casual remark against one community.
You may recall the story of an unusual friendship between her son and a Malay SMRT uncle, whom he lovingly calls ‘Star Wars Uncle!’ They meet on the MRT station daily and chat for two minutes before boarding the MRT. This is what Singapore is all about.
We are from everywhere. That is what makes us unique. When we came here, Singaporeans as well as FTs like me, we brought here the good things we could. In turn, we left behind the things that we did not want our kids to adopt.
As long as we have mums like Sam in Singapore, there will be children who grow up with strong values. For every ‘Donald’ out there, I am sure there are 4 Samanthas making ‘this’ country great again!
(Images courtesy: Facebook)