By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna
Racism is a sad truth in many cultures. Singapore, despite its starry exterior, is no exception. However, there are actual laws in place to discourage racism and some expats here have needed to test that out.
I recently heard of a lady who used Uber. She was Indian and the driver called her a name that referred negatively to the colour of her skin and her gender and took her photo for some unknown reason. The rightfully insulted party took to our trusty expat women’s Facebook pages to vent about it and get some support and probably opened a few eyes that this can happen here.
I was not surprised to see ALL the comments in support of her, encouraging her to stand proud, not take that crap and report the driver to Uber and the police.
I hope she did. It’s the comment that I posted.
This does happen here. I have heard from taxi drivers themselves that they don’t like to pick up passengers on Tanjong Rhu or in Little India. Um. What????? That is not cool.
With Uber, the driver cannot always choose the customer so you have a hope that racism would not come into play. But here in this incident it did once the lady was in the car.
Just because racism is an uncomfortable topic doesn’t mean that we should brush it off or ignore it.
More pointedly, I think it’s a good time to review exactly what the law is in Singapore. Yes, you can report racial incidents to the police and it is my understanding that it is taken seriously.
Article 12 of the Constitution of Singapore guarantees equality. According to Wikipedia, there are four “forbidden” classifications–religion, race, descent and place of birth, upon which Singapore citizens may not be discriminated against. So it’s in the fabric of the country to not tolerate racism. A major plus.
A more serious aspect is covered under Singapore’s Sedition Act: Section 3(1)(e) of the Sedition Act refers to promoting “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore”. However, the interpretations are loose to include religions and races, which muddies the waters. And that is usually reserved for people who are using race to stir up trouble, by inciting other people such as in a rally or online rant.
In other areas of Singapore law, according to Section 298 of the Penal Code: “Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings of any person” is an offence punishable by up to 3 years in jail and/or a fine. That’s really the one that applies to everyday behavior in my view.
After some online research, it seems the offenders who are recorded on YouTube got harsher sentences. So, if you really want to nail someone for racist remarks, record them.
When considering race, I don’t have all the answers. I just try to treat everybody equally and without bias.
I’m sure, despite my best efforts, I don’t always get it right. Not everyone does. The best explanation of managing racism that I found comes the Facebook page Stop Racism in Singapore, which features a quote from Bill Nye, the Science guy, who had this to say:
“Researchers have proven scientifically that humans are all one people. The colour of our ancestors’ skin and ultimately my skin and your skin is a consequence of ultra-violet light, of latitude and climate…there really is no such thing, scientifically, as race. We are one species.
“Each of us is more alike than we are different. We all came from Africa. We’re all made of the same star dust. We’re all going to live and die on the same planet—a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together!”
About Andrea McKenna
image: E. Chiau
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.