A post by Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh.
This is a story of Shanmugam attacking the (hilarious) Indian whistle blowers rather than addressing Singapore’s Chinese-majority racism.
First, housekeeping. Legally we can talk about this openly since it is only under police investigation. If a warrant is issued or arrest made, that is the point when, under Singapore’s wonderfully calibrated laws, “a court proceeding commences” and public comments risk sub judice. Some hope this case never gets there—can’t risk the youth vote by arresting their stars!
Next, background for those catching up. An official 2019 Singapore government e-pay advertisement shows a Chinese actor playing multiple races, including an Indian in brown face. Anytime anybody anywhere tells you about Singapore’s wonderful multiculturalism, please repeat that last line to them.
In response to the ad, local rappers Preetipls and Subhas made a video poking fun at Singaporean Chinese racists for “fucking things up”. I thought it was great. Yes, Singaporeans should poke fun at all racists of all shades whenever they fuck up.
After watching it, Shanmugam concluded that they had attacked “another race”. A close friend messaged me this morning saying she agrees with Shan.
Er, say what? How does poking fun at Chinese racists who fuck things up become an attack on an entire race?
In case anybody is in doubt, Preeti makes it absolutely clear at the end of the video that she is NOT calling all Chinese racists. Presumably Shanmugam chose to ignore this.
So, here we go again. Singapore’s minorities experience racism, this time backed by the state. And when we speak up about it, we get called out. “Stir ah, stir ah” is the favoured expression of Chinese chauvinists around the Internet, whose primary aim is to demonise and shut up whistle blowers.
You see, we minorities are not supposed to puncture the image of beautiful, harmonious multicultural Singapore.
Never mind that Singapore has the two most racist policies in the developed world: preventing Muslims from serving in high-security military posts (messaging: “We don’t trust Muslims as much”); and actively importing more Chinese to maintain the group’s supermajority (“Chinese are better than Indians, Malays, Eurasians, and the rest.”). Never mind that racism is a daily reality for many minorities in Singapore.
Let’s forget about the racist underpinnings of Singapore, about the broader social environment we have fostered, that actually permits this brown face freak show to pass through layers of government and agency vetting.
Instead, let’s target the Indian whistle blowers. Good one.
I must end with the big picture lest the above is misleading: yes, minorities have it better in Singapore than in many other countries. But no, we are not doing very much to address the problems that exist. We should be encouraging more dialogue, not shutting it down.
p.s. I suspect the crux of the issue is a generational divide in terms of acceptable speech, innuendos, etc. Topic for another day.
p.s. 2 for those in denial about our racist underpinnings, here are a few quotes:
1. “Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and each needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development.”
- Lee Kuan Yew, 1967
(Lee Kuan Yew, in a meeting at the University of Singapore on 27 December 1967, as recorded by Chandra Muzaffar, a Malaysian political scientist. Michael D. Barr, “Lee Kuan Yew: Race, culture and genes”, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 29 (2) (1999): 145–166.)
2. “I have said this on many a previous occasion; that had the mix in Singapore been different, had it been 75 per cent Indians, 15 per cent Malays and the rest Chinese, it would not have worked. Because they believe in the politics of contention, of opposition.”
- Lee Kuan Yew, 1985
(President's Address, Debate on President's Address, Parliament of Singapore. March 01, 1985)
3. In a 2005 meeting with Hilary Clinton, Lee portrayed Islam as a “venomous religion”, according to Wikileaks. (He later denied saying that.)
It is true Preeti made it clear at the end of the video that she is not calling all Chinese racists. No doubt.
However if you have watched the rap video, it can easily be intepreted as offensive despite the disclaimer at the end.
Do you agree with the minister or Sudhir?
*Legitly wondering how The Noose was so popular back then*