Abstracts of essays; news; announcements; short takes.
I loved your piece on the difference between race and ethnicity. Yahoo, someone finally wrote about it. Thanks! I .... will pass this article on to [...] who teaches a course on multi-culturalism.I agree totally that race is a conceptual fabrication. It tells us nothing real and, as you say, one can't even determine where one race ends and the other begins. So, my question to you is this: why do our ruling elite insist on telling us that race is a "primordial" tie between people -- that we can never escape race? There may be a history to it, as you point out. But what purpose does it serve strategically for Singaporeans to be constantly racialised (re: statistics that tell us of educational achievements and lack among the various races, etc).
There are probably a number of different reasons why "racialisation" is considered important, but I think the most obvious is the need to distinguish Singapore from Malaysia. If we start thinking in terms of ethnic groups, there may well not be any majority; we're all minorities. Seeing "Chinese" as a single group cements the notion of a majority, thereby giving identity to Singapore. The obliteration of dialects and the Mandarinisation campaigns give further form to this attempt to create a single dominant group. What this racialisation policy does to non-Chinese within Singapore is another -- very big -- question altogether
I am an amatuer blogger (Singaporean) who was inspired by all the blogging activity by Singaporeans. I have an entry which relates to my experiences with my Chinese friends from mainland China and Taiwan. I never thought that there was a difference between race and ethnicity. Being in america, I was at first unsure about asking a person's race because it might sound rude so I started asking about a person's ethnicity when I meet someone new. Not sure why but is seemed to sound more PC. In my mind it felt like the same thing. Now that I think about it, the difference you pointed out does make alot of sense. A person's ethnic identity involves not only his or her race but the cultural environment she or he grows up in. My first roommate was from Gambia, West Africa, but she was not black but was fair skinned and looked middle eastern. I learnt that she was of Lebanese descent and that in her country, she was a minority race. We got on very well with one another because she also studies the "O"s and "A" levels. She speaks impeccable English and spells British english. So we used to constantly criticised the American spelling. Just thought of how little similarities brought us together as close friends although we were vastly different in terms of ethnicity.
That was an excellent article about race and ethnicity. I think you hit it on the spot with your assessment of the migrant mentality of seeing skin colours. In addition, the ever-present indoctrination of the State has also resulted in many people here trying to put every person they meet into a pigeon-hole. The "CMIO system" was started, I believe, on a purely administrative standpoint. After all, it makes it easy for people working in the office to sort things out. It is unfortunate that some in government decided to enforce this into the consciousness of many people in Singapore. As a result, we have caricatures of who our neighbours really are. Is anyone really a Chinese? Just a generation ago, so-called "Chinese" people saw themselves as Hokkiens, Cantonese or Teochews first, rather than "Chinese". And any allusion that we are all the same would provoke quite a strong response from some elderly people, usually to the effect of "I'm not like the [insert dialect group]. They are very odd!" Personally, I find that the more I try to find my own ethnic consciousness, the less i understand it (i.e. the phenomenon of ethnic consciousness). Perhaps it's like asking a fish what water is. The fish swims in it but may hardly notice its presence. Same for me?
Good metaphor. So how are we, contrary to what was asserted by Wong Hoong Hooi in his letter, uncomfortable or painful in our own (varied) ethnicity?
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