30 October 2008

From Alexandra Hospital to Washington: The currency of race

Faced with racism, what do we do? What should we do? On November 4th, in the US presidential election, the biggest blow yet may be struck against this social cancer. Full essay.


thomask said...

alex don't ignore the possible "reverse Bradley effect" and "inverse Bradley effect", as postulated by 'jack the insider' in the oz.

Anonymous said...

I liked your article. But I felt I had to correct something you said.

" In no country with open elections has any politician who is clearly of minority race come as close to power."

1. Alberto Fujimori of Peru. He is an ethnic japanese in predominantly Amerindian Peru.

2. Paul Beranger of Mauritius. He is a caucasian in predominantly indian mauritius.

3. Mahendra Chaudhry of Fiji. He is an Indian in predominantly Melanesian fiji.

4. Benjamin d'israeli, a jew, in predominantly christian England.

There are a few other leaders but their names escape me.

Anonymous said...

"In no country with open elections has any politician who is clearly of minority race come as close to power."

Not true. Alberto Fujimori, a Japanese, was elected as president of Peru in 1990.

Anonymous said...

4. Benjamin d'israeli, a jew, in predominantly christian England.

Although Disraeli's ancestors were practising Jews from Italy, Benjamin himself was baptised as a member of the Church of England.


KiWeTO said...

coming back to the original incident, I agree that racism is still very strong within this country, and our government's brilliantly quick attempts to quash any kind of discussion about race or religion means that as a society, we will make no progress towards better acceptance of people not like us.

The world is a far cry from the utopia described in Star Trek where all are equal (or not, since then it becomes cross-species discrimination). Our world may never even get to that level of same species indifference to skin color or ethnic background.

How can real progress towards acceptance be made? One heart at a time.

Will we ever reach critical mass?

If we continue to persist in having discriminatory policies within government (especially within departments such as the military), very unlikely.

If we truly want to move forward as a society? give up the GRC minority requirement, and let those who truly desire to play politics go ahead and play.
(intellectually insulting to say that a politician of a different ethnic background would be unable to relate to other humans not of his background.)

Either way, progress needs to be made. Sweeping issues under the carpet will only make things worse when the racial bomb finally explodes one day.


Anonymous said...


Faced with obvious racism, you should speak up for the one prejudiced against. Otherwise it can fester all sorts of hatred and indeed even fundamentalism in those oppressed. Sometimes it is of course easier to walk away - like you did in this instance on the pretext that you do not wish to be drawn into this conflict - but if you had stood up for the two boys when you clearly felt that the ravings of the cleaner were racially motivated, you could have achieved much in way of racial harmony and who knows what else that racsim breeds in the future lives of the boys.

I speak from experience. I am a Singaporean living in Auckland. Because of the influx of Chinese from China, Singaporeans who resembles Chinese are all lumped together in one basket and tarred with the same brush by the ignorant and believe me there are plenty even in this supposedly enlightened first world city.

Last Friday, 31 October 2008, for the first time in my life, I was verbally abused by a bus driver through no fault of mine - nothing I did. He was just an aging White guy and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am certain that if I had been white or a solidly built and tall Maori or Polynesian, he would not have verbally attacked me. What happened was that he stopped to let a passenger off and then closed the door. I was standing right in front of the door so he must be rather blind not to see me and another bloke who was behind me waiting to alight. I tapped lightly on the door and when he opened the door, he was all rage. He stood up, towered over me as he was on the bus and I was still on the curb and let rip. I am more than certain that he only did this because he saw a middleaged short Asian woman. It was definitely racially motivated.

I was very angry after that encounter. Full of hatred for such a man. I have made a complaint and I am pleased that Stagecoach has got back to me.

It would have made a world of difference that evening if someone on the bus, who witnessed what happened, had come to my aid and tell the driver how wrong he was.

In your case the cleaner saw herself, despite being a cleaner, as of the superior race. Also the boys were young. Would she had railed against them if they were strong tall young Chinese males. I am sure not.

Please don't walk away. It does make a lot of difference to the person who has no say.


Burmese Gold Bull said...

im confused.. is it right to call Obama a half Kenyan?

Zaitoon said...

Thank you for highlighting such an issue. It is not always easy - to be the witness, and even more difficult to be at the receiving end. Racism is so insidious,so often, you don't see it creeping up in everyday life. For the longest time, I couldn't really understand why people never sat next to me in a crowded bus, mine would be the only seat left. Too fat? Too ugly? Apparently it is my skin colour that is considered too ugly. It does sadden me much that by denying that there is racism in Singapore, my government is allowing such mistreatment by the myopic. It is the government that creates those racist bloggers by its refusal to weed out racism. What's in a racial harmony day when there is no true appreciation of one's individual culture and the culture of others? Just because someone enjoys fish head curry doesn't make someone inclusive, just because we have an Indian president doesn't mean there is no racism in Singapore. To those who say racism exists everywhere, that is true. But in other countries such as UK, US, there is an ongoing dialogue. 40 years ago, blacks couldn't drink from the same water fountain, couldn't vote, couldn't eat in the same restaurants, couldn't sit in the same section of the bus. Apathy wasn't part of the formula to bring the state of minorities to this level in Singapore. But then again, the US is a democracy. No one is pretending we are.