Sunday, 21 September 2014

NO Chinese Privilege in Singapore (Part 1)

I read Prof Adeline Koh's Article on "Chinese Privilege in Singapore" and her references a few times, and felt compelled to enjoin her debate despite her wish that as a Chinese Singaporean in the majority, I "should shut up". 
To Prof Adeline, for me to speak up would be considered repulsively defensive and to deny the obvious existence of Chinese privilege in Singapore. What kind of argument is that, Professor? To disagree with you is to agree with your proposition? 

Well, young 18-year old Singaporean Justin Leow, pointed out her “unfunny irony” and reiterated that her article is one and the same. The silencing of majority views is not only divisive and rude. The silencing of majority views is also not a solution to a better understanding of discrimination and inequality in Singapore.

Of paramount truth is that the silencing of majority views is also racist.

Adeline offered no evidence that "Chinese privilege in Singapore (is) being very real". Her personal feelings of Chinese privilege came from an ill-conceived comparison and understanding that "Chinese privilege (which) is very similar to how white privilege functions".

Her superimposition of US black-white race relations onto the Singapore context is plainly improper and wrong.  Such comparison is so far removed from the real history of Chinese-Malay relations in Singapore. Therein lies the fundamental flaw in her analysis.

Firstly, US blacks were enslaved by whites for more than 400 years.  In Singapore, Chinese and Malays had lived in wonderful harmony until the Japanese came.  Race relations become politicized only after WW2 by ethnic-based political parties and later political elites in Malaya and Singapore.

Secondly, most US whites stereo-typed their fellow Blacks as largely inferior, lazy and do not measure up to "white" standards of intelligence, civility and social behaviors, pointing to factual statistics like "95% of homicides are Blacks killing Blacks" and "90% of prisoners are Blacks" .... etc. 

Very, very few Singaporeans believe that any individual members of the "other" race cannot achieve what any one of us can.  The facts speak well for Singapore - More Chinese numerically are poorer, have poor academic results, occupy lower income jobs, lived in cheaper housings ... etc.  In fact, Indian Singaporeans actually have better incomes among us. and Indians are less than half of Malays.

Indeed, if it truly existed, why "Chinese privilege" did not affect the Indian community to the extent that it has been accused of harming or retarding the progress of the Malays?  Adeline thesis is unable to answer this.

Thirdly, a mere majority in number DOES NOT confer a "privilege". South Africa during its Apartheid days had about 4 million Whites subjugating nearly 20 million Blacks for over 80 years.  At the formation of White Rhodesia (current Zimbabwe) in 1921, 862,319 Blacks were discriminated by 33,620 Whites who expropriated their land among other things.  And before her 1997 return to China, over 5 million Hong Kongers was colonised by White Britain who had about 26,000 Whites working on the island.

To move from "majority" to "privileged", the majority race should be granted special benefits, advantages and immunities to the exclusion and disadvantages of the minority races by virtue of solely the "racial" criteria.   Like in Malaysia.

Better-informed Singaporeans, and those who migrated from Malaysia, understand and KNOW the facts of "Malay PRIVILEGE" in Malaysia.  Against that, we would also know that "Chinese PRIVILEGEs" simply in fact DO NOT exist in Singapore, as asserted by Adeline.

Research would discover that "MALAY privilege" in Malaysia seriously harms the interests as well as retarded the social progress and mobility of its Chinese, Indian and non-Malay minority races.  Many, many studies on these are available if interested.

Personally, I feel privileged as a Singaporean; gratefully privileged in fact by all the opportunities of education, housing, jobs, social amenities, mobility and freedom "regardless of race, language or religion" which are not readily enjoyed by most of my Chinese and Indian Malaysian friends just 1.2km away just because of their minority race status.

Yes, we Singaporeans are indeed privileged, by any global standard. But everyone needs to check his or her privilege now and then. When middle class Singaporeans expound the virtues of meritocracy, we need to consider how our family’s financial status has perhaps provided us with more opportunities (to both succeed and fail) than people from lower-income backgrounds.

When (Chinese) Singaporeans proclaim the success of Singapore’s multiculturalism, it is perhaps a good time to stop and think about whether our majority numbers have blinded us to issues of perceived prejudice and discrimination among and against minority/majority groups.

There is just too much misunderstanding, abuse and misuse of the hollow concept of race in Singapore. A lot of stereotyping and false ideologies has blinded us to our Fellow Singaporeans’ experiences in the belly of this Lion City.  

Need to go beyond mere misunderstanding and stereotyping. Go deeper than that.  Most of us live in Bubbles of ignorance, indifference and apathy. Often unaware, or refuse to be aware, of our ingrained prejudices and assumptions together with an unthinking thus willing blindness to things that don’t directly affect us.

We need to unpack the issues of social inequality and discrimination beyond mere racial categories. And we can start by stepping out of our bubbles, check our own Singaporean privileges, and have more compassion and empathy for our less fortunate fellows to inject real meaning into the National Day refrains “Singapore – my People, my Home” and “Singapore - One People, One Nation”. 


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