Pride and Prejudice

Today we take a break from romantic fiction to talk about some hard facts of life. We talk about the one thing I do not like in Singapore.

I love this predicable city, this tiny country, which has been made clear by me in numerous posts in the past two years. However, there is one thing that breaks my heart.

There is a racial hierarchy that Singapore believes in and operates by. Interestingly, this goes completely unnoticed if you are a tourist. An average person here is mild-mannered and courteous. The worst thing a Singaporean would do to you on the street or in a shopping mall is be reserved and not smile at you.

However, you may sense something if you try to look for a job here. I personally chose to believe that the discrimination was more based on the paper work (citizens get a priority over PRs, who get a priority over foreigners) rather than my race. Twenty four months later, I will tell you that my assumption was not very accurate. Nevertheless, I chose to ignore it because I have friendly colleagues from all over South East Asia, and my Singaporean superiors don’t judge me from being who I am.

Today, however, I was yanked out from my self-made cocoon.

When I searched the property web sites for apartments to rent, I found many of the preferred listings stating in bold “NO INDIANS or PRC.” It angered me, but to each his own, and I skipped those entries. However, when I started to make calls to various agents, almost everyone asked my race, and then two told me “Sorry, no Indians.” One of the guys simply said, “What country?” and then, “I will call you back.” He did not even ask what I was looking for!

It is not to say that if you are an Indian or a Filipino or from PRC, you will not find a job or a house here. What I am saying is that if you are white, you would be flocked wherever you go. If you are a Singaporean Chinese, you will be respected soon as you walk in. If you are an Indian or Malay, you will have to work hard to win respect.

And that hurts.


7 Responses to “Pride and Prejudice”

  1. Been there, faced that. Over and over again. I was once told, ‘No Indians cos you guys cook spicy food.’

    Annoying as it is, it’s not that surprising. Like a friend said the other day, in parts of India people discriminate potential tenants based on food habits (no non-vegetarians), marital status, religion, and in some cases nationalities too, so why expect any different?

    Sometimes I think maybe as the owner of the house, you have every right to decide who lives in it. But it gets REALLY tiring to hear the same thing over and over again and with ridiculous reasons given.

    Recently, a friend moved in to a house that was sub-let by the tenant. After he moved in, the owner got to know that he’s Indian, and was asked to move out in 4 days. Classy, huh?

    • sunshin3girl Says:

      I totally concur with you. In Hyderabad, we were told “No north Indians” also, but surprisingly, I did not mind it so much. I felt bad, but not so bad.

      Yes, it is usually due to food habits and I agree grease can be a problem. However, what hurts is the generalization. I keep my house clean and I bet if this “No Indian” landlord saw the effort I put in to clean my house, he would not mind renting to me. But that is the whole thing, I have to prove myself over n over again. Do not want.

  2. I don’t know if I buy the “we have seen a lot of racism/discrimination in our home country so we shouldn’t expect different here” argument.

    I shun discrimination and societies that do that. The society I come from does that, and casually. Doesn’t mean I deserve it wherever I go. *I* do not discriminate, never have, and I demand to be treated with respect in any society I choose to go to.
    Doesn’t always happen, but I refuse to like it because that’s the case.

  3. How very wrongly you have been treated. I am what is considered to be a ‘white American’. Although I am more Native American than anything else, my skin is light enough that I would be called ‘white’.
    I have never understood prejudice of any kind, or for any reason. This makes me very angry to think that my ‘so called’ people, ‘white’ people are more respected in some parts of Asia than your people are. How terrible that is.
    Here in the United States, most Asian people would be treated that way, but I never expected to find that sort of prejudice in one Asian country for those from another Asian country. (Except, of course, between the people of Korea and Japan, but they have a long history of hate, and even that is beginning to lose it’s strength in some parts of those two countries.)
    I am so sorry to hear about your problems in finding a place to live, but I am glad to know you have found such a place. Prejudice is so wrong; no matter who you are or where you live. Best of luck.

    • sunshin3girl Says:

      I am glad not everyone thinks alike. You know, what is worse? I am one of the better off people despite all my rants, just because my skin is comparatively fairer than an average person from my country. As a result, some of my own also hate me for they think I get special treatment. It’s a vicious circle.

      • Well, my dear, you have a friend here who doesn’t discriminate when it comes to country of origin, religion, or nationality. We are all human beings, and should be treated as though we are. I am also glad not everyone is prejudiced, because it is a terrible way to be. I feel sorry for those people who can’t see past all of the differences to find the similarities in us all. But it is the people against whom they are biased who really suffer. A hundred years ago, Native Americans were treated the same way, in my country. It took a long time for people to get over their prejudices and see us as people, too. Take care, my friend. My best regards to you.

      • sunshin3girl Says:

        Cheers. 🙂

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