Casual racism, expectations placed on minorities discussed at race dialogue, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Casual racism, expectations placed on minorities discussed at race dialogue

This article is more than 12 months old

At a meeting a few years ago, Mr Adrian Heng found himself in a situation familiar to many Singaporeans. Mid-way through, he noticed that the smiles on three of his colleagues' faces "were getting a little strained".

This, he realised, was because the group, mostly Chinese Singaporeans, had unconsciously been speaking in a mix of English and Mandarin in the company of non-Mandarin speakers.

"I was thinking about how difficult it must be for (them), sitting with us, trying to understand what was being said, missing half of it and feeling so left out," said Mr Heng, an adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore's Communication and New Media Department.

If employers are blind to such issues, in what other ways are racial minorities being disadvantaged at work, wondered Mr Heng, a panellist at the second session of "Regardless of Race - The Dialogue", yesterday.

Topics broached during the first session on Sept 21 included casual racism and the relevance of Singapore's Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others model.


Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, who is the chairman of, hosted the event at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Speaking at the four-hour session with 170 Singaporeans, he said that issues of race and multiculturalism are central to Singaporeans' national identity, and the dialogue series aims to engage a wider network of citizens to discuss issues and turn ideas into action.

Perspectives shared by the four-member panel included the expectations placed on minority races, both by other groups as well as their own.

Lawyer Nadia Ahmad Samdin spoke of how when the topic of radicalism comes up, all eyes turn to her as a member of the Malay/Muslim community. "Sometimes I feel pressure from other races... I'm supposed to represent the views of everybody," she said.

Mr David Reddy, head of content creation and influencer marketing for the BlackBlue Media Group, related that as a member of the Jewish faith with Indian heritage and Malay as a mother tongue, he is a minority in many respects. Being told how to feel and react by members of the majority can be jarring, he said.

He revealed that during national service, a fellow serviceman had said he disliked him because of his race. But over the course of a decade of reservist training, the two bonded over football and became friends.

Ms Nadia, however, noted that being expected to find common ground and "make things okay" on top of facing discrimination can be a challenge.

Mr Leonard Lim, a former researcher at the Institute of Policy Studies, noted that there are shifting norms of engagement when it comes to race.