t Double Yellow's Musings: Did Race really matter? – Part III
The warped mind of Double Yellow craves for humor everyday. His daily dose comes from The Straits Times, The Sunday Times, Today, Channelnewsasia, etc. He also thinks that because of this preamble, this blog will never get featured in the local media. And of course, please read the Disclaimer before embarking on the journey.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Did Race really matter? – Part III

For some reason, our media lurves to identify a person’s race for the fun of it. This is not the first time. This time, a man drowned near the Asian Civilization Museum a few days ago...

The deceased, a 27-year-old Indian man, was swimming wearing only a pair of boxer shorts early yesterday morning when he disappeared into the water.

Now, now... how exactly did the fact he was ‘Indian’ matter? Can only an Indian man drown in the Singapore River?

Well, here’s another one last week... a freak accident where a fridge fell three stories and hit a woman on a scooter.

The mini fridge, measuring 1m by 30cm by 30cm, rolled off a coffeeshop awning before hitting a Malay woman riding pillion on her husband's scooter in the carpark.

Again, does it matter that a Malay woman was riding pillion on the scooter? Would the fridge have not hit her if she was of some other race?

The identification with race only seeks to distinguish the victim as belonging to a certain community. This is ok if race does have something to do with the whole issue. The unnecessary use only seeks to deepen stereotypes about a particular community, something we can all do without.

Detractors will tell you that the use of race is only for description purposes. Really? How is this description attained? By the color of the skin? By the fact that someone wears a tudung, cheongsam or sari? How shallow is that? Racial identity is something that goes beyond physical descriptions. In a world of so many mixed marriages, the pigeon-holing of people into racial categories is passé.

I’ve also pointed out an earlier instance where our media have unnecessarily used race when reporting on PSLE results. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – removing race is a first step towards removing racism.


Anonymous Zyl said...

France has anti-racial discrimination laws and it is illegal to have ethnic or religious info in ID papers or census data. However, the Nov 2005 riots indicate that even if gov data is "race blind", discrimination still exists. Personally I do not think it is productive to ignore or banish racial identification of people but there is no doubt that discriminatory treatment of people on the basis of race is unacceptable.

1:21 PM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

hi zyl, interesting take you have there.... i don't think i fully agree that the french riots were racial. The 'race' element I think was played up by the media, including the BBC. I will put my money on the fact that the French riots had more to do with economic inequalities than racial discrimination. This is, of course not to say that racial discrimination does not exist in France...

... but here, the gahmen sustains racial identities and although there might not be over discrimination, I think the casual use of race will only seek to re-inforce these divides when they need not exist in the first place. Is it not high time that we consider our Singaporean identity over our racial ones?

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Zyl said...

Yes, the media has played up the racial as well as religious element in the Paris riots but respected experts like Dominique Reynie and Olivier Roy as well as prominent French minority commentators like Yazid Sabeg and Aziz Senni have pointed to racial discrimination as the cause of economic inequalities with young men of North African stock finding it impossible to get a job. One suggestion has been to make it illegal to ask for names and photos in job application forms but what's to stop racial discrimination from being happening at the interview stage?

I agree with you that the Gahmen promotes racial identities much more than it has to e.g. the various racially-based community help groups CDAC etc. but at the same time I am extremely sceptical that removing race from the press, identity documents and official data will help fight racial discrimination. I also agree with you that we should promote a common Sg identity over ethnic ones but I also remember how swiftly Yugoslavia disintegrated into ethnic genocide even after 40+ years state-imposed racial harmony.

12:05 PM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

Ah zyl, I agree with you that racial discrimination can still take place after removing race from the press, identity documents and official data. But the shallowness of it all is that the discrimination that comes after is loosely based on race. If race is not explicitly mentioned, how does a potential employer identify race in a job application or interview? By the name? By the color of the skin? If thats the case, then I will not call it racial discrimination.... its probably closer to xenophobia (fear of immigrants perhaps), which usually stems from a narrow reading of history.

Also, officially removing 'race' will not completely eradicate discrimination. It is but a first step....

I would like to think (for I do not have evidence that suggests otherwise) that such discrimination does not take place rampantly in Singapore. And precisely because of that, we are in a better position to completely remove race, do away with any form of racial discrimination and embrace some form of 'national' identity.

3:32 PM  

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