The year was 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles set foot on this tiny island in the Malay Peninsula and declared it part of the British Empire. The local villagers were like, “What the f*ck is this white man doing?” But before their news got the chance to go viral, Raffles had already turned the quiet fishing island into a bustling trading hub of Southeast Asia. #yousnoozeyoulose #colonisation
Our forefathers and mothers, through their then version of social media, saw that Singapore was the up-and-coming city to work and live in. They sailed across the oceans from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and many other countries to come here to build the foundations for this new home, and pave the way to a bright future for you, me, and our friend Xiao Ming.
A few generations later, Singapore has become a super economic power in the region, and those of us lucky enough to be born and raised here proudly call ourselves Singaporeans. Our grandparents and parents might have helped build the country with their bare hands, but it is us who are reaping the rewards of the home they have provided.
Nestled snugly in our comfortable air-conditioned malls, we seem to have forgotten about the struggles our ancestors had to overcome when they first arrived in a country that was so far, and so different, from what they called home.
The back-breaking work, the seemingly endless hours, the mistreatment by employers, were carved deep into the cornerstone of this country – all so that future generations could have a better life and whine about MRT breakdowns.
And still today, thousands of immigrants are arriving on our shores to seek a better life for their children, and hopefully, their children’s children. They willingly take up “lowly” jobs that locals are unwilling to work in, settling for a lower salary than us, and often keeping mum about the unjust treatment from their unscrupulous bosses.
Many of our foreign labourers have come from cultures vastly different from ours. What we deem “uncivilised” behaviour may be completely socially acceptable, maybe even barely noticed, at home. Likewise, the “everything also complain” mindset of ours could easily come across to our immigrant friends as being impatient, and entitled.
Imagine arriving in your new neighbourhood to discover that your neighbours have already decided that they dislike everyone whose surname is “Tan” because all of you are “loud, rude, and spit everywhere”. Think of all the extra bending over that has to be performed for the locals just to show them that you are not just a stereotype.
Sure enough, we often come across rude and inconsiderate to immigrants. But just as often, we bump into a similarly “ch*ebye” Singaporean. Maybe it’s not where we come from, but how we were brought up, and what we were taught.
It’s easy to generalise everyone from a single country into a fabricated stereotype based on a single bad experience, but it’s also incredibly stupid. You ate prata once and got food poisoning, does that mean all pratas are bad?
Just because one mentally disturbed woman from China took a shit outside the MRT station, doesn’t mean that all other Chinese immigrants have to be punished for it. When people freak out in public or lash out at each other, it’s usually the result of pent-up frustrations and deeper, underlying causes of pain, not their nationality.
Instead of reaching out to a fellow human being and offering our help, we take videos of their outbursts, post it on Facebook and Instagram, point out their nationalities, and start an online shit storm. And we call ourselves civilised.
We’ve all heard someone say this. And we most probably didn’t step in to stop this person from hurling more abuses. Well, simply because we’re safe, we’re locals. But let’s not forget that we’re all just trying to figure out this thing called “life” together.
Living in such close proximity to one another, Singaporeans should be the perfect examples of harmonious living, empathy and neighbourly understanding. So how then, could we allow ourselves to become the stewards of racism?
Our melting pot of cultures, flavours, and languages has been brewing for close to two centuries. Its taste is uniquely Singaporean. A few pinches of new spices aren’t going to spoil the broth.
So let’s remember that somewhere above us in our family trees, we were all immigrants. And it was our harmony that created a home safe enough to give birth to our generation. We are all just humans doing our best to be happy, no matter where we come from. Let’s help one another instead. Don’t be a ch*ebye Singaporean.
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