Singapore

Participants describe experiences of prejudice at dialogue

Participants discuss prejudice at OnePeople.sg dialogue

A 71-year-old Sikh shares his experiences as a victim of racism in Singapore. He then adds: "It is factual that Chinese nationals are loud and rude."

This invites a swift response from a 17-year-old student, whose mother is from China, who points out that the comment is biased.

He goes on to describe his own experiences - several Singaporeans have asked him whether he thinks dog meat tastes good because of his family background.

The frank exchange took place yesterday at a workshop aptly titled You're Prejudiced. And You Are Biased. Admit it.

It was part of a series of dialogues organised by OnePeople.sg, a ground-up national body that promotes racial and religious harmony. About 60 participants gathered at Raffles City to share their experiences.

It coincided with the International Conference on Cohesive Societies, which had concluded on Friday.

OnePeople.sg programme manager Judy Ooh said such "authentic conversations" are important as they get participants to reflect and understand the need for moderation. The dialogue sessions also provide a platform for the public to talk about racial and religious issues.

During the session on prejudice, group facilitator V. Vijayalakshmi spoke of how people often mistake her to be Filipino as they cannot place her heritage.

The 30-year-old social work graduate, who is of Chinese and Indian heritage, said: "It annoys me because people always make me feel like I'm not Singaporean enough. It even makes me question if I'm ever Chinese enough or Indian enough."

Other participants pointed out that prejudiced views are not confined to ethnicity.

A primary school teacher in his 30s described how he was bullied "for being fat" and that people would judge him as not being able to do certain things, such as sports.

Meanwhile, an Oxford University graduate in her early 20s spoke of how, at networking events, she often felt overlooked as a woman because people "naturally assume that I could never be boss material".

The participants, who declined to be named, said the workshop was a good way to hear other points of view.

The session opened with local stand-up comedian Rishi Budhrani, who speaks several north Indian languages, sharing how a television producer had assumed that he could speak Tamil because he is Indian.

Mr Budhrani said in jest: "He kept saying to me, 'If you try, you can' - as if all Indians have a default Tamil button. But when he told me that I would get a lot of money for the job, I started spouting Tamil.

"Because, you know, all Indians speak one language - and that is money."

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