Editorial & Opinion

Racism

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Was it much ado about nothing for the Philippine government to have asked the Singapore government to look into a racist blog that not only demeaned Filipinos but specifically told ordinary Singaporeans to do precisely that?

 

The blog, called Blood Stained Singapore and since taken down by Google after an outcry from netizens, suggested ways for Singaporeans to maltreat Filipinos in their midst “without breaking the law”. The premise was pure prejudice. “Filipinos have long overstayed their welcome in Singapore,” it said, and so they should be shown they’re unwelcome in various ways - from treating Filipino waiters rudely to ignoring Filipino workers involved in accidents while snickering on the side. Singaporeans encountering the “infestation” (its word) on the mass transit or buses should shove or poke them, but not too drastically as to cause a public disturbance. And Singaporeans eating Jollibee at its Lucky Plaza branch should make a mess of the food and declare it inedible in front of the Filipino diners and crew.

That petty. And that ugly. The post went viral in no time - no doubt exactly the intent of the anonymous blogger, so linking to the blog on the way to denouncing it merely increased the visibility of the offensive site. The good thing was: The revulsion at the sentiments expressed in the blog was near-universal. Many Singaporeans were horrified at the idea of their country, founded on a bedrock of racial integration with ethnic Malays, Chinese and Indians comprising the citizenry, should now become a hotbed of intolerance and hatred. Singaporean Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, the Cabinet official in charge of supervising foreign worker quotas, was himself sufficiently outraged; he lauded Google for eventually removing the blog, saying that “vile and vicious blogs do not reflect who we are as a people.”

“Let us be clear,” he added. “This is not about freedom of speech or a debate about immigration or foreign workforce policy. This is about racism and xenophobia and there is no place for racists and xenophobes in our society.”

 

Blood Stained Singapore, of course, is not the first hate speech of its kind directed at Filipinos in that country. It’s merely the worst so far. Earlier, Filipinos who announced that they were holding a Philippine Independence Day celebration in a mall on Orchard Road became the objects of abuse online. Inexplicably, some Singaporeans denounced the planned event as an infringement of their country’s sovereignty. Others were plain vicious: Filipinos, they said, had become a nuisance among them; letting them celebrate in a popular public space was highly disruptive and upsetting.

The tone of the comments became so odious that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued a statement denouncing the vilification as “a disgrace to Singapore” and telling his fellow Singaporeans to treat Filipinos “the way we ourselves expect to be treated overseas.”

It was too late to soothe the fear engendered among the Filipino organizers; they eventually announced they were canceling the celebration. Which was unfortunate in that it played precisely into the hands of the Singaporean bigots who, while they were chastised by their own government leaders, managed to get their way in the end, which was to banish a gathering of Filipinos from an ordinary commercial space that had suddenly become, by dint of xenophobia, a piece of Singaporean sacred ground.

While these episodes have exposed a raw nerve in Singapore society, it was encouraging to note that its officials were not tolerating any display of overt racism in their country. That should serve to reassure Filipino and other foreign workers that they remain welcome to work and stay in a country that had long touted its pluralism and harmonious multiethnic society as a pillar of its national identity - the source of its strength, in fact, as a tiny island-state that overcame tremendous odds through the progressive-minded character and sense of unity of its citizens.

 

In an ideal world, Filipinos need not have to leave their country to seek work, only to suffer hostility and abuse overseas. But this is our reality for now. Mitigating that abuse, condemning it whenever it rears its ugly head, is necessary for the welfare of Filipinos everywhere - and for any other member of humanity who does not deserve racism of any form. Inquirer.net

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