9 times in 2021 that absurd racism burst into view in Singapore

From left to right: A now-infamous racist woman being racist on the train, a man harassing an interracial couple in Orchard, and a woman striking a gong to mock her neighbor. Photos: Ryan Kalmani/Twitter, Dave Park Ash/Facebook, Livanesh Ramu/Facebook
From left to right: A now-infamous racist woman being racist on the train, a man harassing an interracial couple in Orchard, and a woman striking a gong to mock her neighbor. Photos: Ryan Kalmani/Twitter, Dave Park Ash/Facebook, Livanesh Ramu/Facebook

Blame pandemic stress, a leadership failure, or the stoking of old grievances, but racism crawled out of the shadows and into plain view in Singapore too often this year, to the shame of its pride as a multicultural society. 

Most incidents involved members of minority groups being shamed by strangers, neighbors and employers while on the commute, at work, or even home. Coconuts compiled just a few standout examples of the overt racism that helped define 2021.

‘Hwa Chong’ lady 

Screengrabs from a video of a woman who antagonized other MRT passengers. Photos: Ryan Kalmani/Twitter
Screengrabs from a video of a woman who antagonized other MRT passengers. Photos: Ryan Kalmani/Twitter

A Singaporean Chinese lady went berserk on the train belittling a group of Malays in April. It turned out that being nasty and imperious toward other ethnicities was kinda her thing. She eventually went viral and was hailed as the “Hwa Chong lady” due to her habit of constantly lording over her victims the claim that she attended the prestigious school. We don’t know if she did; we don’t really care. Awful is awful, whatever your pedigree. Especially when you curate a busy (now-deleted) YouTube channel documenting all the people whose days you ruined.

Ngee Ann Poly lecturer

Screengrabs from the video showing the confrontation at Orchard road. Photo: Dave Park Ash/Facebook
Screengrabs from the video showing the confrontation at Orchard road. Photo: Dave Park Ash/Facebook

In June, a Singaporean man of Indian and Filipino heritage and his Chinese-Thai girlfriend were told flat out they didn’t belong together by a nosey man later revealed to be a Ngee Ann Poly lecturer at the time. In what felt like just table-turning, he got taken to school by one of his own students, who called him out for spreading Islamophobia during an online lecture.

Mocked by gong

Screengrabs from the video showing a woman aggressively striking a gong. Photo: Livanesh Ramu/Facebook
Screengrabs from the video showing a woman aggressively striking a gong. Photo: Livanesh Ramu/Facebook

A Hindu man filmed his neighbor aggressively banging a gong to mock his prayer routine, in a clip that soon spread widely and was infuriating and painful to watch. The police were even brought in to assist the family.

Kicked to the ground in Choa Chu Kang 

The victim’s injuries on her left hand from the Friday attack. Photos: @purrvyy/Instagram
The victim’s injuries on her left hand from the Friday attack. Photos: @purrvyy/Instagram

A woman was brisk walking in Choa Chu Kang in May when she was confronted by a man who aggressively told her to put on a mask before hurling racial slurs and kicking her to the ground. The matter was so serious that even “no problem here” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong denounced the attack.

‘Brownies’

A woman stares and yells as a woman films her yesterday during a bus commute. Photos: @Splbx/Twitter
A woman stares and yells as a woman films her yesterday during a bus commute. Photos: @Splbx/Twitter

First it was trains, then the buses. In May, a Malay woman was yelled at for supposedly shooting “dangerous eyes” at a bespectacled passenger. The latter also referred to the woman as a “brownie,” and therefore responsible for all of Singapore’s problems.

‘Malays are all the same’

At left, screenshot of a purported conversation between a man and his supervisor. Online translation of the message from Mandarin, at right. Photos: Qayywm/Twitter
At left, screenshot of a purported conversation between a man and his supervisor. Online translation of the message from Mandarin, at right. Photos: Qayywm/Twitter

An employee requesting sick leave got dissed by his manager who responded by texting in Mandarin that “Malays are all the same.” Because they’re all lazy and don’t want to work, was the unspoken stereotyping.

‘Black South Asian’ hater

Facebook post by Andrew Lee. Photo: Thiruben/Instagram
Facebook post by Andrew Lee. Photo: Thiruben/Instagram

A man with much hatred toward South Asians aired his dismay over a National Day banner featuring the family of Singapore athlete Thiruben Thana Rajan. He complained about taxpayers’ money used to “feed the black south asian.”

Racist self-own

A now-deleted tweet by an unidentified woman now being investigated by the police. Photo: @Demmauxxx7/Twitter
A now-deleted tweet by an unidentified woman now being investigated by the police. Photo: @Demmauxxx7/Twitter

A Malay woman who goes by Matilda Lee online ranted about how she does not want “headache or bullshit” from Malays and certainly cares not a whit for anything Malay. This came after PM Lee delivered his annual National Day address in English, Mandarin, and Malay (as he does every year).

Rapper charged for spitting hate

Screenshot of Subhas Nair in rap video made in response to controversial E-Pay ad.
Screenshot of Subhas Nair in rap video made in response to controversial E-Pay ad.

Singapore rapper ​​Subhas Nair, who has a history of calling out racism by hurling it back, was charged recently with riling up racial discord over his views – and persistence. In one alleged incident, he displayed a drawing of a social media post he had been ordered to remove in which he suggested a Chinese suspect in a high-profile murder case was given lenient treatment.

Other stories you should check out:

Curry conundrum: For Indian renters, Singapore’s racism starts in the kitchen

Loving outside the lines, Singapore’s interracial couples break down racism and division

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