Editor's Note: This article was originally a facebook note written by Stephanie Chok. It was published here at TOC's request.
Looking at it makes me sick. Sick with rage, disbelief, and sadness.
I arrived in Geylang yesterday afternoon for a mooncake get-together with some migrant worker friends and volunteers.
Upon arrival, I was shown this receipt, issued by a phone shop just across the road. Song (not his real name), a construction worker from China, had walked across the road to buy a top-up Singtel card. He asked for a receipt and was issued with one that says on the top, ‘F**k U’. At the bottom, it says ‘F**k your Mother’.
Song, who did not understand what it meant, brought it back and showed it to a friend, Eric. ‘What does it say?’ Song asked, ‘I don’t understand.’ Eric was shocked, and returned to the store. The store clerk denied issuing it, and denied that Song had stepped into his store.
So there we were, a team of local volunteers and a group of Chinese nationals, grappling with the spillover of this hate message that I now held in my hand, and which Eric just had the unpleasant task of explaining. I felt polluted just holding on to it.
It was an awkward moment, a moment that made me so furious I took the receipt and promptly marched across the street, back to the store. ‘What are you going to say?’ asked my companion. Say? To be honest, I hardly felt like saying anything. I felt like hammering my fist into something (or someone).
I went into the store, took out the receipt and asked the man whom Song identified as the perpetrator, ‘Was this receipt issued by you?’. He looked at me defiantly and said, ‘No.’ He denied that the store issued the receipt, and refused to acknowledge that he had such a customer. The other man in the store, stony-faced, refused to even look me in the eye, and also denied the receipt was issued from the store.
He had the bile to spew such hateful language, yet lacked the guts to own up to it when confronted.
And the cunning! The store clerk used a ‘generic’ receipt, which wouldn’t identify their store, despite the fact that they also had a receipt book with the shop name printed on it.
So he thought that Song, this ‘hapless’ worker from China, would not understand the message and would not have friends who would alert him to what it meant. Or, at least, not so soon – and certainly not from just across the street. Friends who would return to confront him. The store clerk probably thought that Song would leave with this nasty message in his pocket and give it to someone else to read, oblivious. So, this is funny?
What mirth does one derive in insulting others without provocation? And in such a vile and disgusting manner?
And how does one deal with hatefulness such as this? After the rage has subsided, what is left?
A gaping emptiness, because our soul is momentarily depleted and confused.
A quiet desperation, from not knowing how to comfort someone whose dignity has been trampled on. And for no apparent reason beyond the fact that he is, well, visibly ‘different’.
A bitter aftertaste lines the pit of my stomach.
Dealing with HATE is tough.