Making good use of privilege

by Sheryl Goh

This is a letter to fellow Chinese Singaporeans.

I am a privileged Chinese in Singapore. There is no denying the privileges that come along with being the majority, so I will not apologise for it.

I live in a neighbourhood isolated from the problems in our tiny country. I never knew discrimination, not directed towards me, anyway. I heard only tales of ‘smelly Indians’, or ‘noisy Malays’. I never knew what constituted the ‘O’ in CMIO either.

I take the MRT, but I’ve never seen anyone hesitate to take a seat beside me.

I take the bus, but I’ve never seen anyone hesitate to let me squeeze past them.

I never needed to cling onto hope that required a proof to be ‘needy’ enough to be rendered assistance. Like I needed to be a tad more miserable than others to ask for help.

I never felt the need to hide a part of myself at school. I didn’t need to hide my food coupons when I bought food at the canteen because I was afraid the other kids would see it and ridicule me like they bullied the other boy in the second class.

My parents could view any house they want, because we aren’t affected by ‘personal preferences’. We had no trouble travelling within neighbourhoods either, because there was no ‘issue’.

There is a discrepancy in the way we treat people like me. Perhaps you don’t feel like I’m an imminent threat to you because I look like you. You look at me like a I am a safe topic. You and I know there is an OB marker when it comes to talking about race, and we don’t have to talk about it because we are the majority, what can happen to us?.

But I do not make up our society. You do not make up our society. Our society shouldn’t be a bunch of ‘me’s. It should be ‘us’. We are not Chinese, we are Singaporeans. Our national identity is more important than our ethnic one.

I am writing this not to convince you to vote for a particular party, but to please think of the people you seldom think about before you vote. If you are like me, I urge you to pause.

For a moment, just think. Think of the people you never give second glances to. Think of the people you shy away from in the MRT. Think of the people you warn your children to never go near. Think of the people you see and immediately make judgements about. Think of the people who suffer because of your actions.

Then vote.

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