The recent viral case of a man who was subjected to a racist remark accusing him of “preying on Chinese girls” whilst on a night out with his girlfriend prompted a video creator to highlight the longstanding problem of racism against minorities in Singapore.
In an interview with Dave Parkash, the Indian-Filipino man who was targeted, video creator Lenney Leong recalled how instances of racism against minorities have been commonplace since he was a young boy.
“When I was young, I remember this story, I was at the bus interchange and I was with this friend of mine who is an Indian (boy),” he said in the video, uploaded on Monday night (7 June).
Mr Leong described how they were suddenly approached by a man who had asked him why he was sitting next to an Indian boy.
“I was very curious … He told me this: ‘A Chinese and Indian cannot be friends’. That happened 10 years ago,” said Mr Leong.
He also recalled being told to be “careful” or else the “apu neh neh” — a term often used to derogatorily describe Indian men — will “catch you to cook you in curry”.
Racism against minorities, especially Indians, go beyond such name-calling and insults.
“Some landlords even reject them because they are Indians,” said Mr Leong.
Racism in the rental market also appears to be a problem in neighbouring Malaysia, as seen in a Twitter user’s analysis of data sourced from nearly 10,000 rental listings on a local property rental website.
The user, known as Pingalayen, found in November last year that potential tenants who are Indians “are rejected upfront” for around 45 per cent of all listings in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
In his video on Monday, Mr Leong also criticised the apparent inaction and apathy of those of the majority race in Singapore, particularly those who have personally witnessed racist attacks against individuals from racial minority communities.
Referencing a video in an MRT train where a Chinese woman can be heard hurling racially and religiously motivated insults against another passenger assumed to be Malay, Mr Leong highlighted that there were more than 10 individuals presumed to be Chinese who were present at the scene at the time, yet they did nothing to stop her from verbally attacking the man.
Mr Dave said he felt humiliated that there are people who would see a Chinese woman dating an Indian man as something shameful and disgraceful, and to reduce him to a false and damaging stereotype instead of viewing him as someone with a personality and character.
The incident has also prompted him to stand up for himself and his loved ones, as well as the “many, many people out there, not only in Singapore, but elsewhere who experience any form of racism”, and to encourage others to do the same.
“We stand up, go against these bullies, these racist people,” said Mr Dave. “It will never be okay for people to judge someone based on their skin colour.”
Mr Dave’s story came to light on Sunday after he uploaded on Facebook a video of him being confronted by a man who made racist remarks about him and his girlfriend in public, telling the interracial couple to date people of their own race.
In the video, the man who refers himself as a Chinese, can be seen telling Mr Dave and his girlfriend that “it is racist that the Indian prey on Chinese girls”.
Mr Dave clarified that he is half-Indian and half-Filipino, while his girlfriend — who recorded the incident — is half-Chinese and half-Thai.
Undeterred by Mr Dave’s reply, the man continued his verbal abuse against Mr Dave, saying: “I got nothing against you staying in Singapore.”
”The only thing is you are preying on Chinese girl, I tell you the Chinese won’t like it,” while admitting that he himself is “racist”.
The man also accused Mr Dave’s girlfriend of “disgracing me”, saying that the interracial couple should date people of their own race instead.
“You don’t see a Chinese guy preying on an Indian girl,” he further said to Mr Dave.
The confrontation lasted for a few minutes before the man eventually walks off, leaving the couple at the scene.
The man who spewed the racist remark against Mr Dave has since been identified as Tan Boon Lee, a senior lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Engineering.
Mr Tan appeared to have been awarded The Long Service Medal in 2019 under the annual National Day Awards, as listed on Prime Minister’s Office website.
An NP spokesperson told CNA on Monday that the polytechnic is aware of the video and has suspended him from teaching duties.
“We regret that the individual in question is a member of our staff,” said the spokesperson.
They added that the polytechnic takes “a very serious view” of the matter, as the remarks are “highly offensive, disrespectful and go against our staff Code of Conduct and values as a community”.
“We are investigating this matter internally, including considering the appropriate disciplinary action to be taken. Meanwhile, the staff in question has been suspended from his teaching duties,” the spokesperson added.
The incident is currently under police investigations. The police confirmed on Sunday that reports had been lodged and that a 60-year-old man was assisting with investigations into the incident.