The Fear of Racism

My friend, Space, is worried [link] about racial discrimination in Australia.

Well. Let's put everything on the table. Till date I've never written anything about the topic of racial discrimination here. I've received emails from humans and trolls about this concern and I tried my best to reply to each of the former. I'm willing to share if someone is willing to learn with an open mind. I've always find it odd that people still go around asking for opinions when their minds are set. Racial discrimination exists in two forms. Real discrimination and perceived discrimination. I'll like to share a bit about the latter first. To me, this is a much more important area to address.

The thing was, being Singaporean, every guy here was probably of a different race to me. In my previous company, we had Aussies, Pommies, Kiwis, Kimchis, Sinkies (only me) and a long list of whatever races I couldn't recall. One lesson I learnt here. If you are an asshole, nobody will like you, whatever race you are. When a Singaporean gets a lashing for littering, or failing to signal at a roundabout, they attribute that to racism. We need to first differentiate between racism and assholism. Then we can start talking. I hope this is clear. 

I'll start off by sharing an incident during my stint with the steel company, my first job in Australia.. Since this topic was motivated by Space, I'll talk about space. In the workshop, we would do the work anywhere in the workshop where there was space. We fought for space, normally on the first come first serve basis. Sometimes the Koreans workers or myself would be asked to move to another space we initially occupied. It was easy to decide it was racial discrimination in such a situation. In reality, it was about priorities, seniority and tenacity. When a more important job required the best space with easy access to resources, it was common sense to allocate the guy that space. The same goes giving up space for seniors, unless you think it is your birthright to question seniority at your work place. If you think you are being pushed around for racial discrimination in such a situation, perhaps it is a better idea to stay in Singapore to work and learn further.

There was times where people tried to be funny with me. Over time, even a slow guy like me could differentiate when someone was pulling a fast one or trying to be an asshole.  There was a night I was assigned the most physical job in the shift. It was to grind down a very thick machine weld by hand. Newbies would probably spend an hour to grind just 500mm of this type of weld. Our pace grew fast with experience. The total length we had to grind for the job was 40m. We were expected to finish this in a maximum of two working days. I was told by my supervisor Steve to use the special cubicle which had the facilities to flip the huge 6 ton hollow unit I was assigned to handle. With that, I did not have to flip it manually with the overhead crane, which was a pretty dangerous thing to do for someone new.

My Aussie workmate, Luke, came in to the cubicle and shouted at me barely 5 minutes later. He told me I was not allowed to use the cubicle, which was 'his space' where he kept the tools and stuff. You know, the typical territorial behavior. Within 5 minutes, he lifted the 6 ton steel beam out from the cubicle. I was left to complete my work outside, using the overhead crane for mobility. I was upset about the incident the entire night. I was contemplating complaining to Steve. After all, he gave me directions for the job, not that I wanted to work there. I didn't finish my job that night. I didn't talk to Steve about that either. Would you attribute this incident as racial discrimination?

The next day, I was assigned to finish up the rest of the beam. I walked up to the burly Luke. He looked like  one of the guys in the team called Bushwackers, in the old wrestling days. The size, the missing teeth and the crazy look and all. As a guy who communicated with less than ten 'ang mos' in his entire Singaporean days, walking up to bushwacker Luke was admittedly intimidating. I chose the timing when there was loud grinding noise around us so I could shout my question out.

"Luke, why didn't you let me use the cubicle?" Luke took his special sledgehammer from his personal locker in the cubicle before turning around, surprised with my question. He gave me an uneasy grin, showing his missing gaps.

"You'll mess it up," was his reply.

I stopped to think for a while. That was it? "No mate, I'll clean it up, PROMISE."

I was expecting a failed negotiation and if there wasn't a thing I could do about it. Surprisingly Luke gave a sheepish grin and said, "Alright mate, take care of my place."

Work was great that night. Not only it was much easier, the cubicle had its little perks, such as a fan, stereo and privacy. The burden in my mind which felt heavier than my 6 ton job, was released. I managed to finish my job that night with 20 minutes to space and I took special care to fulfill my promise and air clean the entire cubicle, leaving it cleaner than it was before.

Luke ended up as one of the workmates I could joke around with. He didn't drive but cycle to work as he lost his driving license. There were many nights during the rainy Spring nights he hitched a ride from me as it was too cold to cycle home. During these rides, I got to know him better through our chats. He was just one of the rough and tough sort of guy you don't encounter in Singapore these days. Perhaps in the olden days, we might still see one or two Ah Bengs of this type, who used their fists rather than mobile phones. By the time I was leaving for my current job, I was making sarcastic remarks to Luke whenever I saw him passing by as routine banter. He was one of the guys I still thought fondly of whenever I drove pass my ex-company.

As the Koreans and I worked longer in the company, we began to show our fingers to the others in situations we could differentiate there was room to fight for space. It was a matter of understanding how things worked around the place. I could have lost the chance to learn if I perceived the incident with Luke as racism. I would have lost much more if I stop at that.

I have been a keen observer of racism since I stepped into Perth. Till date, I was lucky enough not to experience any inflicted on anyone, including myself. There will always be people who talk to you as if they think you are an idiot. It is up to you to prove that they are the actual ones. There will always be subtle racism. My current boss calls Rahmat, my Afghani workmate, a terrorist every time they converse. If Rahmat took that to heart, that is racism. He laughed it off each time. Our Singaporean friends will have called it 'sucking the ang mo's cock'. The missing picture they cannot see is that, we can tell our boss 'What the fuck' in the face when he screws things up. Try doing that to your bosses in Singapore. Who are the ones sucking cocks?

I am not denying there are real racism in Australia. That will be a blatant lie. One experience doesn't make the world. There are racism everywhere in the world, including Singapore. Perhaps Singapore is one of the worst country on the records who openly practices racism and nationality-ism. I think no Singaporean will deny that, not even Space's concerned friend. It was just the sort of thing many Singaporeans would not want to be one the receiving end but do not mind to be on the convenient giving end. Perhaps guilt is playing on us. We think we will be definite victims of racism once we step out of the country, going by how often we treat minority races and foreigners badly. Perhaps by opening up our minds, we can accept the fact that there are more nice people out there in the world than the people we lived around and worked with at our homeland.


  1. why u want to work until like that one?:(

    in spore would u allow that to happen on the spot or not?

  2. nix:Perhaps Singapore is one of the worst country on the records who openly practices racism and nationality-ism.

    ans:racism in spore?how so?i been there for close to 40 years and not once did i come across huge streaks of racism as the ones u came across in it if they waqnt u folks to move out due to priority or its their usual place etc etc;; they should act in a civilised manner.they arent the australian police where they are allowed to shoot and kill rich half drunk foregners over a box of biscuits.

    im not sure the australians have recovered from the white australian policies from 1969.stuff like these take like 100 years or so for the people to readjust to a multicultural enviroment, it doesnbt happen overnight and they claim they are multicultural in less than a generation..meanwhile folks like u will pave the way n endure or try to argue or explain for like a 100 years or so.

    1. I have lived with racism since I was born, due to my skin color. There is real & subttle racism. Even my MP thinks Im not a Sinkie...

  3. I should say that racism is related to tolerance.

    So if they cant tolerate another and discuss it in a civil manner,u get problems .Its pretty simple.

  4. "Racism in Aussie Land" is an misunderstood / overly rately concept in the mind of Singaporeans. Imagine your workmates are migrants from different back-grounds and nationalities? What racism are you talking about?

    Perhaps the echos of racism are stronger in sinkieland.

    1. misunderstood?well,,,,,,,racism dont mean they hurl abuses at u while walking on road.aussie racism is etched not only in sporean minds but to other asian countries as well.aussies arent exactly refined and are rather crude.rough in fact!almost like a bunch of overweight russian sailors in a filthy dockyard.

      nowadays its more on job search racism !
      u want the best meaningful job that is safe ??no chance.i have seen most of the jobs they give to asians...its those hard luck jobs!sure they pay wayyyyy more than spore any day but u get badly sunburnt....your brand new safety shoes get so used until holes start to appear in months.either that or u end up as a cook,sales assistant or butcher mostly.

      that is why most sporeans say go out of the box n have something thats not working for someone work in a civilised place in oz u need to have a degree at least according to their australian "work" culture which to me already sounds like discrimination before u start werkin.

      unless u are a beautiful girl n smell nice or an indian who can even blend in and werk in germany or have some skills that nobody and no australian can do with license or knowledge.....its basically a primitive society almost similiar to the Survivor Series.

  5. I am Chinese and my husband is Indian. Since moving to Oz from Singapore 3+ years ago, we have not experienced racism. My children have been made to feel welcome from their first day at school.

    We live in regional Australia where over 95% are whites. My husband is well-respected in his workplace and given the same opportunities as his Aussie born-and-bred colleagues. He says he has experienced less racism in Australia than in Singapore where he got called names like "mangkali" and "ah neh".

    We're glad we made the move.

    1. if your husband is indian and indians do look more european due to long nose and skull structure,he will be accepted to white aussie enviroment.

      and its even better if its an enviroment where everyone is highly educated.

      reading thru history,the indians seem to be well favoured during colonial times?why?its pretty obvious!just because his colour is dark dont mean a thing.....u need to look at the other facial features that might be more appealing to the whites.if not u would only end up like the other highly skilled chinese.

      do not be shallow just becuase u see them accepting a dark skinned indian who looks like any dark skinned over worked european.

      look deeeper not just skin deep.if they respect means they need something from him badly.that is how anyone gains respect.

    2. I'm an Indian Singaporean and I also feel that I experience more racism in Singapore than in Australia.

  6. Your situation with Luke was merely lack of communication. He might look like a bully initially but once you make the first move to communicate with him, he ain't that kind of person you thought he would be.

    Here in S'pore, I face more bully and discrimination than racism (at workplaces). If you can't turn the one bullying you into your friend, then you need to show him/her you will not be intimitated. As long as your work methods benefit the company, your boss(es) would back you up unless he's an assh*** (then good luck to you).

    1. suppose u met with a white skanky bitch who yells at u to get out of the comoany toilet as she has used it 4 years and has all her stuff there too?i suppose it was lack of communication too?

      actually looking at was nix fault too who came over to lukes place knowing fully well that his stuff were there.if i were nix..i would not even had taken lukes work area.its a sort of convenience thing.what nix came across is not even close to racism....there are even worse in oz!

      actually,theres no discrimination act done on nix.

      bullying is common in spore.stop it all by bullying them back.
      if u cant protect yerself in spore then high chance u cant protect yerself anywhere in no point migrating lah,,,just stay hiome n suck it all up from sporean bullies.

    2. all emplyees employed benefit the company?otherwise why they wanna hire people for?

      are u a virgin spore girl??!!!!:)

  7. if u folks want to know how racist n juicy the aussies can get...try surfing "Australian Topix "and see how the whites treat the asians or other foreigners.

    not forcing u to believe there is racism or not.just rread n figure out for yerselves that it is still all out there.

    1. You knowledge of "Aussie Racism" are folkores you gathered on the internet?

  8. or try surfing the australian neo nazi websites called white storm or something.

  9. "Real discrimination and perceived discrimination" - very wise of you to say that.

    Sometimes discrimination is used as an excuse for failure.

    On another note, in my first day on the job in Oz, 30 years ago, there was a fist fight between an aussie and a Chinese boy (where he was from I can't remember.

    The Chinese boy came to me later and complained about the aussie being racist.

    Much later on, I found that the aussie bloke had a Chinese wife.

    Over 40 years ago in Singapore, well before the advent of Filipino maids, I ran a "maid agency" (then called an "amah agency").

    The issue of racism in Singapore was brought home to me by a Tamil girl who was so relieved we would even accept her to put on our books. I will never forget the look on her face when she said "you will take me? even though I'm Indian?"

    Being in the majority race in Singapore, I never saw the racism there. Now I know better.

    While there may be racism in Australia, there is also a lot of fair minded people who do what little they can to counteract that.

    During the Pauline Hanson era, especially when the anti-Asian immigration debate was at its height, a lot of strangers (white aussies) would seek me out in shopping centres, stop and make friendly conversation; in their own way trying to counteract the unpleasantness of the debate.

    It is important when discussing racism to also remember the good people.

    1. humans are such a pain in the ass!

      more so if they belong to the british heritage!when julius ceasar came to britain with his army,he found that the british people there lived in mud houses with holes dug up around the areas and they had mostly only animal skin for looks as if the british people at that time were stupid and were at least 200 years behind the other europeans.but what they discovered that the british people at that time loved coins,,,,more coins more richer n prestigious they look.their army composed of stuntmen riding in those rare chariots usually owned by wealthiest chiefs.they rode off to battle and did somersaults n acrobats like some kind of monkey god it seems.

      so if u see racism or whatever from brtish lineage,,,its more like stupidity and backwardness which is also related to tolerance and racism.

      best n wiset move is to stay away from these folks but stayn in oceania to further your agenda and purpose in life.

  10. the only way i will be convinced theres no racism in oz is when a tall athletic lanky blonde babe with great hooters swing her breasts happily and hits me with all the milkjugs,heheheh

    makeds everything look so distant!

    1. There will never never never be no racism anywhere in the world.

  11. great massive hooters!

  12. Thanks Nic for sharing with us your thoughts and the unfounded fear.

    You have revealed how narrow-minded we can be. I guess it is due to the education and exposure we have that produced the myopic view. We travelled but never been in other countries long enough to live and learn about the cultures and the people. 

    We brought in our belief and thought others have the similar mindsets. It pricked me when my friend said my children might be subjected to racism and could not speak up for themselves.

    News such as
    scares me.

    However, on the other hand, tragic news such as this 
    Scares me but disgusts me more. Average 2 fatal cases which could be prevented happened but we cannot do anything. There is no choice.

    There are different types of risks everywhere like what i told my friend "racism is everywhere." I guess she did not experience that being the majority and someone who came from elite school and worked in the same govt body for the past decade.  

    I only live once and I really do not want to be a frog in the well. I guess my friend is real comfortable in her comfort zone and blissfully ignorant about the real risks in life. She is contented and never understand "no venture no gain". 

    I never really expect her to raise so many points with me... How would my children learn Chinese? What job I am going to...? How to survive without help... 

    I do not have all answers for her but I just have to go. Eventually she realized I just need affirmation from her. Lol, I will seek help if I need to. I will learn if there is a need. I will speak up. I will adapt and adjust and I will enjoy!!  

    I really do not know what is ahead but isn't life is like that?

  13. Oh talking about space.

    Dispute comes by when we vie for space, position, $ and all.

    So regardless of race, language or religion, conflicts still will happen.
    I guess one must portray to be non-threatening to survive!

    I knew one Chinese property agent who spoke broken English who worked side by side with his colleagues. He kept them happy by calling them my good friends.
    So what so we learn from him?

    1. u need to kiss ass to make people happy n balanced?

  14. u dont want to meet with crappy or racist rotten people?

    simple solution:go setup a factory n make profitable stuff.

  15. Yes, rasicm is everywhere and even in Singapore. Sadly, as recently as last week in Melbourne, a racist and abusive bigot whose racial rant manaced the whole bus passengers was first page news across the nation. Incidentally, someone captured it on a video and has had more than 300,000 views on Youtube and has drawn to the attention of media outlets across the world. An attempt to answer your plaintive query calls into the question the meaning of "ethnicity" and also reveals the dividing factors in Australian society (Singapore included). Personally, I do speak good English, but slight diferences in vowel sounds or intonation immediately cause them to be distinguished as "migrant". My son, a second generation Australian speak the language perfectly, but his appearance or name is enough for him still to be seen as different from "real" Australian. As a matter of fact, there is mark different to show that the experience of the english speaking Singaporeans from the the other non english speaking Asian migrants. At the same time, as "migrants" we have all been seen as belonging in a single category. Why do Australian (and migrants included)put people into categories? Is just being different a cause of inequality?

  16. I stumble upon your blog. This post reminds me of last Dec when I was in Vic Park buying food. Met this Huge guy at the car park in the afternoon. He was hurling vulgarities and flipping me the bird while telling me to "go back to where I came from" and then proceed to pull his eyes with both his hands to mimic the "Asian" eyes. There are People were around me but no one came to help. I was scared shitless and I was almost in tears but I managed to get myself away from him. Now that I am thinking about it, I was I did stand up for myself and tell him to stop being a racist prick.