Sunday, July 8, 2007

Links to Anti-Racism Resources

As part of making this blog more useful to people researching racism i'll be progressively adding some links to anti-racism organizations around the world.

The first one i have added is the "fight dem back" organization in Australia and New Zealand. They target neo-nazi and fascist organizations and have a wonderful track record in raising awareness of racism and preventing these groups from spreading hatred and spewing crap at conferences and meetings.

I've also posted a link to Asian Nation which has an excellent section on the racism that Asian peoples have faced in the United States with a load of academic resources.

As i find other organisations i'll post them here. Most anti-racism organizations out there deal with the nazi and kkk styled white suprememecy organizations, which is logical as they probably the most numerous and most violent organisations out there.

However, even though this blog is aimed at combatting asian racism, i still feel it's appropiate to link to organizations that combat racism in all it's forms and locations. I would like to re-iterate that in now way do i wish to demonize any ethnic group or belittle the racism caused by other groups such as white supremacist or, as another example, the ethnic elements behind the rawanda genocide.

I've focused on Asian racism because:

1. I live in Asia and i'm exposed to it on a regular basis.
2. I have personally experienced it
3. It is usually an 'out of bounds' topic for discussion in many asian countries media (with the censorship prevalant in many asian countries) hence the ability to highlight racist behaviors and policies and mobilize community support against them is limited.

I hope this collection of media clippings and academic reports will simply highlight that racism does occur in Asia, it is a growing problem and that by linking to other anti-racism resources community minded individuals in Asian can begin to develop grass roots programs similar to what is happening elsewhere in the world to stop this cancerous disease on human relationships.

Religious Freedom in Malasyaia

Whilst not strictly racial discrimination, this article was sent to me by a friend in Singapore from the on-line newspaper todayonline. What i find really disturbing are the 're-education' camps and the obvious lack of religious freedoms. I know i am coming from a liberal western perspective but it strikes a chilling cord to someone who had family members flee from Stalin's horrors in the 50's and settle in a new country. Anyway, an enlightening article that shows how fragile inter-faith (which are often in asia divided upon ethnic lines) relations really are and how the majority in many countries use their numbers as a bludgeon against non-conformity.

SHAH ALAM — A Muslim-born Malaysian woman who was held at an Islamic rehabilitation center for six months because she tried to live as a Hindu after marrying man of that faith insisted on Friday she will never return to being a Muslim.
The Islamic Religious Department in southern Malacca state detained Revathi Masoosai, an ethnic Indian, in January and sent her for religious counselling after officials discovered that she had married a Hindu.
Ms Revathi, 29, was born to Indian Muslim parents who gave her a Muslim name. Her official identification documents state she is a Muslim. Malaysians who are born as Muslims are legally barred from changing religion. But she claims she was raised as a Hindu by her grandmother and changed her name in 2001.
Three years later, Ms Revathi married Mr Suresh Veerappan according to Hindu rites and gave birth to a daughter in December 2005. But the marriage was not legally registered because under Malaysian law, Mr Suresh would have had to convert to Islam first.
Ms Revathi was released from the rehabilitation centre on Thursday. A day later, she appeared in a High Court in an attempt to have her detention declared illegal.
Ms Revathi, 29, claimed officials at the centre tried to make her pray as a Muslim and wear a head scarf. She refused to eat food which she feared contained beef.
"They say it's a school, but it's actually a prison," she told reporters.
Mr Tuah Atan, a lawyer representing the Islamic department, said Ms Revathi seemed to have become "so obsessed with love" after meeting her husband. But he said officials remain hopeful that she might still return to Islam.
Islamic officials seized the couple's 18-month-old daughter in March and handed the child to Ms Revathi's Muslim mother.
Ms Revathi said officials have ordered her to live with her mother and her baby for now and to continue undergoing counselling.
Her case highlights an increasing number of conflicts affecting the religious rights of the ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities.
Indians, who form about 8 per cent of Malaysia's 26 million people, are mostly Hindus while some are Christians, Muslims and Sikhs.
Mr Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, said on Friday that Ms Revathi's case and other religious disputes could hurt Malaysia's image, saying they showed "a narrow and intolerant face of Islam which must be of increasing concern to progressive and moderate Muslims". — AP

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A paper on Racism in Singapore

Not meaning to pick on Singapore, but someone emailed me with a link to this site:

It's a paper that was presented at conference on multiculturalism. A real eye opener. Text is below:

Everyday Racism in Singapore

Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Macquarie University

In this paper, I outline some of the common forms of racism that Singaporean Indians
experience in their daily lives. Though other racial minority groups such as the Malays and Eurasians also experience racism within the Chinese dominated Singaporean society, I am limiting my focus to the Indians as my research is based on this community. It should be pointed out that the experience of racism among the Malays has been well documented (see Tremewan 1996 & Rahim 1998). Moreover, because the Malays are often singled out as a “socially and economically underachieving” community in Singapore which in turn has generated critical response and resentment from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, racism towards the Malays is also well publicised. However, racism towards the Indians has received
little public attention. Even though Indians face racial discrimination in their everyday lives, their high socio-economic standing relative to their population size puts them as a prosperous and successful community in Singapore. As a result, racism has been become a non-issue for the India community and effectively ruling out the possibility of articulating experiences of racism discrimination in any official capacity.

Although the term ‘everyday life’ is synonymous with the idea of being mundane or ordinary and according to Gouldner (1975) is the stable, recurrent and seemingly unchanging features of the social life of ordinary individuals, they are by no means insignificant. In particular, what Heller (1984) termed as the ‘modalities of everyday contact’ which range from the random to the organised are important sites for gaining an insight into everyday racism. It is often argued that in multicultural societies, the proximity and intimacy created by living and encountering racial and cultural diversity can encourage familiarity and awareness of cultural difference. But as scholars such as Ash Amin (2002), Amanda Wise (2005) and others have argued it can
also create social tensions resulting in racial abuse, discrimination, and stereotyping.
Multiracialism is a fundamental pillar of postcolonial Singaporean society. It is a
political ideology that is actively promoted by the city-state to recognise/represent
Singapore as a racially and culturally diverse society. By that token, the main racial
groups in Singapore are accorded official status and are guaranteed equality.
Singapore considers itself a racially tolerant and harmonious country and indeed, the
four official groups – Chinese (77%), Malays (14%), Indians (8%) and Others - have co-
existed peacefully since its independence in 1965. However, this does not mean that
racial discrimination and intolerance are non-existent. Whilst there are many
examples of peaceful cross-cultural intermingling between the races, everyday social
tensions and discomforts arising from living with cultural difference are rarely
officially acknowledged (see for instance Lai 1995). Indeed, the term racism is entirely
absent from official discourse and public debate in Singapore. In this paper, I seek to
document some of the everyday experiences and practices of racism in Singapore.
Using empirical material and research field notes, I will outline a range of subtle to
explicit forms of racism that manifest in different social spaces in Singapore (indeed,
there are more research that needs to be done in studying structural and institutional
racism). I argue that while the city-state actively engages in activities targeted at
'fostering social cohesion' and is ever vigilant at suppressing overt racist provocations,
with few exceptions it has effectively silenced the voices of people who are at the
receiving end of everyday racism.

The Maria Hertogh and Prophet Muhammad Birthday remain as the two significant
events in Singapore history that exposed serious racial tensions on this island state.
The Maria Hertogh riots started on 11 December 1950. It was led by outraged
Muslims after the court’s decision to award custody of Maria Hertogh - raised in a
muslim family - to her biological Dutch Catholic parents. The riots lasted 3 days with
18 killed, 173 injured and many properties damaged. The second riots, took place
during two separate periods in July and September 1964 between Chinese and
Malays. Though no clear cause was identified, state officials blamed Indonesian and
communist provocateurs for instigating racial violence. But as official history and
discourse would have it these riots are regarded as the country’s most bitter
experience with racial conflict. Singaporeans are regularly reminded in official
speeches not so much about the causes of the riots but the fact that they were serious
and potentially disabling events in Singaporean history. The fragility of inter-racial
relationship and disaffections that emerged as a result of living with cultural
difference were never spoken.

In 1965, when Singapore gained full autonomy from the British, one of the foremost
concerns of the People’s Action Party (PAP) state was to ensure that such racial
conflicts did not take root again. And so, the promotion and maintenance of racial
harmony became a central pillar of nation-building. The new government was
confronted with the realities of serious unemployment, immense poverty, low levels
of education, acute housing shortages, strikes, and demonstrations, most of which
were Communist-led, and it had to deal with a plethora of competing ethnic and
national sentiments. The PAP addressed these challenges through what Chan (1975,
p. 51) describes as “a steady and systematic de-politicisation of a politically active and
aggressive citizenry” and mobilising the support of various organisations such as the
trade union and grassroots’ groups. Central to the PAP leaders’ thinking on the role
of the government was their view that the compulsion to achieve economic progress
and ethnic harmony made it imperative that the government in Singapore controlled
all instruments and centres of power and did not allow the growth of political
pluralism (Vasil 2000).

Following independence, many policies and programs were put in place by the PAP
government in an effort to build a nation-state. According to Quah (1990, p. 45):

[t]he rationale for the Singapore government’s approach to nation building has
always been and continues to be the nurturing of the growth of a Singaporean
national identity among the population, which will surmount all the chauvinistic
and particularistic pulls of the Chinese, Malay, or Indian identities of the various
ethnic groups on the island. The objective of the political leaders is to build a
nation of Singaporeans out of the disparate groups in the city-state. The
government has relied on many instruments to promote national integration,
including the promotion of economic development, public housing, national
service, educational policies, the mass media, periodic national campaigns, and
grassroots organization.

For instance by emphasising multiracialism and multilingualism as fundamental
principles of the state, the Singapore leaders aimed to inculcate a sense of commitment
in the various race groups to the state and to existence in racial harmony. In
institutionalising multiracialism as a state ideology, the fragmented and divided notion
of the nation no longer became an issue. Multiracial Singapore with a population of
around 4 million people — consisting of 77 per cent Chinese, 14 per cent Malays, 7.6 per
cent Indians and 1.4 per cent Other (CMIO) — was redefined as an essential feature of a
Singaporean identity and culture. The concept of Singapore’s multiracialism was
fostered through every conceivable means — in all forms of official cultural
representations, celebrations, schools, the media, national holidays and tourism.

Many scholars (Benjamin 1976; Clammer 1998) argue that the CMIO model
accommodates and assures equality and rights for minorities and is a practical and
viable ideology for maintaining racial harmony. One the most notable critical
assessments on Singapore’s multiracial policy was provided by Geoffrey Benjamin
(1976, p. 115) who argued that although the multiracial policy “accords equal status to
the cultures and ethnic identities of the various “races” that are regarded as comprising
the population of a plural society, [it at the same time] serves to define such a population
as divided into one particular array of “races”” (see also Chua 1998).

In addition, the government also actively championed the ideology of meritocracy so as
to tackle the problem of persistent racial inequality. It practical application can be
observed in the government’s promotion of multiracialism as a fundamental ideal
where the four main races are said to be given fair and equal opportunity without
privileging one or the other. According to Carl Trocki;

As an excuse for the paternalistic management of society, the multiracial agenda
justified the government’s structuring of education, housing and the new identity
to which all Singaporeans were expected to subscribe. At the same time, any
attempts by members of a specific cultural community to gain consideration for
themselves have been treated as expressions of chauvinism by the government.
The possibility of racial violence or outside intervention, should the government’s
brand of multiracialism fail, was presented as a constant threat to Singapore’s
“survival” and thus became an unchallengeable article of faith (Trocki, 2006: 140-

And this remains the case till today. To be sure, there have not been any racial
conflicts since the 1950 & 1964 race riots. In fact, people generally do get along.
Similarly, structural and institutional racism are not wide spread. Nonetheless the
official rhetoric of racial violence or disorder has completely overshadowed critical
debates and discussions on racism, inter-cultural tension and disaffection in
Singapore. For a nation which prides itself as a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-
religious and multi-cultural, there has been very little academic scholarship on racial
relations, cross-cultural interaction and racism. Within this context, any attempt to
engage in discussions about everyday experiences of racism is deemed as lacking in
legitimacy and unconstructive. The spectre of racial violence has literally erased the
notion of racism from public and official discourses. Instead the need to maintain
racial harmony, social cohesion and tolerance is repeatedly voiced to render racists
practices as non-occurrences. In fact, the only time it is ever discussed is when
Chinese Singaporeans encounter racism while traveling or studying overseas and
report such incidents in Singapore - Australia is frequently cited in these reports. And
so, other forms of racism that the minority racial groups such as the Malays, Indians
and Eurasians experiences are silenced. The government’s repression of discussions
on racist experiences has meant that there are no avenues for expressing or speaking
out about them.

The most common form of racism invariably experienced by Indians is ‘name-calling’
with specific reference to ones physical appearance. The body and colour of the skin
becomes the point of reference for ridicule, insult and verbal abuse. As it is well
argued by scholars like Audre Lorde (1984) and Frantz Fanon (1965, 1967) racism is an
embodied experience. Repeated references to one’s skin colour, appearance and body
are not uncommon. Let me read to you a set of quotes from my interviews that relates
to this point. As one informant, Shanti in her early 30s pointed out:

I first became aware of racism when a PE [physical education] teacher of mine, because I
was not athletically inclined, called me “Black tofu” in front of everyone. He later said
he was just joking when my father complained to the school.

Another interviewee, Gita in her 20s recalled:

I was about 14 and at the public swimming pool with my brother and cousin. I didn’t
know how to swim and was just getting interested in water, swimming etc and quite
excited. A Chinese man walked past, looked at us and said, “Indian Olympics ah?” My
whole body froze, felt strange, embarrassed, hurt. I lost interest in learning swimming
and did not wear a swimsuit for 20 years. More importantly, it severely affected my
body confidence.

In these two incidents the Indian body is discredited and made inferior because it is
black and also lacking in athleticism. It is a tainted body and incapable of performing
at a competitive level such the Olympics. While the first discriminatory remark is
associated with ‘old’ racism, the second stems from a cultural stereotype that
circulates in Singapore. Sports activities such as volleyball, basketball, and swimming
are almost entirely are associated with the Chinese in Singapore. All other ethnic
groups do not have a high visible present in these sports. As such, within this context,
the remark at the swimming pool was rather insulting.

Another instance where racism is frequently experienced is during everyday
encounters in closed spaces such as on public transport. The involuntary proximity
created by a crowded bus or train and a vacant seat can potential generate
expressions of discomfort and subtle racism. As my informant Ravi in his 30s echoed:

On many occasions this incident has happened while I travelled in a bus. A co-Chinese
passenger would rather stand than sit next to me if there are no other places in the bus.
At other times, the passenger would pass by me and sit next to another Chinese
ignoring to sit next to me. Am I smelly or what?

Bala, in his 20s:

My first direct encounter with racism was probably my first day in kindergarten (1978)
when Chinese classmates will not sit next to me or cover their noses whenever I am near
because they thought I smelt. They would tease or tell me that their parents told them
that my skin is dark because my family and I bathed in mud or excrement or never
bathed at all. As a six year old, it was very troubling to be perceived in such a way and
it certainly damaged self- confidence.

Vimala in her late 20s said:
Often the seat next to me is one of the last ones to be taken on the bus. Once a young girl
boarded the bus and saw me and immediately told here mother loudly, eeee, mummy,
Indian... smelly.” (I did not smell or look shabby.).

It is fairly obvious that a general pattern of racially motivated discrimination emerges
in everyday encounters and contacts between Chinese and Indians. Though they may
not take place on a regular basis, it is hard to deny that they don’t occur at all. Name
calling, the use of expletives, and stereotyping are born out of an attempt to label
Indian bodies as inferior, a threat and mark them out as different to Chinese bodies.
The terms such as ‘black’, dirty and smelly are not just hurtful and distressing but can
result in what Fanon (1967: 11) describes as “the internalisation or the
epidermalisation of this inferiority”. The respondents in my study were clearly
affected by the disparaging remarks to the point that they felt that it has damaged
their self-esteem and confidence. The lacking in athleticism or trying a sport which
Indians don’t excel well is seen as a point of mockery. Moreover, the subtle as well as
overt responses to the Indian body such as the impulse to avoid sitting next to an
Indian and holding of the nose as an expression of revulsion may not appear as acts of
racism but are powerful means by which displeasure and fear is conveyed. The
assertion of the superior status of the Chinese arguably comes about because of their
position as the dominant majority in Singapore. Unlike in neighbouring Malaysia and
Indonesia, where Chinese exists in small numbers, the Singaporean Chinese
population is a powerful force as they dominate the economic, social and cultural

In addition, the arrival of large number of non-skilled workers from India since the
late 1980s has further intensified ongoing racist practices. There are some 160, 000
non-skilled foreigners currently working in Singapore - a majority of them are from
the Indian subcontinent. These workers congregate in the Indian historical and now
tourist enclave called Little India. During Sundays and public holidays, the Indian
workers gather here to do their shopping, meet friends, eat and so forth. However,
these large gathering has not only created an uproar among non-Indian Singaporeans
but also to the perpetuation of racists sentiments and stereotypes about Little India.
As one informant noted:

“Friends (yes, people I actually know quite well) who avoid Little India like it's some
Danger Zone. I can take it if they tell me they're not used to the food or the smell of
spices and incense, but to make comments like, "eeee, all the Bangla and Indian
workers hang out there" are uncalled for. It's not just about the workers (I mean if
they were Chinese workers, these people won't kick up such a big fuss). I mean if you
want to talk about a place being dangerous, Geylang [an area famous for late night
food stalls, nightclubs and a red light district] can be said to be fraught with danger
too right? but no one seems to make a big deal out of it -- most Singaporeans have no
qualms about heading there for durians and supper” (Devi)

Another respondent, Thiru – reiterated:

I also have non-Indian friends who refuse to go to Little India on Sundays because they
fear being harassed by the Indian foreign workers who hang out there. I have heard
stories of cab drivers whizzing through Little India and only stopping for local
Singaporean customers. I have also seen on public transport – especially when taking
the train to Little India – how people will avoid sitting next to Indian men (in

It has to be said that although Singaporean Indians (who are mostly 3rd or 4th
generation) try to dissociate themselves from the temporary Indian workers, they are
invariably implicated and are to subjected similar racist overtones. In this instance,
Little India with its large concentration of Indians (not frequented by many Chinese)
is perceived as an alien space which is potentially threatening and even dangerous.
Even though there are no crime statistics to show that it is an unsafe area – Little India
is a place which you would want to avoid. Such derogatory remarks and stereotyping
are becoming a common place in Singapore.

There are also many other instances of everyday racism relating to food, homes,
neighbourhood, characterization of Indian behaviour and so forth that I am aiming to
examine in the longer version of the paper. But in conclusion, I want reiterate that
everyday racism in Singapore is fairly widespread especially within dominant and
minority relationship and encounters. Unfortunately, such experiences are never
articulated or openly discussed in the public arena. As a result, they continue to
simmer beneath the warm and fuzzy image of a harmonious and tolerant image of
multiracial Singapore.



Amin, Ash. 2002. ‘Ethnicity and the Multicultural City: Living with Diversity,
Environment and Planning A 34(6): 959–980.

Benjamin, Geoffrey (1976) ‘The Cultural Logic of Singapore’s ‘Multiracialism”, in Riaz
Hassan (ed.) Singapore: Society in Transition. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University

Chan, Heng Chee (1975) ‘Politics in an Administrative State: Where has the Politics
Gone?’, in Seah Chee Meow (ed.) Trends in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of
Southeast Asian Studies.

Chua, Beng Huat. 1998. ‘Culture, Multiculturalism, and National Identity in
Singapore, in Kuan-Hsing Chen (ed.) Trajectories: Inter-Asia Cultural Studies.
Routledge: London.

Clammer, John (1998) Race and State in Independent Singapore 1965-1990: the Cultural
Politics of Pluralism in a Multiethnic Society. Brookfield, Vt : Ashgate.

Fanon, Frantz. 1967. Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press: New York.

Fanon, Frantz. 1965. The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press: New York.

Goulder, Alvin. 1975. ‘Sociology and Everyday Life’, in Lewis Coser (ed.) The Idea of
Social Structure. Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich: New York.

Heller, Agnes. 1984. Everyday Life. Routledge: London.

Lai, Ah Eng. 1996. ‘Everyday Spaces, Ordinary People and Everyday Life Activities’,
in Lee Weng Choy (ed.) Space, Spaces and Spacing. The Substation: Singapore.

Lorde, Audre. 1984. Sister Outsider : Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press: New York.

Rahim, Lily. 1998. The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the
Malay Community. Oxford University Press: Kuala Lumpur.

Quah, Jon. 1990. ‘Government Policies and Nation-Building’, in Jon Quah (ed.) In
Search of Singapore’s National Values. Singapore: Times Academic Press.

Tremewan, Christopher. 1994. The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore. St.
Martin’s Press: New York.

Trocki, Carl A. 2006. Singapore: Wealth, Power and the Culture of Control. Routledge:

Vasil, Raj. 2000. Governing Singapore: A History of National Development and Democracy.
St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Wise, Amanda. 2005. ‘Hope and Belonging in a Multicultural Suburb’, Journal of
Intercultural Studie.s 26(1/2): 171-186.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Racism in Singapore

Taken from the "Today" newspaper:

Study finds children of different races are not mixing. Should we be surprised?

by Constance Singam

ARE you a racist? We are kidding ourselves if we think we are not. Let's admit it. We are all racist. That's the first step towards

In Singapore, racism is institutionalised and we don't even challenge that. It is "normal".

However, racism is a learned social phenomenon. Children learn it from their families, through education, religion, the law and the

I recall an incident in which two children, four and six at that time, thought it was fun to mimic a language they didn't understand
while watching an Indian programme.

Their father reprimanded them for being rude. "What do you think you are?" he asked them. They were surprised to discover that
they were Indians.

Another little boy I know, who must have been four at the time, discovered the notion of race when he was told that he was
Indian and that his friend was Chinese.

He then wanted to know what race his friend's brother was!

By the time children go to school, they would have learnt what it means to be "different". They learn it from their parents; they
learn it in the playground.

A young mother related a heart-rending experience that her two year-old son faces every time he goes out to play in the
playground of her HDB block.

Other mothers in the playground warn their children against playing with this little boy because of his "difference".

Once in school, they learn it in their "mother tongue" classes. They learn it from their teachers. They learn it when they fill forms.

By the time they reach Primary Six, their identity card would forever confine them to their racial group, labelling their "difference"
and depending on their experiences, they would have learnt to celebrate that "difference" or be ashamed of it.

A child told her mother recently that she wanted to kill herself because of her dark complexion.

A principal of a school that a little girl I know attended is known for her racial biases. Some of the teachers, as an exercise in
empowerment, taught the Indian girls an Indian dance for a school concert.

While the students proudly displayed their skill, the principal's comment was: "They can shake, shake. But they can't study."

In such an environment, they would have difficulties with their studies. Low self-esteem and internalised acceptance of the myth
of racial inferiority or superiority are the consequences of racism.

So, we should not be surprised by the results of the recently-published study by the National Institute of Education which
revealed that children of different races are not mixing with one another.

But it doesn't end there at the school level. A young woman, proficient in Mandarin and English, was not picked for a job
because she was not Chinese.

She applied for the job at a career exhibition, the requirement of which matched the qualifications she had, including proficiency
in Mandarin.

But she was told that the company was looking for a Chinese. These examples may be countered by the argument that that
there is racism in every country — which is true.

But racism is racism wherever it takes place. It threatens humanistic values and undermines the moral development of the whole

The biggest problem we face in Singapore is that racism has been normalised. It is normal to describe people in terms of race,
for instance.

It is normal for the media to identify people in terms of race; it is normal to compare the achievement of various groups (for
instance, examination results) of school children along racial lines; it is normal to divide people in HDB housing estates according
to their ratio in the population; it is normal to limit the learning of language to "mother tongue".

These practices are racist and the tendency towards sticking together and preferring the values and personal beliefs of one's
own group perpetuates racism.

And so, a society may live in peace together but they do so in a state of mutual isolation, suspicion and incomprehension. And no
wonder! In our system we are taught "racial harmony" with a narration of the history of racial riots.

That is "normal".

Yet, there are signs of tolerance everywhere.

For instance, there could be a Chinese funeral in one void deck while a Malay wedding is celebrated in another. Churches and
temples stand side by side, in amicable co-existence.

The Buddhist temple, the Christian church and the Sai Baba Centre located next to each other in Moulmein Road, is an amazing
testimony to this high degree of tolerance.

The most positive affirmation of the triumph of a common humanity is seen in the ever increasing number of inter-racial

And who among us has not experienced the wonder of cross-cultural friendships, occasions of kindness and generosity
across racial and, sometimes, even language barriers?

My own experience in civil society supports my optimism in the ability of Singaporeans to suspend their individual prejudices,
racial and class differences, and work towards common values and goals.

However, for all that optimism, the level of racism will not diminish if we continue to assume that group differences are
biologically determined and, therefore, inherently unchangeable.

We will then remain a nation of racists.

Extracted from Today, Thursday July 31, 2003

Inter-Asian Racism in the USA

A great article on inter-asian racism in the USA is located here:

A copy is listed below:

What we Asians want to be called isn't always what we call each other

By Phil Wang

March 13, 2006

San Diego--“You’re dating a Japanese girl? Chinese scum, eater of thousand year old eggs! How dare you! You should know better than that!”

Is this a scene taken out of context from a clichéd Chinese soap opera? Is this an overstated story of fiction, embellished to advance a simple plot line? Actually, the quote was overheard during a family dinner with a good friend of mine as said friend was chided for his choice to date outside his ethnic zone. The truth is that with any facet of Asian relations, Asians are both the victims and the perpetrators of a great deal of discriminatory behavior amongst themselves that borders on unhealthy elitism.

A stereotype of Asians: homogenous

(Photo Location: Chiba, Japan)

San Diego is a unique city in that, unlike Los Angeles of Vancouver, it has an Asian population that does not exert a great cultural influence. For example, we have a Chinatown, otherwise known as Clairemont, Dim Sum that’s twice the price and half the quality of Monterey Park, and none of the trendy Asian clubs that can be found in Hollywood.

To many San Diegans, even given their exposure to Asians, Asians are still perceived as a homogenous population of rice consuming, chopstick wielding, boba drinking black-haired individuals. Though the perception may arguably hold water, there is an undercurrent of bad blood that most non-Asians are not aware of.

During a recent sabbatical to Idaho, I sat down for a haircut, and in the middle of the conversation my balding barber asked me what I was.

“American, just like you.”

“No, where were you born?”


“Seattle… Washington?”

“No, Seattle, China.”

While you could argue that it was a very subtle case of racism, or at least ignorance, I’d say that many Asians bring those sorts of questions on themselves. I can’t count the number of times growing up in a predominantly white and Hispanic population I’d be questioned as to where in Asia my family, or I, was from, in spite of the obvious fact that I was American and spoke perfect English. This is because the label of being Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese or any other Asian group permeates our collective sense of identity as much as age, gender and occupation. We use labels ourselves, so how can we preclude others from doing the same?

When two Asians come into contact for the first time in any type of social situation, their nationalities will always be divined sooner rather than later. Imagine, as a native American, carrying a badge that states that one’s parents are from England, or Ethiopia, or Argentina. The thought of such a prospect merits a chuckle because, for the most part, such facts are irrelevant, irrelevant to everybody except for Asians. We carry a figurative badge in our minds and will flash it to our peers anytime and anywhere.

The other day, over lunch at Café Japengo, I had a chat with a Thai buddy, Nick, and we addressed this very topic. It turns out that there is a hierarchical ranking system of Asians that most are aware of. It’s a vague sense of superiority and inferiority, possibly obtained through social inheritance, which has insidiously wormed its way into our subconsciousness.

Nick, having run the relationship gamut, stated that his parents have always preferred his Chinese girlfriends to his Korean girlfriends. I mentioned this to a Korean friend who vigorously disputed the notion, but did venture that her parents would be happier with a significant other of Japanese descent than one of Vietnamese descent. Being more integrated into the American mindset of equality and tolerance than older generations, none of us were able to postulate a suitable explanation for this system. So I went to my grandma.

With her vast encyclopedia of experience, she graciously offered me a list of adjectives.

Japanese: Ruthless, emotionless sharks bent on world domination.

Koreans: Lazy alcoholics who run liquor stores while drunk on Soju.

Vietnamese: Irresponsible dark-skinned mutts who run hair salons in the day and massage parlors at night.

Chinese: Determined, bright, responsible, intelligent leaders of the free world.

Now, you have to understand where my grandma is coming from. She lived through the military conflicts and the acrimony that has been documented in the history books. She has lived and breathed the racial tensions that are prevalent in continental Asia. In Asia, there is genuine dislike that runs through the diplomacy of certain nations. Case in point: a recent spat, which spurred numerous protests, between China and Japan regarding one publishing company’s take on Japan’s occupation of China and of Nanking.

In any case, later that evening, I gave my girlfriend a chance to respond to my grandmother’s pristine evaluation of the Chinese. She claimed that the Chinese are a people consisting of insensitive womanizers who somehow get away with having little personality and having a marked propensity towards being three-footed klutzes on the dance floor. I retorted that she was supposed to be reflecting on nationality and not on gender. She countered with a glare and thus the conversation was concluded.

As if all of this isn’t enough, there is a further divide between Asian-born Asians and American-born Asians: the concept of being a FOB (fresh off the boat) versus being whitewashed. However, that’s a story for another day. As Jeff Loor, 25, of Danville, California aptly commented, “In this country, Asians are a miniscule minority. Why can’t we stick together?” That is a question that runs into the realms of sociology and psychology for which there is no simple answer.

Perhaps we Asian Americans will learn to pass on a more harmonious mindset, as old wounds, forged in Asia, dull and heal.

Racism in Japan (again)

This article examines the problems minorities face in Japan. Taken from:

Ethnic Issues in Japan

Amongst the major industrialized countries, Japan is one of the most ethnically homogeneous and some consider Japan's ethnic homogenity to be the main reason for social and political stability in Japan.

In 2005, a United Nations report expressed concerns about racism in Japan and that government recognition of the depth of the problem was not total.[1][2] The author of the report, Doudou Diène (Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights), concluded after a nine-day investigation that racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japan primarily affects three groups: national minorities, descendants of former Japanese colonies and foreigners from other Asian countries.[3]


Only about 1.5% of Japan's total legal resident population are foreign nationals. According to 2003 data from the Japanese government, the principal groups are as follows

Nationality Number Percentage
North and South Korea 613,791 32.1%
China and Taiwan 462,396 24.1%
Brazil 274,700 14.3%
Philippines 185,237 9.7%
Peru 53,649 2.8%
USA 47,836 2.5%
Others 277,421 14.5%
Total 1,915,030 100%

The above statistic does not include about 50,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Japan and illegal immigrants. Moreover, the statistics do not reflect minority groups who are Japanese citizens such as the Ainu (an aboriginal people primarily living in Hokkaido) and the Ryukyuans (who may or may not be considered ethnically Japanese).

Japanese minorities

The four largest minority groups residing in Japan are the Zainichi Koreans, the Ainu, the Ryukyuan, and the Burakumin. There are also a number of smaller ethnic communities in Japan with a much shorter history.

Korean people

Main article: Zainichi Korean

Zainichi (resident in Japan) Koreans are permanent residents of Japan, but hold North or South Korean citizenship. Most Zainichi were part of the Korean diaspora during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945, when Korean landowners and workers lost their land and livelihood to Japanese land and production confiscation initiatives. Those who continued to work the land suffered harsh conditions and saw their harvest shipped to Japan proper. This created large scale internal displacement, and many Koreans migrated to Japan for work. A total of 5.4 million Koreans were also conscripted into forced labor, and shipped throughout the Japanese Empire. Of these, 210,000 to 870,000 Koreans died during forced labor in Manchuria, Sakhalin, etc..[4] Large numbers of Korean immigrants also came to the country during the Jeju massacre in the First Republic of South Korea. Though most migrants returned to Korea, GHQ estimates in 1946 indicated that 650,000 Koreans remained in Japan.

After World War II, the Korean community in Japan was split between allegiance to capitalist South Korea (Mindan) and communist North Korea (Chongryon). South Koreans in Japan are called Zainichi Kankokujin (在日韓国人, 재일한국인), while North Koreans are called Zainichi Chosenjin (在日朝鮮人, 재일조선인). Zainichi who identify themselves with Chongryon are also an important money sources of North Korea. Charles Wolf, Jr. of the RAND Corporation estimated the total annual transfers from Japan to North Korea may equal more than $200 million.

Japanese law does not allow dual citizenship, and until the 1980s required adoption of a Japanese name for citizenship. Partially for this reason, many Zainichi did not obtain Japanese citizenship as they saw the process to be humiliating. Although more Zainichi are becoming Japanese citizens, issues of identity remain complicated. Even those who do not choose to become Japanese citizens often use Japanese names to avoid discrimination and live their lives as if they were Japanese. This is in contrast with the Chinese living in Japan, who generally use their Chinese names and openly form Chinatown communities. Because of their citizenship and legal status, Zainichi Koreans have traditionally been excluded from select employment, housing, education, etc.[citation needed]

Chinese and Taiwanese people

Main article: Chinese in Japan

Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese are the second largest group after Koreans. Mainland Chinese in particular have been the target of anti-immigrant sentiment partially because of their perception of having a taste for committing crime, and also due to strained relations between the two nations, and the simple fear of a large unfriendly nation on their doorstep, and differences in cultural politeness and economic development.


Main article: Ainu people
Main article: Ainu independence movement

The Ainu are an Indigenous group mainly living in Hokkaidō. The Tokugawa Shogunate tried to develop Hokkaido to counter Russia's growing influence in the Far East, but mostly left the place for the native Ainu. Then the Meiji government started development programs, increasingly aimed at assimilating the Ainu, outlawing Ainu language and restricting them to farming on government-provided plots. Many of the Ainu were also used in slave-like conditions by the Japanese fishing industry. As the Japanese government encouraged immigration of ethnic Japanese to populate Hokkaido, the Ainu became increasingly marginalised in their own land.

At present, fewer than 20,000 Ainu are considered racially distinct. Most, if not all, of the Ainu in Japan are of mixed ancestry. 80-90% of Ainu now either ignore or don't know of their Ainu identity. Many customs and traditions of the Ainu have been lost, abandoned or annihilated by way of assimilation, and the Ainu language is no longer in daily use.

Only in the decades after World War II have the Ainu started to become aware of international aboriginal rights movements. Thus, as of late, some schools in Hokkaido have been established to preserve and revive the Ainu culture.

Ryukyuan people

Main article: Ryukyuans

The Ryukyuan people lived in an independent kingdom until it came under the control of Japan's Satsuma Domain in 1609. The kingdom, however, retained a degree of autonomy until 1879 when the islands were officially annexed by Japan as Okinawa prefecture.

The Okinawan language, the most widely spoken Ryukyuan language, is unintelligible to many Japanese people, yet sometimes believed to be a distant dialect of the Japanese language. Even within the four main islands of Japan, different regions may speak local dialects that are unintelligible to other regions.

Culturally, Okinawa is much closer to southern China and Southeast Asia reflecting its long history of trade with these regions. However, because of the standard use of Japanese in schools, television, and all print media in Okinawa, these cultural differences are often glossed over in Japanese society. Consequently, many Japanese consider Okinawans to be Japanese, sometimes ignoring their distinct cultural and historical heritage in insensitive ways.

Some Okinawans intensely resent what they perceive to be second-class treatment from the Japanese government, especially in regard to friction with the United States military presence in Okinawa.


The Burakumin are a social minority group with no distinct ethnicity from other Japanese. Rather, their status is derived from policy introduced in the Edo period, when the government designated butchers, leather workers, executioners, and others as eta (filth) or hinin (non-persons) and imposed various restrictions on their lives, including the clothes they were allowed to wear and areas they were allowed to visit. The Meiji Restoration abolished these caste-like restrictions. However, those having eta or hinin status were registered as shin-heimin (new commoners) which allowed social and economic discrimination against them to continue to this day.

After the war, shin-heimin registration as well as other differential registration was abolished. However, at the time, family registry (koseki) in Japan was tied to the location of original (i.e. ancestral) registration. This meant that one's burakumin background could be revealed easily before marriage or when applying for employment. A law prohibiting the transfer of koseki was amended during the 1980s, so it is now possible for burakumin to avoid discrimination simply by changing the location of their koseki.

Municipal rubbish collection, sewage cleaning, and cremation—jobs which Japanese associate with filth—have historically been performed by people with a burakumin background. Discrimination is still an issue for kaihou seisaku (liberation policy) in the local municipalities. Unlike other minority groups, however, the burakumin are decidedly integrationist due to the lack of a distinct cultural heritage.

Other groups

Foreigners in Japan, particularly those from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, are often called Gaikokujin or Gaijin. The first noticeable influx of foreigners occurred in the 1980s, when the Japanese government adopted a policy to give scholarships to large numbers of foreign students to study at Japanese universities. In addition, as the Japanese economy grew quickly in the 1980s, a sizeable number of Westerners began coming to Japan. Many found jobs as English conversation teachers, but others were employed in various professional fields such as finance and business. Although some have become permanent residents or even naturalized citizens, they are generally perceived as short-term visitors and treated as outsiders to Japanese society. For some, it is hard to find the Japanese myth of "them and us" because of Japanese hospitality.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Keidanren business lobbying organization advocated a policy of allowing South Americans of Japanese ancestry (mainly Brazilians and Peruvians) to work in Japan, as Japan's industries faced a major labor shortage. Although this policy has been decelerated in recent years, many of these individuals continue to live in Japan, some in ethnic enclaves near their workplaces. Many people from Asia (particularly Vietnam and the Philippines) and the Middle East (particularly Iran) also entered Japan (often illegally) during this time, making foreigners as a group a more visible minority in Japan. Those foreigners are called Rainichi ("coming to Japan") in contrast to Zainichi ("in Japan").

The main concerns of the latter groups are often related to their legal status, a public perception of criminal activity, and general discrimination associated with being non-Japanese.

Ethnic issues

Government policy

Because of inherent discrimination and the low importance placed on assimilating minorities in Japan, laws regarding ethnic matters receive low priority in the legislative process. Still, in 1997, "Ainu cultural revival" legislation was passed which replaced the former "Hokkaido ex-Aboriginal Protection" legislation that had devastating effects on the Ainu in the past.

Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan states that all citizens are equal under the law, and they cannot be discriminated against politically, economically, or socially on the basis of race, belief, sex, or social or other background. However, this clause does not apply to discrimination committed by private individuals or establishments. Hate speech is not a criminal offense, but insulting, such as calling someone "fool!", is a minor civil offense resulting in monetary compensation (which is often lower than the cost of going through the judicial process). Japan does not have human rights legislation which enforces or penalises discriminatory activities committed by citizens, businesses, or non-governmental organisations. The country does not have specific hate crime laws. Racism and hate-motivated offenses that include assault, vandalism, and robbery are prosecuted as regular crimes.

Attempts have been made in the Diet to enact human rights legislation. In 2002, a draft was submitted to the House of Representatives, but did not reach a vote. Had the law passed, it would have set up a Human Rights Commission to investigate, name and shame, or financially penalise discriminatory practices as well as hate speech committed by private citizens or establishments. Though the anti-discrimination clause raised little objection, the anti-hate speech clause received very hostile reception from Japanese media, including liberals who saw it as a potential threat to the freedom of speech and publication. In 2005, the ruling coalition government attempted to resubmit a revised version of the draft which somewhat limited the application of hate speech clause, but it still failed to reach a consensus within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Another issue which is often debated, but has not received much legislative attention is whether to allow permanent residents to vote in local legislatures. Zainichi organisations affiliated with North Korea are against this initiative, while Zainichi organisations affiliated with South Korea support it.

Finally, there is debate about altering requirements for work permits to foreigners. Currently, the Japanese government does not issue work permits unless it can be demonstrated that the person has certain skills which cannot be provided by locals.

Higher learning

Tenure for foreigners in Japanese universities is extremely rare. However, many professors from all over the world teach throughout the Japanese higher education system.[5]

Non-Japanese citizens and crimes

Similar to other countries, many foreigners come to Japan to work, sometimes entering the country legally, and sometimes overstaying the term of their tourist/entry visa. Their employment tends to be concentrated in areas where most Japanese are not able to or no longer wish to work. Consequently, accusations of foreigners stealing jobs are not often heard in Japan. Due in part to intense institutionalized discrimination by Japanese government & society, some foreigners resort to criminal activity.

According to National Police Authority record in 2002, however, 16,212 foreigners were caught committing 34,746 crimes, over half of which turned out to be visa violations (residing/working in Japan without a valid visa). The statistics show that 12,667 cases (36.5%) and 6,487 individuals (40.0%) were Chinese, 5,272 cases (15.72%) and 1,186 individuals (7.3%) were Brazilian, and 2,815 cases (8.1%) and 1,738 individuals (10.7%) were Korean. The total number of crimes committed in the same year by Japanese was 546,934 cases.

Within these statistics, Japanese committed 6,925 violent crimes, of which 2,531 were arson or rape, while foreigners committed 323 violent crimes, but only 42 cases are classified as arson or rape. Foreigners, however, were more likely to commit crimes in groups. About 61.5% of crimes committed by foreigners had one or more accomplice, while only 18.6% of crimes committed by Japanese were in groups.

However, the former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Emergency Public Safety Task Force, Hiroshi Kubo, published a book disputing foreign crime statistics, suggesting that such statistics were being manipulated by politicians for political gain. He suggested, for example, that including visa violations in crime statistics is misleading. He also said that the crime rate in Tokyo is based on reported rather than actual crimes.

Access to housing and other services

A sign outside an Onsen in Otaru printed in Japanese, English and Russian barring foreigners from entry. (See Arudou Debito#Otaru onsen lawsuit)
A sign outside an Onsen in Otaru printed in Japanese, English and Russian barring foreigners from entry. (See Arudou Debito#Otaru onsen lawsuit)

Some apartments, motels, night clubs, and public baths in Japan have put up signs stating that foreigners are not allowed, or that they must be accompanied by a Japanese person to enter, though these signs are rare. The most common reason cited for this policy is that foreigners are associated with being overly disruptive and ignoring Japanese etiquette (which causes Japanese residents or clientele to feel uneasy and leave).[citation needed] This is considered to be a big social problem in Japan, however there has been no known opposition nor any legal battles against such a measure.

In the case of housing, it is often stated that those that cannot bring references from their employer or professors might be illegal immigrants who may sublet their room to a large number of other foreigners (which is undoubtedly due to a lack of housing these illegal immigrants encounter). Despite this, the Japanese in general are increasingly becoming more open to certain foreigners, (mostly North Americans and Europeans or those with Japanese oriental ancestry) believing they can bring new energy and information to Japan.[citation needed]

Political correctness

By global standards, Japan is highly homogenous ethnically. Thus, there are some issues which many non-Japanese find insensitive. The debate over these issues parallel the debate over political correctness in the West.

A common example of this issue is the Japanese use of the colloquial term "gaijin" instead of "gaikokujin" to refer to foreigners (particularly Westerners). Many strongly object to the word,[citation needed] as it literally means "outside person",[citation needed] as opposed to "foreigner",[citation needed] and allegedly has an implied exclusionary tone. Others view it as an abbreviation of the more formal term gaikokujin, which is used by the government and media.[citation needed]

Similarly, when Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara referred to Chinese and Koreans as "sangokujin" in context of foreigners being a potential source of unrest in the time of an earthquake, it caused an outcry among the media. Historically, the word has often been used pejoratively and Ishihara's statement brought images of the massacre of Koreans by civilians and police alike during the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake to mind. Therefore, the use of the term in context of potential rioting by foreigners is considered by many as provocative, if not explicitly racist.

Another example, which had been particularly shocking to some in the West,[citation needed] was a lack of sensitivity among the Japanese toward racism against black people. For example, one Japanese doo-wop pop group (see Rats & Star) in 1970s routinely appeared on stage painting their skin dark brown and wearing sunglasses to look black, totally oblivious to the implications of such an act in the West. Similarly, during the 1980s, Takara created and sold a doll called "Dakko-chan" (snuggle baby), an inflatable dark-colored plastic doll with fat lips and arms that could wrap around human arms or other pole-like objects. The doll was a commercial hit and was soon exported outside Japan as "Little Black Sambo". Many Americans made claims that it resembled blackface costumes worn by performers in the minstrel shows popular in the past.[citation needed] After receiving numerous complaints, the sales of the doll were stopped. In Japan, as a sort of hasty reaction, there were efforts to remove anything that people believed were racist against black people. The sale of Japanese translations of the book "Little Black Sambo" was halted. Any pictorial representations of blacks with fat lips, especially in manga and anime, were purged during this period.[citation needed]

Assimilation and integration

There are a number of aspects of Japanese society which foreigners find difficult.

  • Japanese citizens are recorded in koseki (family registry) and jūminhyō (resident registry) systems, while foreigners are only recorded in a separate alien registration system. A non-Japanese person cannot be directly added to a koseki, which is the main record of familial relations. As a result, based on official records, the Japanese spouse of a foreigner may appear to be a single head of household, and children may appear as illegitimate. Some municipalities compromise by allowing foreign spouses to be recorded in the "Notes" section of the koseki and jūminhyō.
  • Foreigners residing in Japan for longer than 90 days are issued an alien registration card. By law, foreigners must carry their passport or alien registration card at all times and present it to police upon demand, even though Japanese citizens are not required to carry identification. Recently, government officials have relaxed this policy, but foreigners still need identification.
  • Kanji (Chinese characters) are used as part of virtually all Japanese writing. Resident foreigners faced with paperwork from their local city wards and places of employment must generally learn about 2000 kanji before they can function independently in Japan. This often poses great difficulty for those from outside East Asia. However, many business and government offices provide translations of forms and other documents in English, and occasionally in other languages as well (such as Chinese and Korean). However, by their nature, such documents are often inaccurate, especially where specialist terminology is involved (e.g. vaccination notices, legal instructions etc.). Moreover, by their very nature, translated versions may not be up to date and thus pose additional procedural hurdles to those who are illiterate in Japanese and thus forced to rely on secondary documents.

Japanese view of racism

When most Japanese hear other accounts of racism throughout the world it is met with shock and disgust. Japan feels they are in a unique situation due to the combination of a declining population and rapid migration to urban areas. Some think every year knowledge and skills unique to their culture are lost. The Japanese consensus is that any means needed to preserve their culture are legitimate, even if they may seem "racist" to outsiders[citation needed]. Many youth in Japan feel a tremendous burden to keep the culture alive and many times leave the country and completely assimilate to their new homeland. This has compounded the problem in two ways: it exacerbates the decline in population and fosters a deeper fear of the influence of outside cultures.[6]


  1. ^ Press Conference by Mr Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights. Retrieved on {{#time:F j, Y|2007-01-05}}.
  2. ^ "Japan racism 'deep and profound". BBC News (2005-07-11). Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
  3. ^ 'Overcoming "Marginalization" and "Invisibility"', International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism. Retrieved on {{#time:F j, Y|2007-01-05}}.
  4. ^ Rummel, R. J. (1999). Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1990. Lit Verlag. ISBN 3-8258-4010-7. Available online: Statistics of Democide: Chapter 3 - Statistics Of Japanese Democide Estimates, Calculations, And Sources. Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War. Retrieved on {{#time:F j, Y|2006-03-01}}.
  5. ^ Title:Tenure for Foreigners in Japan, Author:Geller, Robert J. Publication: Science, Volume 258, Issue 5087, pp. 1421 Publication Date: 11/1992 Bibliographic Code:1992Sci...258.1421G
  6. ^ Meri's Monthly Circular August 2006 No.92

Asian Racism in Canada

Hi all;

An interesting forum discussion on the perception of racism by immigrant asian communities in Canada can be found here:

Also, for amusement check this out: