You’ve heard about White Privilege. But have you heard about Chinese Privilege?
This term seems to have been popping up more on social media, especially among ‘woke’ audiences in Singapore. You see both the minorities and majority complaining that Chinese people have lighter sentences on the Instagram comments of crime-related posts, that Chinese people have an advantage when it comes to jobs, that Chinese people are racist because of their privilege, etc.
As a Chinese person, this, of course, is both sad and worrying. But my feelings do not matter here. Let’s go back to the question: does Chinese Privilege exist?
My answer is yes.
I feel that as long as there’s a majority in a country — that policies, social attitudes, and even culture will shift towards that majority, hence overlooking some minorities. Therefore, in this sense, Chinese Privilege exists.
Furthermore, if the government is made up largely of one race, the policies produced may be partially blind towards other races’ needs. After all, how can a Chinese person fully empathise and understand what it’s like to be a Malay person?
Of course, that is no excuse for any racial discrimination.
Furthermore, humans are such cowardly losers. The majority race, enjoying greater support and sameness, has the power to abuse minorities due to having an advantage in numbers.
I believe author and conservative speaker Ben Shapiro was the one who said that one way to fix racism was to have a homogenous nation. His opinion, although abrasive, does have some truth to it. But saying that doesn’t solve anything, does it?
My primary school had fewer than a dozen Indian students out of hundreds of Chinese students. Back then, I didn’t even know that it was a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school.
SAP school: A school that is only for students with Mandarin as their mother tongue. As almost all Chinese people’s mother tongue is Mandarin, they thus hold an advantage over minorities. This is a perfect example of Chinese Privilege.
The idea of SAP schools is elitist in my opinion. For a more detailed discussion on it, do check out https://bit.ly/2RQNNCr (Rice Media’s article on SAP schools).
If the student population was 90% Indian and 10% Chinese, the racism might have been against Chinese students instead. If there was a 100% Singaporean Chinese student population, there would’ve been no race-targeted bullying.
Humans are drawn to those similar to them and like to differentiate themselves from others. Obviously, there are exceptions, but, you get what I mean…
It’s like travelling to another country with a different majority race. You just feel different. Or imagine this—a black man walking into a bar packed with white people. I assume this is how the minorities feel in Singapore. It will probably be awkward and uncomfortable for that one Malay or Indian student in class.
Chinese kids will almost always be the dominant race in school. That, in it of itself, is a privilege.
There’s definitely a need for parents to teach kids basic respect. Seriously, the amount of race-related teasing and bullying in primary and secondary school was excessive. Looking back, I really should have done more to help my Indian and Malay friends.
Do most people change and slowly grow out of their idiocy? I believe so. As we grow older, we tend to learn more about other races and become more aware of our actions. But some people don’t. So, it’s still best if parents can expose their kids to other races and teach them some manners.
I remember discussing Chinese Privilege with my Malay friends and Chinese friends.
Some of my Chinese friends argued that there are only 26 SAP schools out of so many other schools.
Still, a small problem doesn’t equate to no problem. The fact that SAP schools are also ‘good’ schools, i.e., you need to score well to enrol there, shows a sort of Chinese elitism. It’s like saying you need to speak and write Mandarin to be in a good school (and almost all Mandarin speakers are, well, Chinese).
For a list of SAP schools: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Assistance_Plan
Additionally, it’s worth bringing up National Service (NS). As many of you already know, Malays are underrepresented in certain vocations such as Navy, Air Force, Commando, etc.
Is this Chinese Privilege? Although a controversial topic, I would still say yes. The fact that there still is distrust towards Malays whereas the Chinese do not receive the same treatment already shows a bias.
A privilege is an advantage or special treatment given to certain people, and this certainly fits the bill.
Of course, this is a hotly debated topic, and another article does try to cover it, though with much controversy: https://donovanchoy.medium.com/the-dangerous-influence-of-chinese-privilege-in-singapore-29ced060b4c7
I trained to be a Firefighter during my NS. Absurdly, instead of taking in people based on skill, the system was that—even if you were capable enough as a Firefighter—you still had to have a diploma or A Level certificate to go for the Section Commander Course (there were some exceptions, but for the most part, this was the rule).
Essentially, you had to be ‘educated’ to obtain a higher position. And guess what? It was mostly Chinese people who got those positions. So, it’s quite common to see officers being Chinese (ranked lieutenants and above) while Malays usually occupy lower positions (ranked sergeants and warrant officers), at least in where I served which was the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
Is this Chinese Privilege or simply a difference in culture? You know the stereotypes—the Chinese person is overly-serious, arrogant, and studies very hard; the Malay person is chill and carefree but doesn’t study hard. Or, is there systemic racism that prevents minorities from doing well in school?
I really don’t know. I’m not a sociologist; I’m just a guy.
What I can say is this—choosing someone simply based on their education when it isn’t even necessary is very stupid. Some of my Malay batchmates were incredible Firefighters, yet, they couldn’t advance up the ladder due to their education. Some of my Chinese batchmates who became Section Commanders weren’t as good, but they got in through their educational qualifications. I discussed this with my batchmates and many just said that it was a flawed system.
More things to note
Let’s talk microaggression.
This term, understandably, has been made fun of due to US politics which is more soap opera than reality.
Leftists use this term seriously while right-winged people mock it. I’m not taking sides here—I’m just saying that it exists.
Microaggression refers to any sort of hostile or demeaning behaviour shown towards minorities through verbal or behavioural cues. It can be intentional or unintentional. Usually, it’s a subtle or rather passive-aggressive cue, hence the ‘micro’ part.
The issue with microaggression is that nobody knows where to draw the line.
For example, if a Malay person walks into the room and two Chinese people start speaking Chinese, is that microaggression?
A clearer example would be this: a Chinese cashier smiles and talks politely to Chinese customers but immediately treats a minority customer curtly.
And before Chinese people start calling me a racist against my own race, let me just say I’ve been on the receiving end of this as well. I remember buying Nasi Lemak from a Malay auntie and she charged me a higher price compared to my Malay peers.
Is this a microaggression or is this some sort of reparation for Chinese privilege? It’s a controversial topic with complex, difficult answers and even more difficult conversations…
However, there are far more Chinese people than Malays, Indians, and other minorities. Hence, statistically-speaking, there are bound to be more racists amongst the Chinese race. This means that on average, there are far more microaggressions against minority races. Of course, not just microaggressions, but outright racism as well.
In a sense, this is Chinese privilege. As Chinese people are less likely to be on the receiving end of racism or microaggression, this means that we have an added advantage in our daily lives.
I think it’s common to see many Chinese people dismiss the issue of Chinese privilege. This is because we frequently compare ourselves to the USA, which is… Well, doing much worse in race relations compared to us…
Still, an issue is an issue, and any attempts to fix it should be welcomed.
There are still discriminatory jobs. There is still elitism and arrogance amongst Chinese people when they work with minorities. There is Chinese Privilege that should be acknowledged.
It’s difficult for a Chinese person to understand minorities because we aren’t a minority until we actually travel outside of Singapore and go anywhere but China/Taiwan/Hong Kong.
I’ve talked to my Malay friends and they said there’s just a certain view Chinese people have towards them. Whenever they interact with Chinese people, there just seems to be an attitude of superiority present.
Minorities still face unfairness in society.
- Open discussions, and when I say open, I mean really open. I feel that openness is frequently misunderstood as removing criticisms, and having only echo chambers especially when it comes to touchy subjects like race.
I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s just that, can a Chinese person speak on Malay issues and Indian issues? If he can’t, then isn’t that clamping down on the ability to have an open conversation? If so, then why can a minority speak on a Chinese person’s issues?
I’ve seen this comment thread before, and it just seems like—to some people—that the majority should be shut off from the conversation. If so, then there’s no openness. I understand it’s quite arrogant when a Chinese person mentions a stereotype or something along those lines. Instead of silencing or flaming him, just tell him why he’s wrong. If he doesn’t listen and continues blabbering disrespectfully, then well, he’s just a troll.
If he apologies or recedes his statement, accept him, and proceed with a logical, open conversation.
2. Resist the urge to stereotype and categorise everyone.
There are so many comment threads that hate on Chinese people, Malay people, Indian people, etc.
Listen, every race has a bunch of nincompoops. There is no perfect race. When you see a Chinese person being a Karen, try not to lump all Chinese people into that category.
There are also many Singaporean males who like to label Chinese girls as sluts due to the way they dress. I’ve seen Chinese, Malay, and Indian guys do it. It doesn’t mean that every male of every race is a sexist. Every race has its share of idiots and sexists and bigots. Sexism is another topic to talk about in Singapore, but I’ll leave that for another day…
3. Recognise trolls.
There are people who want to have clear, rational conversations about race. Then there are people who have pathetic, aimless lives and hence, they just feed off other people’s suffering.
Recognise trolls. Is he making an incredibly one-sided sweeping statement? Does he do this on every post? Is he even open to a conversation after being prompted? Is he a 12-year old who talks about fucking other people’s parents online?
Don’t take the bait. Even if someone who isn’t a troll says something controversial, don’t go in with fire and fury. Take a breath, and start a logical conversation. Of course, this is a rare occasion on the internet, but I’ve seen it happen!
Hell, maybe you’ve found my article deeply offensive. If so, please comment why without resorting to trolling, flaming, blackmail, or doxxing. Instead, just ask a simple, polite question and have an open, honest conversation.
I believe most people have good intentions, but they take the bait too easily and end up wasting time arguing with a troll.
4. Be empathetic.
Can you try to imagine what it would be like being the only brown-skinned student in school? Or being surrounded by people speaking only Chinese? Or being judged for being the only odd one out?
I remember my General Paper (GP) teacher saying that my Malay friend was, “one of the good ones”. She also enjoyed picking on him and calling him out. It was pretty evident she was racist.
It’s easy to say someone’s suffering isn’t that great. I mean, duh, if we compare someone being subjected to such racism, it isn’t as serious as the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
There are many different types of suffering in the world. And even though another person’s suffering might be greater, it doesn’t invalidate others’ experiences. We should be kind and caring towards others, especially if they’ve been on the receiving end of any sort of racism.
So, for the Chinese people reading this, do try to see from their point of view. Try to understand why someone is angry online about racism that doesn’t concern you directly. Try to show at least some empathy towards minorities’ complaints.
It may not personally matter to you, but it may mean a lot to them.
5. Understand that Chinese Privilege does not equate to Chinese Immunity.
Bear with me here…
It’s important to note that Chinese people (or the majority of any nation) aren’t all living in gold towers with the easiest of lives. Sure, a Chinese person has privilege, but it still doesn’t take away the fact that everyone has problems.
6. Acknowledge that racism goes both ways.
Minorities can be racist towards the majority. The majority can be racist towards the minority.
If you say, “Oh ching chong ring rong you small dick pee wee Chinatown Qin Shihuang bastard”, that’s racist. Anyone can be racist — to be racist means looking down or being biased against someone of a different race. All races have their share of fools.
Then again, it seems like racism, at times, boils down to perspective.
Is it okay for people to make stereotypical jokes about one another’s race? My Chinese and Malay friends do that, so does my Indian friend.
Racist jokes shouldn’t exist in a professional setting, but the question becomes — what about a casual setting? What if your friends are OK with it and the racist jokes go both ways? It seems like it depends on how tolerant your friends and family are towards such edgy jokes, and whether the situation is appropriate.
However, some may say that racist jokes shouldn’t exist at all, for they can subconsciously reinforce stereotypes and negative perceptions of a race.
It depends on how you see it, I guess.
7. Know that what we do with our friends and family matter.
It’s one thing to make Indian jokes with your Indian friend who doesn’t mind it and jabs back. It’s another thing if you’re with your Chinese family and everyone starts making fun of Indians.
Is there a difference? I believe there is.
The former is more towards lighthearted, edgy joking.
The latter is an entire group bringing down another race unchecked. It’s akin to badmouthing another person; just that in this case, it’s racist. There is no other race to fact-check, counter, or monitor if your jokes take it too far.
After all, if your group is homogenous, the mentality of the majority may push one another towards making horrendous, overly offensive jokes that aren’t even jokes anymore. Instead, such homogenous groups may breed causal racism instead.
So, if you’re uncomfortable with your friends’ jokes about your race, tell them. If your family is clearly racist, call the racism out.
Or, are conversations behind closed doors supposed to be offensive and horrible? Should anyone be held accountable for the private things they say with their family?
I’m damn sure every single one of you has said something fucked up about another race in secrecy. Don’t lie you turd. Perhaps, then, we should be more careful of what we say behind people’s backs. After all, the more we say something, the more it may become ingrained in us. And unchecked, offensive stereotyping amongst family members can grow into an ugly monster known as racism.
But maybe I’m wrong.
8. Research more about Singapore’s subtle racism and Chinese Privilege (especially for my Chinese friends).
Some good resources include PJ Thum’s YouTube Channel, ‘New Naratif’ and Rice Media. Do note that they are liberal in political thought. I.e, support for gay rights, gender pronouns, etc. Even if you’re very conservative, I still do recommend checking them out. After all, people can always find agreements amidst disagreements.
I am hesitant to recommend the Instagram account ‘Wake Up, Singapore’ as it is extremely inflammatory and in my opinion, does not seek open discussions. Do they have the intention to simply ‘wake’ Singaporeans up and reveal unpleasant truths? Perhaps…
Ultimately, it’s your life, so, do check them out on Instagram if you wish to.
Other resources to check out: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singaporeans-respect-all-races-but-racism-still-an-issue-survey
Singapore: discrimination when at work by ethnicity 2019 | Statista
According to a survey on racial and religious harmony in Singapore, 62.8 percent of Chinese respondents stated that…
Racism in Singapore: Examining how racial discrimination impacts hiring decisions
Racism in Singapore: Examining how racial discrimination impacts hiring decisions In a 2016 survey of 2,000…
Survey finds rise in perception of work-related discrimination among Malays, Indians in Singapore
(Updated: ) Share this content SINGAPORE: While relations between racial and religious groups in Singapore are…
Where do we go from here?
We should watch what we say and talk — or even better, make friends — with people of different races to understand their views.
Are these solutions too simple? Sure. But the simpler it is, the easier it is to do. Not everybody can lead some kind of political revolution, but anyone can google about race relations and become a more empathetic and worldly person.
For my Chinese friends, yes, it’s annoying if someone tells you to “check your privilege” and whatnot, but hey, try to see where they’re coming from. We should do our part in becoming more understanding towards minorities.
For my minority friends, bear with us. It’ll take time for people to change. Unfortunately, some people might never change at all. But for those who can, give them some patience.
Yes, the racism here isn’t as bad as the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas or police brutality in the USA. But it’s still a problem.
Hence, let’s work together.