'Do it or I'll slap your black face!'
Updated: May 28
This is a quiz.
A light skinned woman asks a dark skinned woman to do something.
The dark skinned woman says the other woman should do it herself.
The light skinned woman says, 'Do it or I'll slap your black face!'
Question 1: Where did such a scene take place?
(a) In the Southern United States before the Civil War, when slavery was still legal.
(b) In the Sri Lanka kitchen portrayed in Ru Freeman's novel A Disobedient Girl, about an orphan in a civil servant's household.
(c) In an office in Singapore, just three days ago.
Question 2 (a): Does it feel less wrong depending on where this happened.
The answer we'd probably dismiss is (c). Yet, that's exactly where this scene was played out.
We've often blamed such racist-bullying on context. Those Southerners in the USA way back when were operating under a different economic system. The upper class Sri Lankans in Ru Freemans' novel as well. But in Singapore?
As for whether it should feel less wrong... Racism is wrong and racist-bullying is wrong. Always. Even way back when or in another country. However, the fact that this incident happened in Singapore shook me.
I'm not naming names or revealing sources, but the sharing of this story saddened me deeply. That it happened in the workplace. That the two women were colleagues, and both were university educated.
I felt for the young woman, an idealistic young Singaporean.
I felt worse for my country. Apparently, what this young woman goes through is pretty much par for the course for minorities in Singapore. I don't have numbers on this, although postings in Minority Voices suggests racist-bullying is not one-off. But even if it is just the one woman, its bad enough.
The person who said those words cannot be said to be ignorant. She was the more experienced superior, in a position of power. She should not have mentioned physical violence so casually, with that awful race-laden denigration. And then, when reminded of the national pledge to be a united people, regardless of race... To reply 'I don't care'.
!! ? !
It is unacceptable.
How did we become a society where there is no awareness that racist bullying is unacceptable? That such words hurt?
If this can happen in an office setting, between equally educated women, albeit one superior to the other, is it any wonder we have cases of beaten and starved domestic workers, wage cheating of construction workers, slapdash medical treatment for both, and etc and etc.
It's time to do better.
Let's open our hearts. Let's brainstorm.