Singaporeans, too, have noted their fair share of racism, especially since we live in a multicultural society with different races.
While most types of racism are experienced in terms of physical abuse or cyberbullying, a Facebook user in Singapore has spotted it in a more unconventional place: a Chinese book that she borrowed from the National Library Board.
What The Book Is About
According to 42-year-old Ms Estella Young, who is a freelance writer, Who Wins? by Wu Xing Hua is a picture book meant for readers aged seven to nine that depicts a “dark-skinned” boy with “oily curly hair” with the name Mao Mao.
In case you didn’t know, Mao Mao is Chinese for hairy.
The boy was described as the “terror of the school” and comes across as an unruly school bully while everyone else is afraid of him.
In the book, the protagonist, Pi Pi, also described Mao Mao as “smelly” as he walked home after being bullied by the latter.
Instead of redemption, the book simply showed a “dark-skinned” boy who was “aggressive” from start to end.
He forces the protagonist into learning self-defence and ending with both of them being dragged to the principal office.
Ms Young detailed her horror and anger in a Facebook post under the alias, Umm Yusof.
The book was published in 2018 in Singapore by Marshall Cavendish Education and is one of the books of a five-part series called Amazing Adventures of Pi Pi.
How She Found Out
She had previously borrowed this book from Bedok Library last Thursday to read to her eight-year-old son to celebrate Racial Harmony.
Racial Harmony Day is an event that falls on 21 July, and since the day occurs during the one-week term 3 breaks, schools have decided to celebrate it one week earlier.
However, as she flipped through the pages in preparation for the reading session, she was appalled to find the “astoundingly racist local book” in which the bully was “described in explicitly racialised terms”.
And what made it worse was that there was a stark contrast between the villain and “all the other characters who are depicted as fair-skinned”.
She submitted a request to NLB for them to take down the book and from what we know so far, NLB has already removed all copies of the book and is currently reviewing the content in the book.
An NLB representative spoke with regard to the review, “This will be done in consultation with our Library Consultative Panel, which is an independent and citizen-based panel. In line with our established procedures, we have removed all copies of the book from our libraries during the period of review.”
Ms Young ended off her post writing, “What on earth possessed Marshall Cavendish Education to publish a book in which the sole dark-skinned character is irredeemably nasty – especially when his appearance is irrelevant to the plot?”
It is absolutely disappointing that such a narrative was given the approval to be mass-distributed to all libraries in Singapore. Hopefully, this book is just one that slipped through the cracks and that there aren’t any other books like this in our libraries or bookstores.
Racism In Singapore
Here’s a brief history lesson:
- The race riots in 1964 resulted in 37 dead and 560 people injured, and it was later found out that someone had worked behind the scenes to pit the Malays and Chinese against each other.
- In 1965, founding father Lee Kuan Yew promised that Singapore will be a multiracial country where every race and language will have equal standing.
And in more recent history, Singapore has shown that the authorities are more than willing to harshly punish anyone who “incites unhappiness between different groups of people in Singapore”:
A 19-year-old Temasek Polytechnic student who used Instagram to make racist comments was arrested and had his laptop, mobile phone and a computer seized for the investigation.
The man who went on a racist rant during the Covid-19 period was also arrested and could face a jail term of up to three years.
And the man who pretended to be a Chinese lady on Twitter to make racist comments was charged in court on 2 July and will have his pre-trial conference at the end of the month.
Law Minister K Shanmugam stated that @SharonLiew86 is “neither female nor Chinese”.
By pretending to be a Chinese to make nasty comments against Indians, it is concluded that the man had wanted to incite unrest between the two racial groups.
Moral Of The Story:
Racial harmony isn’t just a day for you to dress in other races’ clothes, nor is it a get-out-of-lessons card.
It’s a value that should be embraced by every person here in Singapore.
Now, if your sense of decency can’t handle doing that, then let the police keep you in line instead.
They promise that any action to affect the religious harmony of Singapore will be dealt with. Harshly.
“We will not condone acts that threaten racial and religious harmony in Singapore.”
And judging by the recent incidents, they’re more than happy to back up their words.
Now that you know about the importance of racial harmony, you might as well just watch our video on how WiFi routers work and how you can make them fast even at home: