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Valar Qringaomis

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Singaporean Chinese - less Racist than Singaporean Malays, Indians and Eurasians

[Addendum: Unfortunately, the 2 slides on which this post are based were not interpreted correctly, as another IPS deck makes clear.

Nonetheless I am leaving this post up instead of deleting it, for archival purposes.]

Amidst all the talk about "Chinese Privilege", it is easy to assume that racism in Singapore is a one-way street, with the Chinese oppressing the Malays, Indians and Others.

Yet, if one looks at actual data (instead of isolated anecdotes), a different story can emerge.

I recently revisited the Institute of Policy Studies' (IPS) 2013 Insights from the IPS Survey on Race, Religion and Language.

Respondents were asked if they were comfortable with someone of another race as a colleague in the same occupation, boss, employee, next-door-neighbour, the majority of people in Singapore, spouse, brother/sister-in-law and close friend.

Across all questions, Local-born Chinese were more comfortable than Local-born Malays, Local-born Indians or Local-born Eurasians with someone of a different race in these positions.



In the public sphere, the differences are especially striking for the boss and majority of people in Singapore - about 10% more of Local-born Chinese are comfortable with a non-Chinese boss than Local-born Malays and Indians, and for the majority of people in Singapore the percentage is about 20% (despite Chinese already being the majority of people in Singapore - and thus presumably something non-Chinese are used to should presumably accept).

Local-born Eurasians are more racist than local-born Chinese, but less so than Malays or Indians. Perhaps this is because of the lack of a Eurasian Politics of Grievance.

Interestingly, for China-born Chinese, India-born Indians and "Region"-born Malays, the numbers are all pretty similar. So one cannot explain away Singaporean Chinese's lower levels of racism by claiming they are just pretending to be (or mistakenly believe that they are) race-blind because they have Majority Privilege - since Chinese in China, Indians in India and Malays in Malaysia and Indonesia (which I assume are what the "Region" refers to) were likewise in the Majority in their home countries and thus similarly benefited from Majority Privilege.

Furthermore, if Chinese Privilege were really a factor, using the Difference-in-Differences technique, we would expect the figures for China-born Chinese to be different from those for India-born Indians and "Region"-born Malays, since they are Chinese. Yet we do not see this; China-born Chinese, India-born Indians and "Region"-born Malays seem indistinguishable (or at least not too different).

Also notable is that "Region"-born Malays are slightly less racist than China-born Chinese and India-born Indians, which I don't have an explanation for.

As for why the foreign-born are more racist, it's probably because they haven't been indoctrinated by Singapore's spin on "Racial Harmony".



The differences for the local-born are even more striking in the private sphere - almost twice as many Local-born Chinese are comfortable with a spouse of a different race as Local-born Malays and Indians. For a brother/sister-in-law the difference is about 15%. Once again, Local-born Eurasians are more racist than local-born Chinese, but less so than Malays or Indians.

As for the foreign-born, we see that China-born Chinese are a lot more accepting of non-Chinese spouses or brother/sister-in-laws than India-born Indians and "Region"-born Malays, contrary to the similar results for the public sphere. This might be due to the effects of religion, since for Close Friends the differences between the three are similar to those for the public sphere questions.

So the next time someone starts droning on about how prejudiced Chinese in Singapore are - just remember that minorities can be just as racist (if not more so).

Why, then, is there a perception that Singaporean Chinese are more racist?

Several factors could explain this.

One is that people could be more sensitive to racist actions or remarks (real or imagined) by Chinese people.

Another is that people like to bash the "majority" and assume that it must be oppressive.

Yet another, though, is that there are simply more Chinese in Singapore. This is explained by what Ian Gent calls the Petrie Multiplier (when talking about Sexism in Tech). Basically, even *if* Chinese are equally racist as other races, by dint of their greater numbers, they seem more racist.
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