On June 5, a Chinese-Indian interracial couple were confronted with a nasty surprise when they were out together on Orchard Road.
A video of a Singaporean-Chinese man doling out racially offensive and insensitive remarks towards a Singaporean-Indian man went viral on many social media websites, inviting condemnation of the Chinese man’s behaviour.
The Chinese man has since been identified to be Tan Boon Lee, a 60 year old senior lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Engineering.
Tan has since been reported by Ngee Ann Polytechnic to have been suspended from his teaching duties.
Uploaded by Dave Parkash on Sunday, June 6th, Parkash shared that his motivations for publicly uploading it onto a social media website were to share his disappointment at being discriminated against for his race.
“My name is Dave Parkash. I am a Singaporean. Today I feel embarrassed, humiliated and hurt by how I was treated by another fellow Singaporean.”
“My girlfriend and I were confronted by a man who told us that we should only be dating people of our own race.”
In the viral 9-minute long video, Tan was seen confronting Parkash saying that it was “not appropriate” for him and his girlfriend to be dating and that if he was “proud of his own race”, he should have been dating someone Indian.
He goes on to make a series of outrageous claims, sarcastically stating that, “I am sure her parents are very happy, I am sure her parents are very proud. If you think there is no such thing as racism, then you’re wrong. You are racist as well.”
“If you think that the Chinese are very proud that an Indian is marrying a Chinese, you are wrong.”
“I think it is racist that Indians prey on Chinese girls. Yes, prey. It’s predatory.”
He accuses Parkash of “preying on a Chinese girl”, and says that “the Chinese don’t like it”, and openly admits that he is racist.
At the end of the 9-minute long video, Parkash laments that he felt “embarrassed to be calling himself Singaporean today”, and shares that he wouldn't be surprised if this wasn’t the first incident of its kind in Singapore.
He closes off by emphasizing that the purpose of this video was not to shame Tan, but to spread awareness in Singapore especially with the decrepit state of the world at the moment.
Many people below Parkash’s video shared their own experiences with racism, and several others shared their support for Parkash, wishing them well and voicing their solidarity with him.
However, there are a few others who see no wrong done, and feel that Tan did no wrong to Parkash.
Such sentiments are especially dangerous as they fail to discern Tan’s racially insensitive remarks from normal opinions. Tan’s harassment of Parkash is nothing short of racial discrimination and harassment, and such commenters create a safe space for like-minded people to validate their racism on the Internet.
The narrative that Singapore is a racially harmonious country is a tale as old as time, and one that is fictional as well. Coexisting within the same physical space does not remove long withstanding racial prejudices, which is evident from Tan’s insistence that people marry within their races, and not doing so is predatory to the other race.
Racial harmony is not a reality, and instead is an ideal that we have to strive towards. Buying into the myth that Singapore is racially harmonious is extremely detrimental to social progress, eliminating racism and perpetuates racism, so much of the onus lies on Singaporeans to not tolerate racism or any forms of discrimination they encounter regardless of race.
As Parkash says in the caption to his video uploaded on Facebook, “I feel we shouldn't be publicly shamed just because of our skin colour. Love is love. Love has no race, love has no religion,” nobody should be policing others’ relationships on any basis.
The “disgrace” that Tan points out is just another excuse for him to hide behind and justify his racism, which is extremely shameful.
For Tan, his boundaries of love stop at race. By strictly demarcating and defining his love so conditionally, it seems more to be a shame to be loved by Tan than not