1. Issues & Challenges in the world today
- Ethnic Discrimination (Inclusivity/Inequality/Ignorance)https://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/docs/default-source/ips/td_racism-still-an-issue-in-singapore-today-say-most-polled_180816.pdf?sfvrsn=9366710a_2https://www.femalemag.com.sg/beauty/op-ed-dark-skinned-beauty-junkie-woman-singapore-experience/
Ethnic Discrimination/Colourism/Racial Stereotypes have been a part of my life since the day I was born “coloured” in this multi-ethnic country in Singapore. It has become a norm and something that could sometimes be passed of as casual racism and other times, led to more serious issues like the ease of finding a job due to preconceived notions of my racial stereotypes. This happens with my other minority counterparts as well. Though admittedly, in Singapore, it is not as apparent as other countries, it is still an issue that exists but hidden. I would love to shed light on this matter and attempt to take a step to make a difference.
- Environmental Sustainability
Singapore is one of the leading technologically advanced cities yet faces an alarming sustainability problem, in this case in particular, I’m more interested in food wastage. Undeniably, Singaporeans love food. However, food wastage here increases our carbon footprint tremendously, especially for a small island that is already in scarce of land.
- Loss of Cultural Identity
A huge part of a sense of belonging is a sense of cultural identity that you associate with. Not entirely your own ethnic culture, but also a sense of national culture. Due to the influx of foreigners and consumption of western media, Singaporeans are on the brink of losing our cultural identity which is of importance as it can actually provide a sense of pride that unifies the country. The warmth of a culture should not be underestimated as a nation as it does affect the way policies are shaped and the way we communicate and treasure living here.
- Nonconsensual Intimacy/Outrage of Modesty/Image Based Assault
These things are getting out of hand in Singapore and cases are growing by the numbers. It is a problem that has to be brought up and actually talked about because as a woman in this digital society, a safe space is needed for one to feel empowered. Singapore prides itself in being safe but unfortunately, things like these still do take place and reason being that there needs to be stricter punishments put in place to deal with it. For example, the recent case of the NUS student getting away with the molestation case (last link) due to his “potential to excel in life” is downright upsetting for the victim and also the public. More often than not, when the public do hear about these cases, they would be quick to judge and form questions like, “What was she wearing?”, “What was she doing at out at night?”, “Why was she drinking at night?”. These are unsound judgements and shows the lack of empathy and ignorant mindsets that the public do have and needs to be tackled. Support needs to be provided for victims. In addition to that, people need to be aware that this also happens to men. Regardless of the gender, there are many cases that still go unreported.
- Obsession with being “white”
It’s weird how in the Western countries, the beauty department stores are filled with tanning products whereas in Asia, it’s filled with whitening products. Living in Asia all my life, I have had more than several comments growing up about being tanned, either from my family, relatives, friends, colleagues or strangers. Many of my other tanner skin friends do experience this as well, regardless of race. The obsession with being fair in Asia generates a multibillion dollar industry of dangerous whitening products that contain high levels of unsafe bleaching ingredients such as hydroquinone and mercury. A lot of these preferences resonates from colonialism, backward culture and lack of representations in advertisements which distort beauty standards.
After much thought and research of reading articles online, I was more drawn to the issues relating to Ethnic Discrimination (Inclusivity/Inequality/
Ignorance) as well as Nonconsensual Intimacy/Outrage of Modesty/Image Based Assault due to the reasons below. I am torn between two at the moment but will make a decision after consultation.
2. Why is it important, who does it affect and how?
Ethnic Discrimination (Inclusivity/Inequality/Ignorance)
I’ve been living in Singapore for all of my life and have been a minority for all of it. Hence, I’ve a few sentiments through experiences growing up and day to day occurrences that I do deal with and a lot of my other minority friends deal with that I feel can be brought to light. This was heightened as I delved deeper into reading online articles and forums during my research.
As much as things are slowly changing now, it’s not changing fast enough and ignorance still largely exists, intentional or unintentional. Especially with recent racial tensions, I feel like this topic would be of relevance to dive into to shed light to the underrepresented and under-appreciated minority groups.
If this topic is not addressed, I feel like I’m being of disservice to my fellow minority groups. My intentions is definitely not to create more division but to unite all ethnic groups and reduce colour discrimination and racial stereotypes. Though it might be something that people see on social media from time to time, I feel like in Singapore context, it is not being celebrated as largely enough as it is in other countries where racial discriminations are more transparent. In Singapore, it’s very much hidden, hence why ignorance do exist and still largely practiced or believed my many. The purpose I’m focusing on is not to change immediately or to have everyone agree to disagree. It is, however though, for people to acknowledge that this is a problem and not just something that happens occasionally that makes the media. Just hearing people out can make that much of a difference. Having a voice = Empowerment. Addressing this issue may or may not lead to any changes but any step is better than taking no steps at all.
Nonconsensual Intimacy/Outrage of Modesty/Image Based Assault
This topic has always been on the radar for me. However, recent headlines that made the official papers in Singapore have become a real concern or rather, they were based on more solid facts. It is upsetting that it had to come to it making the headlines before it having a real impact.
Anyway, dealing with the situation as of now, upon reading many comments from netizens and eavesdropping on conversations amongst the older generation along with sentences for these criminals, it is rather discouraging. More often than not, the headlines or angles taken in these articles do not shed light to the horrific situation the victims went through, rather, the focus is more on the accuser(s)/criminal(s). Arguably, that is what the public wants to know and that is what the public shall get right? However, this very much so leads to comments and judgements being passed that accuses the victims instead. Though everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I feel like we could be more sensitive and have more empathy to victims. Furthermore, sentences passed on to these criminals should be more strenuous and not have a qualified state judge to consider the qualification as part of the decision to sentence the criminal. That is an injustice. A crime has been committed and it should he or she should be treated as any other criminal, regardless or race, religion or qualifications. Those things SHOULD NOT matter. Furthermore, outreach programmes or readily available schemes should be offered to victims. I want to give them a voice because a lot of cases do go unreported and this could lead to potential problems such as mental health.
3. Who do I need to communicate to and why?
Ethnic Discrimination (Inclusivity/Inequality/Ignorance)
Target audience would be the younger population in Singapore because the the mindset of older generation is pretty much impaled and deep-rooted. However, the younger generation is the future and can make a bigger difference. Regardless of race, religion, social group, location, this caters to the masses, but will have an inclination to be received better by the minority groups. I think this is very much a needed movement for me as a millennial to take a stand in what I believe in and to provide a platform for communities that are discriminated against, intentionally or unintentionally. I do anticipate a backlash as I intend to experiment with controversial ways of communication but I do hope to do it in a tasteful manner.
Nonconsensual Intimacy/Outrage of Modesty/Image Based Assault
Target audience would mainly be the victims to provide them with a voice but also aiming at the large population to respond to the issue to spark deeper conversations rather than having mindless comments passed on the internet by ‘keyboard warriors‘. I hope to offer empowerment to the voiceless victims who have had to suffer the consequences with or without support and this is largely needed to at least attempt to give these victims a helping hand if they were made to believe that their feelings were invalid.
4. How has visual communication contributed to address the cause?
Ethnic Discrimination (Inclusivity/Inequality/Ignorance)
Serie A anti-racism campaign
With racial campaigns, it can go south really quickly. For example, a Serie A anti-racism campaign where the artwork was produced by artist Simone Fugazzotto to speak against the racism in Italian football. This happened in 2019 which is just in December last year. Serie A chief executive Luigi de Siervo was leading the campaign with the artist mentioned above. The campaign was released during a news conference via a series of images on screen for the Serie A anti-racism campaign. This created a major backlash. The reason why I featured this was to remind me to more mindful when making decisions or artworks so as to not offend the majority.
Shortly after President Trump signed off to close borders to refugees, Airbnb released an ad during Superbowl called, “We accept” in 2017 where it showed montages of difference nationalities with words, “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”
I strongly appreciate the representations of multiple ethnic backgrounds and the way Airbnb stepped forward to provide support for the refugees in a way that did not divide but rather, to unite. I personally believe that campaigns that are inclusive garner better engagements and are generally well accepted compared to those who are targeted at a specific group of people as it may potentially lead to division.
Appropriateness: The images were clean and subjects were strong which brought out their different features which then highlighted their differences which further emphasised their campaigns that at the end of the day, we are of the human race and should be seen and treated as such. Fonts were clean and matched Airbnb’s minimalistic aesthetics and general branding font.
Clarity: Format, coherence and legibility of the video was clear with minimal text which made it easy to understand. Although the logo at the end is always a branding PR tactic, I strongly feel that this also helped the public to recognise organisations that do support and embrace everyone.
Engagement: 30 second video was perfect, it was quick, easy to follow. However, in terms of innovative quality, I feel like it was a more general and common way of showing how these representations are normally done. So in that sense, I feel like it is not very innovative but I do have to acknowledge that human portraits usually do make bigger impacts, at least according to what I understand and how some of my fellow peers consume media.
“AMPLIFIER IS A DESIGN LAB THAT BUILDS ART TO AMPLIFY THE VOICES OF GRASSROOTS MOVEMENTS. WE WORK WITH OUR COMMUNITY OF SOCIAL CHANGE PARTNERS, IN BOTH THE FOR-PROFIT AND NON-PROFIT WORLDS, TO BUILD SYMBOLS, LANGUAGE, AND DISTRIBUTION STRATEGIES THAT CAN CHANGE THE NATIONAL NARRATIVE,”.
The particular movement I wanted to highlight from Amplifier is the, ‘We the People’ nonpartisan campaign, launched in 2017. It aims to spark conversations regarding American identity and value via art and sharing of stories.
I really appreciate how they produce images that challenges the norm and what most may consider, controversial, to shed light to the topic and the rising hatred, bigotry and intolerance in America. Images speak volume and in this digital day and age, many people do consume art easily and controversial art garners the most attention, both by people who agree and people who don’t.
Appropriateness: Therefore, given the above, this campaign definitely reached their aim of igniting debates and starting conversations regarding this topic, both positive and negative. Granted, that in Singapore, such campaigns might never be approve as the freedom of speech is not appreciated here as it may create racial tensions, however, the idea could still be applied in my project. The artworks were very stylistic and style was accredited to Frank Shepard Fairey.
Clarity: The images used strong, clear and made use of semiotics such as visual metaphors, analogies etc.
Coherence: The images produced so far has been consistent in terms of stylistic approach which is essential to create coherence and create impact and longevity.
Topic Chosen: Ethnic Discrimination (Ignorance, Inequality & Inclusivity)
Issues in relation to ethnic discrimination that I may want to highlight:
— Work Opportunities & Discrimination
— Ignorance to minority cultures, celebration, stereotypes, archetypes (especially in advertising)
— Having to conform unknowingly sometimes due to things like “Chinese speaking candidates preferred” or having to fit in a majority race dominated environment
— Inclusivity and not Exclusivity
This is a concept that means that minority races want to feel included and it should not feel like a favour through exclusivity.
— Cultural insensitivity
Statistics Research in Singapore:
These were findings from Channel NewsAsia – Institute of Policy Studies on Race Relations by Matthew Matthews, a Senior Research Fellow at IPS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy National University of Singapore.
- Sample obtained through stratified random sampling of dwelling types (Malay & Indians were oversampled to ensure sufficient minority representation)
- “Drop-off pick up” method (predetermined prospective household having eligible respondents to complete questionnaire on their own, which was available in all 4 official languages)
- To eliminate biasness, envelopes were sealed before passing it over to surveyor
- Only Singaporean residents (citizens of PRs) above 21 years old
Is success meritocratic in Singapore?
- Nearly 90% agreed that hard work equates to equal opportunity to be rich despite race
- 53% believed that being majority race was advantageous (perception more acute among minorities)
- 1/3 believed interests of majority race should be looked after
- 30% felt races were getting too demanding about their cultural rights
Race & Policy
- 70% found various policies to safeguard racial & religious harmony to be helpful in building trust between races & protecting minority right
- 85% acknowledged Racial Harmony Day fostered inter-racial trust
- 2/3 did not favour race-based public information when it came to crime, educational performance or social problems
- 90% endorsed respect, equality & value for people of other ethnic groups
- “Most respondents report interacting with those of other races in a variety of settings such as attending an ethnic celebration, taking an interest in understanding the culture of those around them and making friends from other races. However it is impossible to judge the depth of these interactions.”
- Nearly half agreed with statements that have associations to people of different races with negative characteristics (44% agreed to, ““People from some races are more violent than others” & 46% agreed to “People from some races are not friendly”)
- 53% viewed racism as problem of the past
- 74% viewed themselves as hardly/not racist
- 40% have close friends that were at least mildly racist
- 70% found outright discrimination to not be acceptable and saw it as racist
- 48% felt that not having friends of other races was racist
- Across races, racial preferences exist in finding partners, business partners or to share problems with, political leaders
- Respondents were more open to a Singaporean Chinese President compared to smaller number who accepted Singaporean Malay or Singaporean Indian President
- AMONG MALAYS: 94% Malays would accept a Singaporean Malay President, 84% would accept a Singaporean Chinese President
- AMONG CHINESE: 96% would accept a Singaporean Chinese President, 59% would accept a Singaporean Malay President
Differential Treatment & Experiences
- 2/3 of Malay & Indian respondents who experienced ill treatment claimed race was the basis of it.
- AMONG MALAYS: 44% felt that they were negatively treated based on religion & income/education
- AMONG INDIANS: 62% felt negative treatment due to colour of skin and race
- “While many minority respondents attributed the negative experiences they had encountered to race, comparatively fewer felt that they had experienced racial discrimination. Possibly, the notion of “racial discrimination” connotes a much more negative experience which surpasses the types of differential treatment they perceived. “
- 2/3 noted that discussions of race were unsettling in that it could be offensive and lead to tension
- Half (incl minorities) agreed that minorities are being over-sensitive about racial issues
In light of this, I went to read up on forums on different experiences of minorities from different ethnic background and tried to also find comparable experiences of the majority race in Singapore.
Obviously we are all protected by overt racism in Singapore. However, covert racism is what’s causing the harm and the “less-than” feeling as minorities in Singapore. Yes, I do agree that the government do take racism very seriously and that those who do shall be punished for it. However, what people in general lack to acknowledge is the impact that it brings to the victims of these covert racism. Identifying explicit racism is generally more agreeable by most but Modern Racism may not be detectable or outwardly recognised, especially by the majority race. This may come intentionally or unintentionally. According to the survey conducted above by Matthew Matthews, racial biasness such as the example of a much higher percentage of Malays being accepting of a Singaporeans Chinese President in comparison to the Chinese respondents having a lower percentage in acceptance of a Singaporean Malay President are proofs that covert racism do exist whether people realise it or not.
I am more concerned in regards to the impact it may have on job opportunities, the racial tension, ignorance, insensitivity and the prejudice that comes attached to a person’s ethnicity.
Because continuity of this would amplify racial disparity and create separation between races rather than unite them for a more harmonious living condition. Silence is still ignorance.
— SAP Schools & Conformity
Before research, I was not aware that an advantage was given to students taking Higher Chinese to enter into SAP schools that are deemed to be the more elite schools in Singapore. I was however, aware of SAP schools being predominantly Chinese and are based on Chinese values and traditions.
Hence, upon research, I discovered that:
These were screenshots from an article by Straits Times. It is understandable and respectable that the purpose of these schools are to preserve the traditions, values and language of the Chinese community since less and less youths in Singapore are in touch with their roots. However, the underlying problems of such schools are deeper than just the fact that it is only a small percentage of the schools available in Singapore.
Firstly, these SAP schools have high admission requirements and are very selective in nature. They are also given the advantage with government policies that celebrate their elite status. For example, when the government introduced educational streaming, only nine schools that were placed in the “Special” stream, the top educational caste, were SAP schools. Another example was that SAP schools were pilot schools for Integrated Programme (IP), such that of the 18 IP schools in Singapore, seven of those are SAP though they only make up 7% of secondary schools.
Other examples of advantages gained by SAP school students were the targeted government resources available where an example would be the Bicultural Studies Programme introduced. It included trips to China to profit from rise of China. These programmes were made available to SAP schools only.
Disparity in ethnic representation in Public Service Commission (PSC) is evident in that 90% of them are Chinese. All President’s Scholars and Uniformed Scholars were Chinese. SAP school students managed to get the scholarship almost every year without fail since 1978.
Perhaps what is more concerning is the fact that SAP schools get access to activities like, “Political Leaders Attachment Programme” for students to build rapport with politicians. Special resources and “Scholarship Day” are available for SAP school students to also prepare to be leaders of the nation.
These advantages are great for these students. Hence, these opportunities should be extended to minority groups as well. However, since they barely are, it is clear that students from SAP schools do get a higher advantage and lead when it comes to being part of the elite system and educational and networking opportunities. In turn, this leads to underrepresentation in the system in terms of ethnicity also due to the lack of access to equal opportunities.
In addition to this, SAP school students are more than likely to be less aware and exposed to students from other cultural backgrounds which can lead to insensitivity and this is highly concerning, especially when some of these students are more than likely to be future generation leaders of Singapore that are not able to grasp the point of view of minority races.
— Inclusivity issues in representation, celebration of festivals by different ethnic groups are not as grand as CNY
— Casual Racism
The act of passing slightly racist remarks, more often than not, not directed to hurt the other party of the receiving end. Fitting people into archetypes is also a form of casual racism and having prejudicial mindset towards a race or being unintentionally or intentionally exclusive based on race, covertly.
Growing up a person of colour in Singapore context, I feel like I was opened to these types of casual racism. There were times where I had to prove my worth to educators just because I fit into a certain box other than the majority. I felt bounded and felt that I had to work twice as hard sometimes. Apart from that, I have been tailgated by shop employees and it felt physically uncomfortable. I was also made aware of the unequal opportunities that exist due to the colour of my skin in certain fields. There are a lot of experiences that I do wish I could share with my Chinese friends which I sometimes do, but most times, there is a lack of understanding and acknowledgement in that sense. There are times too when I have encountered firsthand racism but I just have to keep mum about it to not aggravate the situation and this is extremely common in most of my minority friends which brings me to the point below, desensitisation.
— Desensitisation of casual racism & its impacts
Due to the years of experiencing these situations, I learnt to be outspoken in situations where I felt like the race card was played amongst my friends and I also have tried my best in giving voice to my friends who were victims of casual racisms during conversations etc. However, when it comes to formal settings, a lot of Singaporeans find it tough to voice out due to the backlash that may come with it. But more importantly, I feel like the minority race have just accepted the severity of the situation and are often victims of, “Eh don’t be overly sensitive.” Although these “harmless” comments may be in the name of jokes, these more frequent remarks thrown are more harmful in the long run as compared to overt racism as this could create a plethora of problems:
> Lower self-esteem & confidence
> Racial Segregation
> Loss of trust in government and leaders
> Prejudice and hatred
The list can go on and on. What is alarming is that when I was younger, I remember the lack of representation in the media, in times where social media was not present, led me to feel lower than what was being represented in the media. I strived to fit into the stereotype of beauty standards. Up until now, in advertisements, there are lack of racial representation. The ones that do exist, are more often than not, to fit a racial archetype and that is not okay. Beauty advertisements in Singapore and around East Asia for that matter, largely represent, fair-skin, east-asian centric features and silky straight hair. Another example would be the beauty industry in Singapore in drugstores, specifically. If you take a trip down to any Guardian, Watsons or Sasa in Singapore, you’ll realise just how lacking it is in terms of diversity of options. The foundation shades are very much so catered to lighter skin individuals and the darker skin individuals have to result to purchasing more expensive options such as Bobby Brown, Estee Lauder and Fenty Beauty.
All in all, I feel like there is potential to strive for a more inclusive nation and we are generating a current generation who are more mindful but there are largely still flawed systems in place and mindsets that have room for improvement and I plan to attempt to make efforts to do so in this project. As I said in my previous post, my plan is not to create division but to spark conversations and create awareness in a tasteful manner but controversial enough to actually be attention-grabbing.