Why was I even Writing about Race in Singapore?

Some of you would have read my previous post What’s Race got to do with Anything? Thank you for reading it – I’m grateful for the support I received in writing it to share my perspectives as a minority in Singapore.

I thought it might be interesting to share why I even wrote that piece in the first place, and my experience writing that piece, because… it’s my blog and I can.

[Side note: My experience actually writing the piece is in a separate entry because it felt like too much to add in here. You can read that here: Writing About Race in Singapore – A Reflection]

ANYWAY. Not the point of this. I really just wanted to share the backstory of that piece, and so here it is.

It started during the election season (a brief 17 days, from 23 June to 10 July). I saw an open call on Instagram from someone working with one of the well-known alternative media sources (the mainstream media in Singapore is controlled by the government). They were writing an article about minority perspectives in Singapore in relation to the General Elections 2020.

It seemed like an interesting topic – I hadn’t seen too much coverage of specifically the concerns of minority groups, despite comprising around 22% of the electoral population. I thought it would be an enlightening article, and figured I could contribute some of my perspectives on the matter.

Without putting too much thought into it, I typed up some of the issues (which I talk about in the other article) into quick response statements and sent them off to her via Instagram DMs, under the impression that my comments would be edited into a larger, more cohesive piece showcasing different perspectives.

A few days later, this person sent me a Google document with their “draft”. Could I read it over before it was published, they asked. It would be be published anonymously, unless I wanted to claim credit for it.

“The article” was no more than a copy+pasted compilation of the messages I had sent them, with no additional perspectives, no editing for clarity or ease of reading, or even plain old grammatical errors.

Hang on a sec, I said. This is just a compilation of everything I sent you.

Yes, they said. It’s an opinion piece.

I was stunned / appalled / shocked.

1) They’d initially pitched it as a single article that would aggregate the responses of other minorities to provide a cohesive perspective of the issues that are important to us in the GE2020, not an opinion piece that would only put forth my ideas.

2) As a writer myself (and a fairly competent one, I would like to think!), I would not have chosen to express myself like that. It was random compilation of thoughts as they’d occurred to me, not an article in its entirety. To put my name to it would have been embarrassing and called into question my caliber as a writer and editor, but I didn’t want her to publish it anonymously either. Those were my thoughts / opinions / arguments and I didn’t want them floating around the Internet anonymously – because if nothing else, I stand behind my own ideas.

I admit – I was conflicted. On one hand, I did (and still do) think that the points and arguments I raised were valid, and I wanted these issues to be heard and talked about on a larger platform than just my own little echo chamber. On the other hand, it was such a sloppily-written “article” that it detracted from the meat of the matter, and came across as lacking nuance and cohesiveness. 

While mulling over my next steps (to publish or not to publish, that is the question!) I gave them a few pointers to edit the “article”, and all the links to back up the claims I had made (which I literally Googled and copy+pasted to them and which they compiled into a section titled “Links” at the bottom of the “article” instead of including the links to relevant parts) – which added to my misgivings about the whole situation.

In the course of our back-and-forth, I shared my reservations about how this article was being handled and how uncomfortable I was feeling about the whole situation. Subsequently, they revealed that they are:

A) a volunteer for the media platform where the article would be published,
B) a student,
C) had no journalistic experience (they were studying creative writing) whatsoever, and
) only 18 years old (not that there’s anything wrong with being young but at that age, you do tend to lack the maturity needed to deal with complex topics like race and the minority experience in a country like Singapore).

That was enough for me – and I retracted all my statements.

Honestly, I think the fault lies more with the media platform than the person I was interacting with.

In my head, all I could think about was:

“Why would they allow a student volunteer (intern looking for street cred to boost their resume?) with no technical competence or experience in the field to write about a sensitive, potentially explosive topic in the midst of a very volatile situation?”  (Our election season may not be as dramatic as in some other countries, but I assure you – tensions were running high.)

“How could they not even give a rat’s ass about how the issues were being addressed or conveyed – why even bother writing this article, if they’re not going to give it proper consideration?!”

“It’s so irresponsible of them to do this – to just take my words, copy+paste them into a document, and call it an article! The audacity!”

“If this article were asking for opinions from the majority group, they would have cared a bit more, and put in some actual effort!”

To me, this whole situation is not just oversight. It is but another facet of the marginalization that minorities face in Singapore. To me, that’s just another indication that in my country, my voice as a minority is not worthy of being heard, and my perspectives are not valued enough to be given the proper respect they deserve.

I was angry, but I was also deeply disappointed and hurt.

So I decided to compile my thoughts into an article that I can stand behind, and share it on my blog instead.

And there begins the “second part” of experience in writing this article.

While the first was characterized by anger, outrage, and disbelief towards the media platform and their treatment of this whole issue, the second was fraught with worry, anxiety, and fear – of the potential repercussions of writing such an article.

You can read that piece here: Writing About Race in Singapore – A Reflection

Wow, thanks for reading all of that. It’s a lot. I appreciate you. Let me know what you think of how this media platform handled the situation in the comments – and if you think I was overreacting.

Till next time.

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