A friend of mine from the Philippines introduced me to a friend of hers who supposedly “loves travelling”. My definition of travel is often different from other people’s. I don’t like joining group tours and I’m not exactly the kind of traveller that just likes going around famous touristy spots, staying in generic hotels, eating continental food, and shopping in H&M and Zara. Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of “travelling”, to each his own. If people like travelling that way, I don’t care, it’s not for me to judge what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”, the only thing I extremely detest is when these tourists are insensitive to the locals and their culture. This includes racism, exoticism/objectification, insisting on using English rather than trying to use local language, calling their food disgusting in public, etc..
The three of us began talking about our love for Singapore. Although I haven’t been there in years, and I do want to return someday; I still remember the amazing food and culture there. I know some people get shocked when I talk about Singapore’s culture because they often can’t see behind the glitz and glamour. Yes they have culture, away from all the modern business and shopping areas (and I guess Sentosa), there is still Little India and Chinatown; and Little India is probably my favourite part of Singapore mostly because of the delicious food.
Little India became the topic of the conversation since it was my favourite district of Singapore, and from then on, I decided that this girl will never be my friend, nor will she be my travel companion. Why? Because she’s racist, and unfortunately, this isn’t exactly very uncommon in the Philippines. Although it’s a generalisation, even my Filipino friends admit that Filipinos can be really racist, especially to those with African or Middle Eastern descent; hell, they even discriminate against their own race! Basically, this mindset is due to years and years of colonisation.
It went on like this:
Me: I absolutely adored Little India! There’s just so much character to it (blah blah blah)
Girl: Oh I didn’t like Little India, it was so scary there!
Me and Friend in tandem: Huh? Scary? In SINGAPORE???
Girl: Yeah because there were so many Indians there…
Being the outspoken person that I am, I argued with her.
Me: You do know that Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world right? If not THE safest even. Why the hell would you feel scared just because you’re in a community of Indians? (Blah blah blah ranting about racism)
So of course, our potential “friendship” ended, and I’m glad it did. Can you imagine travelling with a friend of a friend you barely even know only to find out he/she is racist?
I know Little India isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a far cry from the modern and “developed” side of Singapore, but that’s what gives it character. It’s one thing to simply say “I didn’t like Little India very much” because it’s quite messy and it’s not that utopian vision of Singapore that most people have, but to actually be scared simply because there are Indians living in the area? What the f***. Seriously, what the f***. That’s nothing but racist bullsh*t.
India isn’t exactly the safest country in the world, but this is Singapore; and if you will argue that “oh but they still have the same mindsets as those Indians living in India” NO THEY DON’T. Many of the Indians here have been living there for generations, and have adapted to the society they lived in. That’s like expecting that Canadians with Chinese descent spit or defecate on the streets, or that Americans with Eastern European descent all still believe in communism.
If you’re scared to go to Little India because there are dark skinned Indians there, then you’re an uncultured idiot.
Photo courtesy of yoursingapore.com