The whole Chinese Privilege gig as touted by Sangeetha Thanapal has gained a fair bit of traction among the regressive left in Singapore, especially among minorities that identify with the everyday examples of Chinese “Privilege” as brought up by Sangeeta and her contributors at her blog.
There is no doubt that racism and prejudice exists on an endemic level in all populations, even in relatively homogenous communities. However Sangeetha herself is not terribly interested in really standing up to legit examples of such, having managed to use the classic sleight-of-hand “minorities cannot be oppressors” logic to excuse the blatant bigotry in her social activism, which at of this point has managed to make a villain of anybody who isn’t South Indian, female, dark skinned and fat.
What is interesting is how local progressive liberals who are the targets of her “you are not true social justicers” drivel are taking it, given a good chunk of her attacks are directed at other SJWs. It always warms my heart to see SJWs eat each other.
The point of this post however, is not to examine to flaws of the Thanapal and her acolytes (of which there are many), but rather to examine the issue of Chinese Privilege as brought up by Thanapal and expanded upon by those who nod along to it.
Does Chinese Privilege really exist in Singapore?
The problem with this question is that Sangeetha has chosen not to define it, keeping it, as in the words of the comic above, “spooky and vague, and hence advantageously non-falsifiable”. The closest one could come to a general definition of it would be “anything the Chinese do that causes butthurt for a minority in Singapore”.
Which of course is not a very useful definition because it is reliant on the subjective feelings of people. There are many examples of how the Chinese cause butthurt, most of them revolve around the use of mother tongue in the presence of minorities, jobs with qualifications requiring Chinese-speakers, negative stereotypes of minorities often shared among the Chinese as in jokes and what have you not.
There is no doubt that the Chinese enjoy hegemony in Singapore, but if this hegemony translates to institutional racism and a deliberate attempt to oppress minorities ala. apartheid South Africa or Segregated America is another question entirely. It is also another question if the Chinese have been getting “privileges” unfairly by utilising racism as opposed to there being other more mundane, natural explanations for such.
A common example of Chinese Privilege is the requirement for Chinese-speaking work staff in job requirements, and how that alienates minorities. These complaints also often come with encountering Chinese-speaking service staff who are unable to use English proficiently. On the surface this seems to be a social phenomenon affecting minority demographics that comes from Chinese racism.
But once you actually do the math another picture emerges. While English is the lingua franca of Singapore, proficient use of it is still largely confined to the middle and upper classes. As you go down socioeconomic status in Singapore English proficiency starts to drop off and more speakers revert to their mother tongue as their primary language. By virtue of population makeup this means that most of such people will be Chinese.
A job that requires one to deal with a lot of non-proficient English speakers would mean a high likelihood of dealing with Chinese speakers, making Chinese speaking a requirement, even if it isn’t immediately apparent. At the end of the day, businesses survive and gain a competitive advantage by best serving business realities, not playing the inclusive card for inclusiveness’ sake.
We also see this phenomenon in play when businesses hire Chinese-speakers for their service staff. The service industry in Singapore is predominately the domain of workers from the lower SES segments, hence English proficiency tends to be rarer among them. It is highly likely employers will often find themselves in a situation where they are unable to find any employees who are well versed in the Lingua Franca of Singapore to front their business.
In such a situation the mathematics of the issue demands that it makes most sense to place a Chinese speaker in the position as statistically speaking, the service staff in question is most likely to encounter a Chinese-speaker of sorts 70% of the time. This is even more pertinent when you are serving demographics that don’t have a good command of English, of which case there is a much higher chance you would end up serving someone who does speak Chinese than of a minority language.
The employer could try the social justice route and attempt to hire a minority non-Chinese speaker for front-line service staff, but in all likelihood would quickly find that this isn’t an optimal business choice. This is how the math simply works, this is not Chinese Privilege any more than being omnivorous gives you more food choices than a vegan means you have Omnivore Privilege.
And this will be the case no matter how much SJWs complain, the only way this issue can be ameliorated is if English proficiency is improved across all demographics. This has been something the government has long been trying to do with mixed results. But at the end of the day the Chinese demographic will always be able to utilise economies of scale that are inherent with being the majority to achieve competitive advantages over minorities.
Minorities can hack these advantages by co-opting these realities and picking up Chinese of course, I’ve seen forward-thinking minority parents put their children through Chinese lessons to do so. A minority who is effectively trilingual is way more valuable to a business than a monolingual Chinese-only speaker or a bilingual Chinese person.
But naturally, such an idea which involves pragmatic competitive thinking is pure poison to SJWs, representing cultural imperialism, even if they seem perfectly fine with using English taught to them by their middle-upper class education and writing big ass essays on it decrying the West.
At the end of the day, a lot of the touted “institutional advantages” that any group enjoys boil down to being butthurt about how some mundane confluences of circumstances have led to a particular group having competitive advantages by virtue of the environment. This is a very big difference from asserting that the less-stellar outcomes or difficulties come from deliberate and overt oppression and prejudice.
The proper response would be to understand these realities, and seek to best work around or even co-opt them instead of bitterly railing against the cards that nature has given us.