When did race become an issue here?

For most of my life in Singapore, I had not thought of myself as a Chinese. I was simply a Singaporean.

When I am introduced to others, I do not immediately think of their skin colour, religion or ethnic origin, but whether the person gives me a nice smile and a firm handshake, and treats me with respect.

My "Chinese-ness" was never an issue until I went to work in Europe, where I was often accosted by strange men making unsavoury propositions.

However, it is in Singapore that I find sales associates ignoring me or following me with glum faces, and then rushing to greet my English husband effusively when he entered the store.

This bare-faced racism disturbs me.

It has been dished out by sales associates who are of diverse ethnic origins, both men and women, and usually much younger than me.

It is in Singapore that I find sales associates ignoring me or following me with glum faces, then rushing to greet my English husband effusively when he entered the store.

Singaporeans of my generation embraced the vision of our founding fathers: a united people regardless of race, language or religion. When did this ideal change? How did we let it happen?

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'When did race become an issue here?'. Print Edition | Subscribe