People describe what it means to be a victim of prejudice at OnePeople.sg event

Participants in the "You're Prejudiced. And You Are Biased. Admit it." workshop writing down biased notions that they have heard about certain groups of people, on June 23, 2019.
Participants in the "You're Prejudiced. And You Are Biased. Admit it." workshop writing down biased notions that they have heard about certain groups of people, on June 23, 2019.PHOTO: ONEPEOPLE.SG

SINGAPORE - A workshop which saw people of different backgrounds holding frank discussions about prejudice sparked some honest discussions on Sunday (June 23).

The 60 participants from Singapore had gathered at Raffles City in groups of about eight to share their experiences at the workshop entitled "You're Prejudiced. And You Are Biased. Admit it."

It was part of the Heartland Dialogues And Experiences sessions organised by OnePeople.sg, a ground-up national body that promotes racial and religious harmony.

In one group, a 71-year-old Singaporean Sikh described how he had faced episodes in the past that made him feel as if he was the victim of racism.

But in sharing, he also revealed he harboured his own biases against Chinese nationals, declaring that "it is factual that they are loud and rude".

A 17-year-old Singaporean secondary school student, whose mother is from China, responded. He pointed out that the comment was biased.

Describing his own experience, he said several Singaporeans have asked him before whether he thinks dog meat tastes good, because of his heritage.

The two acknowledged that both of them had experienced prejudice.

The dialogue was part of a series of events organised in the wake of the International Conference on Cohesive Societies which concluded on Friday.

Other public events held on Sunday included dialogue sessions about Abrahamic faiths, which consists of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as the challenges of spotting fake news.

OnePeople.sg programme manager Ms Judy Ooh said that such "authentic conversations" are important as they get participants to "reflect and understand the need for moderation". The dialogue sessions also provide a platform for the public to talk about racial and religious issues.

Over the weekend, OnePeople.sg organised conversations with various faith and religions practitioners, as well as visits to places of worship.

During the session on prejudice, group facilitator Ms V. Vijayalakshmi shared how people often mistake her for a Filipino as they cannot place her heritage.

The 30-year-old social work graduate, who is of Chinese and Indian heritage, said: "It annoys me because people always make me feel like I'm not Singaporean enough. It even makes me question if I'm ever Chinese enough or Indian enough."

But others pointed out that prejudiced views are not confined to ethnicity.

A primary school teacher in his 30s described how he was bullied "for being fat", and that people would judge him as not being able to do certain things, such as sports.

Meanwhile, an Oxford University graduate in her early 20s shared how at networking events she often felt overlooked as a woman because people "naturally assume that I could never be boss material".

The participants, who declined to be named, said the workshop was a good way to hear other points of view.

The session on Sunday had opened with local stand-up comedian Rishi Budhrani, who speaks several north Indian languages,sharing how a television producer had assumed that he could speak Tamil just because he is Indian.

Mr Budhrani said in jest: "He kept saying to me, 'If you try, you can' - as if all Indians have a default Tamil button. But when he told me that I would get a lot of money for the job, I started sprouting Tamil.

"Because you know all Indians speak one language - and that is money."