Countries don’t divide people. People do.

A group of Hong Kong residents have placed an advertisement in a popular tabloid calling people from mainland China ‘locusts’. The term is an insult commonly used on the web by some of the city’s residents to refer to mainlanders.


Blatant xenophobia has worsened in recent years. Internet forums amplify anti-Chinese sentiments, labelling them as a ‘nuisance’ and a ‘disease’. Other nationalities, including Malaysians, had all at some point been equal victims of the blame game. A slew of personal experiences posted online, places the blame for the actions of some Chinese individuals on an entire country.

In Singapore, we often speak up against racism of other ethnic races. Some of us have ourselves, suffered discrimination in one form or another. Yet today, there is only silence and condonation when the attack falls upon the foreigners.

It is easy to blame an other, but is it untrue that our place of origin cannot define us as a whole? Even if we are culturally different, our birthplaces can never make us less than human.

“All penguins are the same below the surface, which I think is as perfect an analogy as we’re likely to get for the futility of racism.”

– Russell Brand

Take a look at this recent incident, where passing vehicles run over a toddler twice as she laid on the road. Eighteen equally indifferent passers-by failed to help the little girl and disregarded the bloody scene, raising questions of morality and the issue of fear amid a climate of distrust.

But above all, it has also shone a light on the larger issue at hand: racism. In the comment section of the videos and the news articles, a large percentage involve racist and xenophobic remarks like these:

Comments on the hit-and-run footage on Youtube

Instead of the individuals who are truly at fault, the Chinese are taking heat as a country, and a race. Hiding behind a mask of anonymity makes it easy to make sordid remarks like this, and it is unsurprising to see these comments thrive.

Death threats are made one after another. The eye-for-an-eye vengeance is propagated, over and over again. But is it right to point to an entire race for the crimes of a dozen?

This is certainly not the first display of the bystander effect. Neither is this phenomenon localised to a single country. A famous incident dates back to 1964, when thirty-eight New Yorkers witnessed Kitty Genovese’s murder yet did absolutely nothing to intervene.

More recently in 2004, an unconscious and bleeding woman was lying on the road in the midst of heavy traffic. Dozens of drivers saw her, but failed to lend a hand and instead swerved to avoid her. This happened right in London. The list builds, if only to show that this is what being human is, and sometimes, it isn’t perfect.

And back to our shocking story, it is untrue that no one helped at all. Bad news sell, and in a bid to increase readership, the papers have reduced the few good deeds of Samaritans to small print.

While individuals tried to assist at the scene, they were instead accused of seeking fame in a disturbing twist. Is it any wonder why the society has chose to turn a blind eye?

It is always easy to blame a stranger from the comfort of our own homes, but the truth is so much more than what we see on the papers. Moreover, it does not take much to explain how unjust and hurtful discrimination is. Much less should we condemn an entire race, when we have only seen what a handful had done.


4 thoughts on “Countries don’t divide people. People do.”

  1. Since quite some time ago, I’ve decided, when asked to fill in my race for application forms and other such paperwork, that I’ll put ‘human’. Only managed to do it a couple of times, but was unfortunately met with no opposition, which I dearly wanted. Give it a try. Haha. (The sad thing is there’ll be few opportunities since everything is computerized, so seize any chance you get!)


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