Today I pulled a boy out of class for making a racist remark

By Sarah Liwen Smith

There are a few things I don't abide in my classes.

One of them is racism. Today I pulled a boy out of class because he called one of his classmates "死黒人” (it literally translates to "die black person" but colloquially it's more accurately translated to "stupid black person", and is typically used on people who have dark and tanned skin, not necessarily just African Americans).

This kid was from a majority race in Singapore, and I called him out on it. I told him people of his race were literally being abused and faced racism daily overseas, and that he was taking advantage of the safe environment here where he belongs to the majority. I told him that saying sorry to his friend was not enough, that he shouldn't do it again.

Don't we all know that's not going to happen.

So I addressed the class on this. Acknowledged that I have said racist things before years ago, and that I have also been the target of racism right here in sunny Singapore. And that if you can't even respect your friends and peers (because that's what it boils down to), then how can you expect others to respect you.

Pretty sure most of my advice fell on deaf ears, given that they are a class that has trouble respecting themselves, with many of the students probably having self-esteem issues themselves.

It is so, so painful to see the world the way it is. To see kids behaving that way because we as adults tell them (through our behavior and the words we say) that it is okay. That it is normal to have pre-conceived (negative) notions of what different cultures or races or ethnicities are, or do, or have. It is tiring and exhausting trying to re-educate these kids into thinking that everyone deserves respect.

The very fact that we NEED to RE-EDUCATE them about that is, in itself, appalling.

And no, this isn't just at the secondary school level either. I had to address a similar issue while teaching a primary 2 class this morning, when they didn't react to 2 ethnic dances I mentioned we would be learning, but started giggling and making noises when I mentioned the third.

Every day I realize how broken our world is, and how we are the ones who are breaking it. But shouldn't we also be trying to help fix it?

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Miss Sarah Liwen Smith on 12 April 2017. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.


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