Singapore’s One-Of-A-Kind Racism In 2017 According To Actor Shrey Bhargava

A Status Report On ‘Racism’ In Singapore 2017 Re The Inimitable Case Of Bhargava
Looking down from above, Singapore’s founding fathers would doubtless be tickled pink if asked to give their report card on the 2017 status of race relations in Little Red Dot. They would unhesitatingly declaim: what nation in the world today wouldn’t love to have the type of prevailing ‘racist’ problems that presently haunt the multi-cultural city state. For if the ‘racist’ incident highlighted by Mr. Shrey Bhargava along with the eristic storm that followed, is emblematic of the sort of modern-day ‘racism’ plaguing the heterogenous island state, then, tiny Singapore is indeed blessed and in good shape. More on the details of Mr. Bhargava’s bellyaching of racism later … but going by what happened here, it appears the 50-odd-year policy of government-enforced peaceful co-existence for its various races is paying off and bodes well for the future of race relations for the next 50 in the nation.
Now, why do I term it ‘blessed’ with respect to the Bhargava sort of ‘racism’ in Singapore? Well, the answer will be self-evident by way of contrast in the following comparison. Lately, two notable incidents of racism in the U.S. — one in LA, the other in Denver in the same time period (late May) as Mr. Bhargava’s infamous ‘racism’ incident — point to the prevalence and depth of day-to-day racism in America 250 years into its race relation management/experiment. The first involved Lebron James. He is the current African-American NBA superstar, the next Michael Jordan of basketball. His newly purchased $20-million gated home in Los Angeles was vandalized, with N-word graffiti spray-painted on its entrance gate. The second concerned a Caucasian sports columnist of the Denver Post. Terry Frei, a 7-time state sportswriter of the year, sounded off on Tweeter his disapproval of the winner of the recently completed Indy 500 — the premiere Formula One-type auto racing in America — all because for the first time in its 100-plus-year auto-racing history, the 2017 winner happened to be a Japanese. Terry Frei’s subsequent half-hearted apology wasn’t enough to save his job.
So now let’s take a moment to review what actually did happen to Mr. Bhargava and the firestorm of controversy it generated. In a nutshell, the allegation of racism raised by Mr. Bhargava boils down to a case of auditioneer’s remorse. To better explain it by analogy, it’s likened to a part-time porn-star scrupling over whether to go through the action but accepted the shoot nonetheless only to subsequently fault the casting director for demeaning her dignity and self-worth. Mr. Bhargava, an aspiring Singaporean Indian actor, considers his being told by an audition director for a comedy shoot — a local Singaporean Chinese — to more vigorously portray the role of a ‘full-blown Indian man’ to be insulting, demeaning and racist. Initially, he hesitated for a moment or two but accepted the role just the same as instructed only to regret it, cry foul and level charges of racism after the fact.
But don’t get me wrong here about my being dismissive of Mr. Shrey Bhargava’s ululations. He’s certainly entitled to his take on racism and to airing his personal sensibilities over the matter — it’s all good. However, on this particular controversy of alleged racism, the defining line is clearly drawn between the conservative and the liberal opinion-makers of the day, being respectively exemplified by the SBB and the SFL camps. [ Usage note on acronyms per my definition: SBB, short for Singapore Barbie with Brains aka blogger Xiaxue whose hard-hitting, cogent broadside against the alleged racism takes the cake as opposed to the Singapore Flaming Liberal (SFL) camp typified by playwright Alfian Sa’at’s wishy-washy pro-Bhargava treacle posted on his Fb June 1. ]
Finally FWIW, here’s a not so facetious test extracted from one of my recent articles on evaluating if you are a ‘natural racist’… caveat: sample it at your own peril:-)
(Postscript: some food for thought for Singaporean movie director Jack Neo of ‘Ah Boys To Men’ series fame… I suppose it would now seem inadvisable to even consider hiring Shrey Bhargava for his auditioned role in the said movie, in view of all the negative publicity he has ginned up. But I believe the opposite is true here — that he be hired precisely for that counter-intuitive reason, i.e., the PR per se justifies it… provided Shrey the upstanding Indian young actor proved himself versatile enough; that would mean his executing beautifully the artificially exaggerated role of a ‘full-blown Indian man’ if need be for the above comedy film per the director’s specifications.)
June 4, 2017

There are degrees of racism. You do not need to see violent acts as the only indication. What exists here is a possible prevalence of casual racism usually expressed in private.

What Shrey did was to call out someone’s private racism and expose it to a wider audience. To deny that there is any racism just because there isn’t any violent acts seems to be sweeping things under the carpet. No incidents of violent acts is obviously something we can be proud of. But if we ignore casual racism and even condone it, we will not progress and we risk slipping into dangerous territory.

Lester Kok replied to Jake Tan 

Is that the way you see it…merely problems of casual racism in Singapore? I trust you now twig it why in my article I termed it ‘blessed’. Here are 2 links just to get a flavor of the various types of racism out there bedeviling humanity around the globe…

  • No violent acts? There was the case of the Malay man spitting at a Chinese woman on the bus. Then more recently, there was that Indian woman who assaulted some optical shop assistants while saying not so PC things.

    Being “extra” nice to each other is also racism when it is put on. No racism is when you are ignored, treated as part of the scenery, nothing special. That is when you know you have “arrived”.



4 thoughts on “Singapore’s One-Of-A-Kind Racism In 2017 According To Actor Shrey Bhargava

  1. Hmm…so what’s the point here? A little bit of racism is alright? Is it all relative since it’s non violent ? Let the racist role exist because some people find it entertaining and don’t care about the fact that it hurts others ? Is it better to sweep it all under the carpet and say out loud “There is no issue” or actually listen and understand instead of being blind to it.


    1. Thank you Jason for saying your piece. I’m afraid we would have to agree to disagree on the definition of the so-called racism as portrayed by Mr. Shrey Bhargava; his was not racism IMHO, as understood in the classic sense but rather a case of misplaced ethnic chauvinism on his part.

      Instead of posing your rhetorical question by lamenting that even a little bit of racism is deplorable, you are better off acknowledging that ‘racism’ in all its forms from subtle to blatant is simply ingrained in the web of life. Hence, we had better to pick our battle more wisely against racism — those veritable vicious types — lest we descend into what I would term the nimieties of the ridiculous such as the niminy-piminy caterwauling of actor-wannabe Mr. Bhagarwa.


      1. Well, I think all you are showing here is a case of “the majority will tell you whether the fact you feel offended Is justified or not” and you should listen. I’m not particularly saying it is warranted or not warranted in this particular case, but just accepting it as a part of life seems like a poor option. Basically what you’re saying is “Yeah, people are racist. So those offended by it should learn to pick their battles”. I wonder if you would say the same were you on the other side. For example, it is common enough for certain people who look for rentals to be told “Sorry, only so and so race preferred by the landlord”. Is this a battle worth picking or too niminy-piminy? Are you the right person to decide? Where do you draw a line ? Should you even draw one? Is it only worth talking about when someone is physically hurt ?


      2. When I was a very young man, being a newly-arrived student overseas — what seems like eons ago — sitting in a bus I was ticked off enough by some personal racist remarks from 2 local youngsters that I dared them to step off the bus for me to settle their hash. It was of course so foolhardy of me in retrospect to even think of doing what I did on that occasion, being foreign to the environs and not fully cognizant then of the prevalence of the American gun culture. And that’s what I meant by picking one’s battle wisely against issues relating to the ubiquity of ‘racism’.

        Surely it is Mr. Bhargava’s prerogative to bellyache all he wants about triviality in a neat little place like Singapore. But IMHO, in making a mountain out of a molehill over the audition incident, mischaracterizing it as some sinister racism, Mr. Bhargava has brought on himself a great disfavor. Sadly, being that thin-skinned of an actor wannabe, I am afraid he would have a tough time hacking it in his line of work.


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