Sometimes it’s just bad parenting

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The charges flew fast and furiously.

The scene is chaotic and the video confusing. There are voices raised in anger and fingers pointing at each other. A chair is dragged noisily across the floor.

A confrontation between two families at the East Coast Park exit of Burger King on Sunday night went viral on TikTok yesterday.

The user who posted the video, @kakading, explains in the clip that the incident happened when a child was playing with a fire extinguisher when it exploded in another child’s face.

This reportedly sparked a heated argument between the two families and the police were called to settle the dispute.

But what turned a family argument into a viral video may have been the way the situation was being portrayed.

The TikToker wrote, “(T)he children of the Indian family played with the fire extinguisher, then sprayed themselves in the eyes of the children of the Chinese family on the opposite table.”

@kakading hopes they can settle #peaceandlove ♬ original sound – kakading 卡卡叮

This music video has 1.2 million views and over 2,000 comments so far.

Many comments reacted to the fact that the families were described as “Indian” and “Chinese”.

A comment from user Wei Bin Wong5, who got over 3,600 likes, said, “no need to (specify) the race, any race can make the same mistake.”

But many have jumped on the bandwagon against India, making sarcastic comments about not having fire extinguishers “where they come from” or “welcome to the ceca world”, making a derogatory reference to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, the Singapore Free Trade Agreement. with India.

“Ceca” has been used as a dog whistle, shorthand for political attacks for those upset by the influx of Indian nationals into Singapore due to increased trade between the two countries.

@kakading was surprised by the vehemence of the comments that followed her post. She explained in a later clip, she used “Indian” and “Chinese” simply as adjectives to better describe the situation.

One user, Aadheeraa, channeled Gen Z exasperation when she commented, “Bruh, she (referring to @kakading) is using the run to report what happened. What’s wrong with people in the comment section.

The problem is about parenthood, not racism

Image source: Reddit/r/SingaporeRaw

On Reddit, the comments were just as passionate. And quickly turned into anti-racism memes and straw man arguments.

Still, it’s a good sign that the most upvoted comments are the ones that called the race baits.

it's a good sign that the most upvoted comments are the ones that called the race bait.
Image source: Tiktok/@kakading

For his part, @kakading clarified his comments after saying his intention was simply to make it easier to identify the two different families.

She said the main purpose of posting the video was to highlight the importance of parenthood, regardless of ethnicity or country.

She said: “I have come across many incidents or accidents (related to children) that happen due to minimal parental guidance…yes you can say the child is naughty but why let them become even naughtier when parents can guide them along the way?”

While she is not yet a parent, she hopes that “in the future, my children will never become the aggressor or the victim”. Quoting the classic three-character (or 三字经, san zijinga literary text often used to teach young children moral lessons), she said “子不教,父之过” (zibujiao, fuzhiguo) meaning that a wayward child is the fault of the parent.

We reached out to @kakading to find out more about what happened, but haven’t heard from her.

@kakading Reply to @joyong3 ♬ original sound – kakading 卡卡叮

Coping with racial nuances in society

But let’s dig a little deeper. Why do we react to someone who uses race as a description and immediately conclude that he is, in quotes, “racist”?

Is our racial discord barely hiding below the surface of civility, just waiting for another incident to give it a reason to flare up and rear its ugly head?

Racial harmony in Singapore shouldn’t be like the Xenomorph in the Alien movie franchise: it all seems screwed up until a monster bursts out of someone’s chest.

We need to take a closer look at ourselves, ask ourselves why we seem so ready to attribute race to anything we might dislike.

“This person is so lazy, it must be a…”

“This guy just knows how to play, must be a…”

“This man drinks all the time, it must be a…”

“This woman has just arrived from [country X]Must be a…”

Coping with racial nuances in society
Image source: Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

As a general rule, we shouldn’t even make stereotypical comments like these, but if you find yourself automatically filling in these blanks without a second thought…maybe you want to question your inner assumptions.

And as we think about that, let’s also ask ourselves: why is it that when we flip the script and talk about positive traits, race almost never comes into play?

“This person is so generous, it must be a…”

“This woman is so bubbly, it must be a…”

“That boy is so nice, it must be a…”

We must learn to be impartial in this area: if we don’t naturally attribute race to positive traits, we must apply the same kind of reasoning to negative traits.

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Breed should be a neutral descriptor, not a value-laden dog whistle.

Imagine, if only we could live in a society where I can call a colleague “my Indian friend”, just to point the finger at him, and not be accused of “hey, why are you so racist”, how liberating would be it!

Our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew pointed out, in one of his last speeches to Parliament (please read it in its entirety, my brief summary does not do it justice), why “regardless of race, language or religion” is encapsulated in our national commitment. This is to remind us that racial harmony does not come naturally to any nation.

The promise that our CMIO children – Chinese, Malay, Indian, others – recite every day at school is a reminder that equality between races is an aspiration. It’s something good that we need to work towards, and while we’ve made great progress, we’re not there yet.

Racial harmony takes effort. Every garden needs to be maintained.

Racial harmony takes effort.  Every garden needs to be maintained.
Image source: Meg Landrito on Unsplash

Look at any country in the world. Or let it be politics dominate, hegemonic power systems dictate the socio-cultural structure of the economy. We must be careful lest we let slip certain assumptions that lead to stereotyping, whether based on race, culture, economic status, or level of education.

This is why we must speak out against such antisocial behavior when it occurs. And why I am heartened that many have spoken up to keep the conversation on track and to take to task those who have sown mistrust, fear and resentment.

Call me optimistic, but I believe we have an inherent power to speak out online — on TikTok, on Instagram, on Reddit, on our social media — to highlight and encourage what’s good, and speak out against what’s bad.

So let’s not be so quick to reduce everything to a run.

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Life is rarely that simple.

But in the curious case of the East Coast Park fast food extinguisher, it is.

Sometimes it’s just bad parenting.

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