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How are African Americans treated?

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Re: How are African Americans treated?

Post by CLSV » Wed, 25 Sep 2019 11:02 am

Do black travelers face any harsh treatment in Singapore? I'm writing from the perspective of a 27-year-old African-American solo male traveler of beige skin-tone. My ten-day itinerary included who airports in Asia, Singapore's luxury hotel and budget hostels, local street restaurants, public transportation, shopping malls, and Singapore's main attractions. However, after the first two days of unrelenting stares, I found myself searching for less trafficked areas to cling to. Also, after several racially-based uncomfortable moments, I missed the more so……racially literate environment of the United States.

In my opinion, these racially-based moments of discomfort seem to originate from black stereotypes passed on to Asian natives who I assume haven't had much of any actual interaction with an African-American. I witnessed a few Asian women clench their bags or jump upon seeing me, despite a lack of even a glance in their direction. I witnessed no one of any other race, no matter how dark the skin tone, received this type of treatment. This behavior is not even as predominate in my everyday life as an African-American in decent parts of the United States as I experienced as a visitor in Asia. Despite being well off enough to travel globally, I had a stomach-turning experience being perceived as less qualified than if I were a White or Asian traveler.

My cab ride to my hotel one evening was alarming. It wasn't the driver but the 20-something-year-old woman he was face-timing while driving. He had just picked me up at the gate of the annual Singapore Grand Prix I attended. Although he assumed I supported Hamilton(the only Black Formula one racer), I brushed it off because I figured they haven't learned that it's rude to place stereotypes on people, especially clients. Anyways, he and the mystery woman were in the middle of a conversation when she stopped and, with a concerned look in her eyes, focused on me sitting in the back seat. She said something to him in another language but I had a feeling I already knew what it was. My feeling was confirmed when the cab driver said " What! What is wrong?" Then he glanced back and took his first look at me and saw a beige-toned 27-year-old black man. He heard my accent first though and responded to her "what, no he's American, fine, fine". I only assume that this confirmed my concerns and the suspicion following me this entire trip. There has to undeniably be an element of anti-black tones or at least something against Africans prevalent in Singapore.

Pre-trip, I did some reading on how blacks are treated in Singapore. I've even heard of stories of racial profiling at Singapore's border. In a forum, How is it living in Singapore as an African American Expat, Sec5 stated: "If your well dressed and don't look like a thug or gangster, you generally get treated well as a tourist wherever you go."

Due to Singapore's humid climate, I wore mostly solid t-shirts or short sleeve button-ups, running shorts, and either athletic shoes or flip-flops. For plane rides, I wore sweat-pants and hoodies. I noticed way too many Asian people wearing layers of designer names for a 5 hour to 14-hour flight and like most Americans, chose to go with comfortable rather than show off status. Comfortable, yet not very gangster chic. Actually, my attire was noticeably parallel to what white backpackers had on as well.

However, while I received the stares and the few purse clinching treatments, I noticed everyone just walked around whites like water with not so much as a glance. Supposedly, Whites are highly revered by Asians according to KJ's comments on this post Is Singapore a Racist Country. I've always heard jokes in pop culture where Asian moms would say "Marry a white man, white man good". Even in the states, a lot of Asian immigrants seem to be paired with a white male as a significant other.

On Sunday I wore my Official Grand Prix merch which included a $110 polo and a $70 hat with Levi jeans and flip flops. I still received looks but less frequently "concerning looks". When outside the event, people asked me if I were one of the racers. I admit I was flattered, but either they didn’t follow the sport or hadn't noticed the hundreds of other attendees wearing the same exact merch as I.

I was happy to visit the county because, although being a predominately Asian country, I fell for the "Singapore is black tolerant" videos I had viewed pre-trip. However, by mid-trip I realized that there is absolutely nowhere I could go to Singapore where I would feel normal except for the Jewel. There wasn't a single place outside of the Jewel I didn't receive stares including a diverse event such as the Grand Prix that attracts attendees from around the globe. It was a super uncomfortable experience for a guy from the states where every race, culture blends in (for the most part). It made me realize just how comfortable modern America is for POC compared to other parts of the world even in light of the history of racial offenses. I mean I can walk into a McDonalds anywhere in the U.S. without being stared down by everyone. I missed the feeling of being another face in the crowd. I mean, I've never met an Eskimo in person, but I sure wouldn't stare if ever do.

Everywhere I went I received stares from both Asians and whites. Indian people did not seem as curious and we're quite welcoming and eager to sell me something. A few Indian pedestrians even nodded when walking by. Asians either stared or had a really curious look on their faces. For those who did stare, their gaze was just as intense right up until going back to whatever was occupying them before.

Whites seemed shocked to see me. I even recall walking down harbor front(really off beaten path) and noticed a Caucasian couple driving by (not too uncommon). The male in the passenger seat almost broke his neck to take a second look out of the window to make sure I wasn’t a hallucination.

I received heavy stares mostly from whites on Sentosa Island and at the Grand Prix. Some white didn't even try to conceal it but studied me up and down. No one has seen an African American before? Even if you haven't met one, is it really that off that you forget your manners? The event staff didn't seem to stare or find meeting an African American anything new.

Sometimes I took the MRT train to save costs and took a 5 min ride to my hostel in Geylang. I looked to my left and noticed two guys taking staring at me before turning their heads once they saw I noticed. In fact, it wasn’t rare to find myself being stared at endlessly as if I'm the subject of a study. I mean, I'm not the world's most interesting guy on the outside or within.

I managed to get myself lodged in the back of a crowded elevator in the Changi Airport with a 7-year-old Asian kid who stared and smiled at me relentlessly. Once I looked him in the face, he realized the awkward moment he created and conjured up the word "hi". I shoved my lips into my mouth while forcing my eyes in the other direction in light of the awkwardness until he turned away.

Being the subject of stares from an entire country can be a suffocating experience. However, if you really want the entire room to stare at you, use your American Accent to throw them off. I recall being in the McDonalds near Victoria street and ordering a Chicken sandwich through the automated teller. Once a sandwich appeared at the counter I asked the sandwich bagger "is this order #2539?". He along with the entire room stopped and looked to make sure I was real. Even during conversations on the phone people on the street took double takes when they heard me talk. For the rest of my trip, I spoke as much as possible to observe the reaction from the locals. The reactions ranged from shocked to just a double-take. They really must not see a lot of African Americans, but I hope they get more exposure to help tourists feel more comfortable and improve awareness.

Mixing in with the locals
I shopped pretty much all over. Orchard mall is on the high-end side but there are some common shops like Zara and H&M nearby. I also shopped at Funan mall and Malay street at the shopping plaza. All the shops I went to were usually attended by one salesperson. Service was pretty normal, salesmen didn't appear shocked to see me but not as talkative as retailers in America when I had questions. I missed the attentiveness when shopping in America. In the states, retailers can be super talkative (they want to make the sale) while some American retailers are anti-social (just waiting to clock out). I kept my conversion limited once I noticed this and just chalked it up as maybe they were introverted, and have never seen an African American, or just waiting to clock-out. The conversation was usually one question one short answer and then they would nervously find something to occupy themselves.

Little India was riddled with tourists both Asians and white. The shopping experience in Little India was felt great and a tailor basically pulled me into his shop to take a look as his hand-made shirts( I bought one). The Capitol Trading Post is great for little Nick knacks or supplies. A group of Indian women came to me to ask for directions. It was the first time in the three days iv been there that I was approached or a pedestrian initiated conversation with me excluding the taxi drivers.

Shopping in China Town was the opposite. Store salesmen where reserved and short. I didn't buy because I didn't think that they had the patience for a few questions about the Jade.

The Jewel experience felt normal and more like the experience back in the states as I image they encounter more black travelers who visits the shops during layovers and transfers as opposed to the retailers in the city. Usually, I receive friendly smiles and a concierge(shout out to the Nike store at the jewel). Pretty opposite of the introverted shopping experience in the city.

The cab drivers were not like the cab drivers in the US. Cab drivers in the US are super talkative and always loved to start and hold conversations. I usually initiated a conversation with Singaporean cab drivers in order to get their perspective on nice places. Once I initiated the conversation they usually could hold it for the entire ride. Some were just here and there. Note to self…..everyone here is very reserved.

I mention to the cab drivers that I was visiting to attend the Grand Prix. On more occasions than I'd like I received "huh aren't those tickets really expensive?". I never settled with any of them on whether they asked that because their initial thought is that I wouldn’t be able to afford something like that or they just considered the tickets well…..generally expensive. Also, the few cases of "why not take MRT? cheap. The only way to really find out is whether or not they would ask me that question if I were white.

Marina Bay Sand's service was good. None of the staff gave off a hint of being shocked by my accent or being a black male American. It's one of the few experiences that felt normal since being in the country. I figured the older staff already seen at least a few of black men by now. Either that or they wanted to remain professional. A 40-something-year-old white guy kept glancing at me while checking in. I assume he didn't expect to see a 27-year-old black guy checking in. I received some stares in the lobby from whites. I couldn't figure whether it was racial or class stereotypes that brought the stares bit I was too busy dashing out of there to take an observation. At this point, I realized that I'm also around tourists from all other parts of the world which may mean I'm subject to prejudices that have been packed in their travel bags and brought with them.

Strangers Like Me
At the Grand Prix, I saw maybe 10 black people, and most Iv saw my entire trip.

I can count on one hand how many blacks iv seen during my visit into the city. However, the ones that I did see me noticed me quite quickly but went silent once they did. I noticed more often than I'd like, that Black people tend to avoid grouping, move away, or even avoid eye contact with another Black in cases where they make up <10% of the room or attendance. It seems like some type of social anxiety and wanting to be accepted by the majority by disassociating with Black.

If you don’t find the purse-clinching and stereotype comments signs of Anti-Black sentiment..…well……I can certainly testify that its at its least t not the most comfortable place for a 27 year old solo black male traveler.

References: ... -Singapore ... huket.html ... n_african/ ... st-country

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Re: How are African Americans treated?

Post by PNGMK » Wed, 25 Sep 2019 1:00 pm

The F1 tickets ARE expensive in local terms. Roughly 1/3 to 1/2 a month's wage.
I not lawyer/teacher/CPA.
You've been arrested? Law Society of Singapore can provide referrals.
You want an International School job? School website or
Your rugrat needs a School? Avoid for profit schools
You need Tax advice? Ask a CPA
You ran away without doing NS? Shame on you!

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Re: How are African Americans treated?

Post by tt1973 » Sat, 28 Sep 2019 12:24 am

Very good read.

Thanks for the post :)

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