TL;DR- We think PrimaDeli takes the cake with its slice of racism.
That’s a line from our national pledge. We live in a multi-racial society where people are free to speak different languages and to practise difference religions. And we have always prided ourselves for our harmonious way of life. The pledge does mean something to me.
We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.
Something happened awhile ago, when a lady by the name of Sarah Carmariah went for an interview with ‘a well-known halal bakery’ for the position of a cake decorator. What purportedly happened was so appalling and downright rude and racist that it left such a bad taste in my mouth.
The interview with HR went well. We had a great chat, talked about the baking industry, and discussed the role that was being offered so on and so forth. After looking at my portfolio she was keen to move things forward, and so was I. She shuffled up and down the office, making phone calls to coordinate a last minute meeting with the head of the baking department, who was 5 floors above the HR office. I waited for about 15 minutes for the head of the department, and at that point was really looking forward to meeting him. The HR rep then sat me down in a another meeting room next to the waiting room. These two rooms were separated by a glass panel, so you could clearly see what was going on outside.
So the head of the department arrived with one of his colleagues. I introduced myself to the both of them and we sat down to talk.
He looked through my portfolio, flipping through the pages very haphazardly. After a few moments, he proceeded to asked me, “Can you coat a cake?”, to which I answered “Yes I can.”.
Silence… Then he then said we could go up to the bakery so that I could do a demonstration. We stood to got up to proceed upstairs, but then he turned to me, gesturing his hands at me from head to toe and said,
“From what I see, and the way you look, and not trying to be racist ah, but you Malay, I think you cannot la”
I was stunned and I just froze. I felt my ears getting a little hot, but I didn’t want to lose my cool. I was taken aback and didn’t quite know how to respond anyway. I just kept quiet because I was shocked. He continued,
“You know ah, Malays ah they over promise, promise I can do this I can do that, in the end, cannot make it, after 2 days disappear.”
I answered him, “Sir, I haven’t promised you anything. I think you should give me a chance”
By this point, I was extremely disgusted, angry and in total disbelief. He laughed again and said,
“Ya ok ok, we will head upstairs and proceed, then we see where we can go from there? Anyways you speak Chinese not? Cos mostly all my worker speak Chinese”
I answered that I didn’t speak the language but I could understand bits and pieces.
‘What the heck,’ I told myself. I had already come this far, I might as well finish this off and do this well for myself. We proceeded to the baking room where I was handed a bowl of frosting, a pallet knife, frosting bag, 4 layers of cake, and a scraper.
The department head left and sent in another colleague to watch me. He couldn’t speak English well, so we had a hard time communicating.
I asked him how he wanted the cake to be coated, to try to get a better sense of the technique required, to which he answered “Yes you coat, you coat”.
So I coated the cake, clean with standard edges and finish. He motioned for me to scrape the edges with a zig zag scraper, so I did. It turned out fine, the edges were clean and I did the best that I could. Not a single crumb in sight, neatly combed.
The department head returned, walking into the room, laughed while saying, “Aiyo cannot Llah”
He started talking to his colleague in mandarin, thinking I would not understand him. From what he said I understood that I was actually supposed to be shown a sample cake that I was meant to recreate. “Ni mei you gei da kan sample ah?” Nope, he did not let me see a sample.
At this point, I grabbed my bag, thanked them both for their time, took back the copies of my portfolio, and left.
I have no intention of naming or shaming this organisation and its people, but I would like to highlight that racial discrimination in the job market is more real than we think. I’m making a stand and sharing my story because I believe in equal rights and equal opportunity for everyone. How can anyone judge another based on general racial stereotypes? In Singapore, of all places, a supposedly racially harmonious and fair country? Particularly in my case, what I thought was ironic as hell, was that this company actually prides itself on catering to the Muslim community.
Are we going to start making this right or are we going to sweep it under the rug and just suck it up as “the way things are?”
The point I’m trying to make is that nobody wants to be generalised or defined by racial stereotypes. Racial profiling is unfair and unjust. We are more than our skin. We are actions. We are people. We are human beings with original thought and different experiences that have shaped us to become unique individuals with so much potential to offer society and the world. And yet I find myself, for the first time, discriminated against and not given a real chance for something I’m confident at, for something that I know sets me apart. Nobody should ever be told that they can’t do something based on the colour of their skin, but the sad reality is that this is real, and this is really happening.
Needless to say , I probably will never buy flour, cakes, pastes or anything from these people ever again. But I do wish them the best of luck maintaining their halal certification, and I do wonder how they will maintain their minimum Muslim employment quota.
Labour MP Zainal Sapari has taken to Facebook to share his thoughts about this issue too.
Prima Deli has out’ed itself and updated their Facebook page this afternoon.
And shame on you too, Prima Deli, if you don’t take any action to put right the wrong, and to ensure that this does not happen again.