In Singapore and world issue module, I have encountered a topic known as invisible prejudice and discrimination towards the visually-impaired and the foreign migrant workers. We had an opportunity to encounter these two groups of people. This opportunity had impacted my perspective towards them.
Dialogue in the dark, also known as DiD, is where visitors are led by blind guides to experience daily activities in darkness. When I entered the dark room, I started to flutter and felt lost. All I can only rely on was sense of touch and hearing to find directions. Fortunately, we were led by a male guide throughout the whole journey. During the DiD, I experience visiting supermarket, crossing a road and riding a boat. At last, we arrived at café and we had a conversation with the male guide. I was surprised to find that he was a blind person and realized that the café was run by visually impaired individuals. When I walked out of the room, I felt relieved because I was able to see the surrounding again.
I had never experience being a visual-impaired person. However, I can presume that they will encounter difficulties such as unable to adapt to a “new” environment and might have a low self-esteem. After the experience, I can understand a little bit about their world and difficulties. For example, it might be effortless for us to use ATM machine, but for a visually-impaired individuals, it is a big challenge. I had learned from these visually-impaired people that we should overcome the obstacles, be strong and continue to live on the best we can. I think that DiD is 80% similar to reality. There are many similar facilities such as supermarket inside the room. However, in real world, there will not be any wall designed to guide visually-impaired individuals and nobody will give verbal instruction to lead them.
It is phenomenon that these visually-impaired individuals are facing discrimination and prejudice. Discrimination is defined as an individual is treated differently due to a given characteristics such as race, religion, sex. Prejudice is defined as preconception that is not factual. Sometimes, I am aware of my own prejudice and discrimination. For instance, when I was young, if I saw a disabled person working in an industry, I will feel surprised and doubtful about their competency.
Peers and family can influence an individual obtaining these prejudice and discrimination. For example, if parents instill their children with negative image of a disabled person, their children is more likely to have act in a prejudiced way. Social norm has an impact on prejudice and discrimination. It refers to an acceptable behavior within a social group (McLeod, 2008).
According to an article published by Henriette Jacobsen (2013), only 12% of the bling people have job. Prejudice has an impact on high rate of unemployment in these group of people. According to the survey, more than 33% of the population feel doubtful about having a colleague with vision impairment. They perceived that blind people lack competency and having a them would indicate more work for others.
From this article, I felt that our preconception and judgement had resulted them to lose job. The visually-impaired individual had the determination to upgrade their skills to adapt to the society. Nevertheless, the cruel society prevents them from integrating and rejected their career opportunities. Without jobs, they cannot support themselves financially and might feel depressed.
The next less-privileged group that I will be discussing is the foreign migrant workers especially the foreign domestic workers and construction workers. On weekend, I participate a service learning activity at Chinese garden. Our task was to conduct a survey with foreign migrant worker. Before the experience, I felt that foreign construction workers appeared scary and unfriendly. It would be extremely difficult to approach and communicate with them in our daily life. However, the service learning activity had provided us an opportunity to conversate with the foreign migrant workers. During the survey, we get to know the issues faced by these foreign workers. Some of the issues are low monthly salary of approximately $600, paying expensive employment fee and employer-employee conflict etc. After the experience, I felt that the foreign workers were friendly, welcoming and willing to share their stories with us.
This service learning had allowed me to understand more about the foreign workers and the discrimination against them in Singapore. According to Ministry of Manpower, 16% of the foreign workforce were foreign domestic workers while 21% of them were foreign construction workers. Foreign workers have made significant contribution to the Singapore’s economic. Even though they contributed so much to Singapore, we still could not see their value because social media. Social media such as stomps and Facebook had often illustrated foreign workers in a negative way. Most of the posts we see a based-on individual’s point of view and not the foreign workers. However, we simply make a sweeping assumption on them in a negative way instead of putting ourselves into their shoes.
For foreign construction workers, they are required to live in extremely bad living conditions such as poor ventilation and sanitation. Sometimes, they face unfair treatment. For instance, if they suffer from workplace injury, they may not receive medical attention on time because their employers are negligence about their health and delay their treatment. For example, when a foreign construction worker named Sujel was injured by a falling pipe, his employer left his broken arm untreated for more than 24 hours before sending him to seek medical attention. The employer’s act can cause death of a foreign worker (Jiahao, Sushin, Tobias).
Singaporean discriminate foreign workers because they considered them as unskillful and do not have high education qualifications. Singaporean think that the reason why foreign workers behave in ways that are inappropriate in local is because they did not receive enough education and therefore they look down on foreign worker. I think that we should understand that it is because the foreign workers are still adapting to Singapore’s culture. We should embrace and welcome them.