Singapore shipping bosses, please check in on your minority colleagues

Banu Kannu from Uncommon Conferences on sustained casual racism at many workplaces in Singapore. 

The raft of racially motivated acts and attacks against ethnic minorities over the past few weeks in Singapore make the advertisement pictured above look like a minor inconvenience, but are indicative of what such sustained casual racism can result in.

As this piece recognising the roots of racism in Singapore by Academia.SG highlights:

“We see potential landlords refusing rentals because of skin colour; prospective employers turning people away due to race or religion; people telling children that minorities will kidnap them; people mocked in school and at workplaces for how they look; harassment of inter-racial couples. These are examples of the casual racism and discrimination that ethnic minorities face daily in Singapore”.

The grassroots initiative #CallItOutSG has resulted in hundreds of first person accounts pouring in on social media (e.g. Wake Up SingaporeMinority Voices), sharing the prevalence of racially motivated verbal, emotional and physical attacks in schools and workplaces that minorities face daily. Recognising my own lived experiences growing up in Singapore, in so many of these accounts, has moved me to write this appeal to the maritime community. Having visited many of your offices throughout my career, I know how multi-racial the industry is, so we have a responsibility to face up to this and reach out to minority colleagues.

If you’re in a management position in a shipping company in Singapore, here are some ways you can support your team and implement lasting positive change:

  • Read up and educate yourself on what’s happening (historically and in the present). Ignorance (or being from another country) is not an excuse to shy away from the subject.
  • Stress test your hiring policies and advertising – are you being as inclusive as you should be? Ensure your recruitment agents or head hunters are held to the same standards.
  • Check in on your minority colleagues – individually or in small groups (psychological safety is crucial, so use your discretion). A simple “I’m aware of what’s unfolding at the moment, and I want you to know we are here for you – please feel safe in this workplace and know you are valued and respected” will go a long way.
  • If you hear languages other than English being spoken at the workplace (when it is not directly related to the job at hand) – call it out, and make it unacceptable.
  • Bonus tip for foreigners: Check your small talk – when you make sweeping statements about the joys of living and working in Singapore, are you taking into account the lived experiences of minorities?

Have you made some changes in your workplace or tackled this differently? Share it in the comments so we can all learn.


  1. Why this moaning !!
    Put up an ads across the street or next to or elsewhere showing
    black, brown yellow skins.
    Any make cream will do !!!!!
    Oh, pls. note there is no white sking but a shade of pink !!!!

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