The House of Orientalism July 5, 2017 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Please STOP writing about Asian people and Asian countries (Southeast Asian here) like they are magical mysterious fairytale creatures from a long-ago-faraway exoticized Orient. Framing posts in this style is immediately alienating and hurtful, and it derails any possible discussion. It is not the same as writing about Western white people in this style, because white people have not been subject to the same patronizing orientalist prejudices that people from Asian countries have.
posted by nicebookrack to Etiquette/Policy at 4:34 PM (106 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not crazy about the framing on the post, I think it obscures more than it illuminates for sure.

However, I can see how it may have seemed an appropriate idea, as the Lee family's self-mythologising is in some ways analogous to fairy tales.

I personally thought the post tone was satirical in intent, highlighting the ridiculous nature of the "fairy tales" around the family, the one dimensional nature of the dialogue they've tried to have with Singaporeans about democracy, and the family itself.

I guess I feel like the intent of the framing is specifically to show how inadequate and one dimensional said framing is, and also to demonstrate how the self perception of the Lee's is at odds with actual perception of prince and princesses etc. A kind of fractured fairy tale if you will.

I'm wondering if you are aware of this context or not?

I'm not saying the context necessarily justifies the framing, as - sadly, but nonetheless - it is safe to say most mefites won't have it and probably won't engage with the links before wading in, so one does need to cater for audience.

But I don't think it's necessarily at clear cut as you posit, or rather a bit of a lost in translation kind of thing.
posted by smoke at 4:47 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


The poster is Singaporean. (See their profile.)

I agree that the tone reads as fantastic racism (and seriously offensive Orientalism) when viewed through a Western lens. But since the person who created the post is from Singapore (and if their listed name is accurate, then they are likely also Asian,) I honestly don't know how to discuss the framing.
posted by zarq at 5:07 PM on July 5 [19 favorites]


Southeast Asian from Singapore here. The original post was written by a native Singaporean. Like I said in the comments section of the original post, the supposedly "exoticized" children's names are actually direct references to the actual names of the parties involved.
"Dragon" = 龙 -> 李显龙 = Lee Hsien Loong.
"Ram" = 羊 = homophone for 扬 -> 李显扬 = Lee Hsien Yang.
"Jade" = 玮 -> 李玮玲 = Lee Wei Ling.

(More elaboration here.)

And so on.

If anything, I was pleased that this was a very Singaporean post, and not a post dressed up in language that prioritized an American/Western audience as a primary audience. This was a post that Singaporeans would understand, and understand in perhaps greater detail/depth, because Singaporeans would actually get the inside jokes and references made in the post.
This was a post by a Singaporean FOR Singaporeans (not white people!), and the language made that pretty clear to me.

Also, like mentioned in the original post's comments - this language and framing has been commonly used within Singaporean circles, to discuss the ongoing situation. We aren't framing it this way for a white/Western audience - we are framing it this way for ourselves, because we understand the in-jokes, the references, the satire - and this particular framing communicates a lot of nuances in a way that resonates with the country, within the country.
posted by aielen at 5:18 PM on July 5 [153 favorites]


I can also think of plenty more posts (and comments) on Metafilter that were rife with Orientalism and exoticism, with content and discussion that ventured into pretty problematic and alienating Orientalist framing, addressing everyone but the actual PoC subjects/people involved. This isn't one of them.
posted by aielen at 5:23 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


The original post would have a different context if MeFi had LOTS of posts about Singapore and Singaporean politics, so there was a variety of discussion and views on the subject and we all largely knew the people and subjects and injokes involved--like the big Donald Trump threads, any one of which would be a TERRIBLE first introduction to American politics for someone completely unfamiliar with the situation.

But by itself the post stands awkwardly in the sparse field of MeFi posts about Singapore. Maybe it would read differently written by a Singaporean person for an intended Singaporean audience, but in the context of the largely-Western probably-largely-white MeFi audience the "once upon a time in a land far away" fairytale framing is problematic as heck.

Debating orientalism regarding this post does not at all excuse racist/orientalist posts made on MeFi in the past, and I'm sorry I haven't personally done more to push back against that and that the MeFi community (especially the white people here) hasn't done more to speak up against racism.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:06 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Maybe it would read differently written by a Singaporean person for an intended Singaporean audience, but in the context of the largely-Western probably-largely-white MeFi audience the "once upon a time in a land far away" fairytale framing is problematic as heck.

I think it is very far from ideal to constrain non-white, non-Western topics solely to forms palatable to a white, western audience, especially if we'd really like more non-white, non-Western content for our demographically lumpy but quite broad userbase.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:11 PM on July 5 [86 favorites]


nicebookrack: But by itself the post stands awkwardly in the sparse field of MeFi posts about Singapore. Maybe it would read differently written by a Singaporean person for an intended Singaporean audience, but in the context of the largely-Western probably-largely-white MeFi audience the "once upon a time in a land far away" fairytale framing is problematic as heck.

I nearly wrote a meta about this myself before I checked the OP's profile. But when I saw where they were from I stopped. I'm deeply sympathetic to the idea that we need to attack racism when it appears. I sincerely appreciated what you said in the thread, too. Thank you.

But (and I mean this kindly, gently and respectfully,) I don't think you've thought this bit through? It seems like you're saying that non-Westerners should have to write about their home cultures a particular way to cater to the rest of us?
posted by zarq at 6:18 PM on July 5 [21 favorites]


but in the context of the largely-Western probably-largely-white MeFi audience the "once upon a time in a land far away" fairytale framing is problematic as heck.

And I don't think the solution to this is to put the onus onto mefi's minority voices and people of colour. Indeed, I think that's actually quite unfair.

I've posted before about Mefi's ethnocentrism and I think it's super-important that we acknowledge that Metafilter is an international community, with international voices and international contexts. Where a gap exists, it should be on us to do the work to understand that extra context, not on voices that are already marginalised here. This notion (that we're international) sadly often gets pushback.

Whilst in a predominantly white, American context, that phrasing may be problematic, in a Singaporean context it is not. We need to remain aware that our ideas about diversity, racism etc are culturally constructed and and thus when they take place in a predominantly white, western environment, they are to a degree whitened and westernised themselves, and so may not be universally applicable or relevant.

My support for changing the framing was not because anything was wrong with it, but rather because I've been disappointed by the community's response to international topics they don't immediately understand in the past. I want this place to be international, otherwise many terrific mefites may not feel part of the community.

On preview, jinx Restless Nomad.
posted by smoke at 6:21 PM on July 5 [11 favorites]


About the nicknames: I totally believe that it is true that people in Singapore are making make lots of jokes and memes about the names of the Lee family. It is also true that for centuries white Americans have been mocking Asian names for their perceived foreignness and/or translating them in ways that exaggerate their exoticness.
It is a very old and common orientalist/racist trope when translating from other languages to English to translate given names literally, like they are an Exotic Foreign Title instead of a person's name. Like (Japanese example) repeatedly using Peach Child as if it's deeply significant label for a person instead of just the very common name Momoko.

It feels wrong to frame a post in a way that looks identical to a very common Western racist trope and then explain "It's fine, everyone is making these jokes in Singapore too."

Lots of USians (me included!) make jokes about Trump's name, but those jokes aren't made or repeated in a context where racists still make fun of that name for being foreign/other (like they did in the past with Drumpf).
posted by nicebookrack at 6:22 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


I obviously have more to think and read about how I can listen to and support non-Western/POC posters on MeFi. I don't want to put undue burden on these posters, either by making them write explicitly for a presumed white Western audience nor by making them need to put, I dunno, a White People Disclaimer like "NOTE: This post may appear racist unless you already understand the references and the injokes, and/or you know enough to know to google for more context." But I also don't want to let racism slide by going, "oh, surely this racist thing isn't what it looks like, there's probably context or an injoke I'm missing here, I should keep quiet and google."

Anyway, more reading and listening, I should do it.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:45 PM on July 5 [12 favorites]


Hello! I made a reply about this in the original thread, over here. Hope it helps clear things up a bit.

Could I ask though, besides for the use of "Jade", was there any other aspect of the piece that made you feel it was oriental? Originally I wanted to leave the names out altogether, but it got confusing really quick. In fact, I didn't want to use their actual names mainly because I wanted the story to sound like a western fairy-tale, and I thought giving them actual western names like John or something would be too pretentious.

That being said, would you still consider it problematic if it had read as a western fairytale? Genuinely curious.
posted by destrius at 6:53 PM on July 5 [7 favorites]


"But I also don't want to let racism slide by going, "oh, surely this racist thing isn't what it looks like, there's probably context or an injoke I'm missing here, I should keep quiet and google.""

Any members who find themselves in a similar quandary can always contact the mods, who may have context that members are missing and/or can speak with other posters, and may be able to fill in some of the missing context.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:59 PM on July 5 [11 favorites]


They're Singaporean, let them write about their culture however they want. They shouldn't have to sanitize themselves for a supposedly White audience. This feels like complete ally fail.
posted by divabat at 7:01 PM on July 5 [44 favorites]


I am Korean, and the the framing of the post conveyed to me that something archaic and behind the times was going on under a modern facade (haha we've had our own recent fantastical political drama). So I was looking forward to reading the comments and finding out more, and ... *record scratch*. For me, the 'Orientalism' comment seemed to come out of nowhere, as well as stopping any further discussion on the topic of the post.

So it all feels awkward to me, as if I am being told I am reading things wrong and I need to be taught how to do things right.
posted by needled at 7:26 PM on July 5 [25 favorites]


This intense incessant and relentless policing of everyone's behavior and intent is suffocating.
posted by heyho at 7:37 PM on July 5 [70 favorites]


I am reminded of the references to Camelot when talking about JFK: a deliberate choice of words to evoke an atmosphere of fabulism when the reality is more prosaic -- even tawdry.

I commented in the thread, but I will say again: without the name "Lee" in the headline and the child named "Jade," this same text could have been about King Arthur.

tl;dr: It's not racism, it's a false positive.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:40 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


I thought the names hilarious because they are easier in English to scan than the somewhat homogenous (deliberately because of traditional generational naming) sibling names and they sound like bad soap opera recaps. I would be vexed in a serious political recap of the mess, but here it adds amusingly. A huge driving force behind this is that it's about myth-making and who decides in a legacy. The framing as a classic children's story is good meta.

Athough it is definitely missing an Ah Kong tag.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:43 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


I don't see paying attention to framing as "policing" or suffocating. This specific situation felt odd; its oddness was addressed in the thread, which isn't how we address meta-content here; the meta-consideration came here, and we're discussing how the thread was presented, how it was perceived, and how we can all participate and feel welcome or understood or at least attempt not to be misunderstood. And it seems to be working. nicebookrack's concerns aren't the only considerations at hand. A bigger picture is more apparent now. I'm feeling mostly okay with how this is playing out so far.
posted by cgc373 at 7:43 PM on July 5 [16 favorites]


> This intense incessant and relentless policing of everyone's behavior and intent is suffocating.

I disagree that there is policing of behavior and/or intent which is a) intense b) incessant c) relentless d) applied to everyone.

This is a discussion, and so far a pretty fruitful one, on the subsite of Metafilter which is specifically designed to members of this community hash out issues like this.
posted by desuetude at 7:45 PM on July 5 [28 favorites]


Anyway, more reading and listening, I should do it.

All the points I wanted to make have been said, so I guess all that's left is to say thank you, nicebookrack. It's not often these threads end without the OP doubling down.
posted by satoshi at 7:55 PM on July 5 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I'm ok with being called out on this as it never even crossed my mind. I was aware that I was framing it in a way quite atypical of your usual Metafilter post though, and I wasn't really sure if it was kosher; I think I took reference from the many Hamilton-quoting threads about the US elections as evidence that it would be okay.

Athough it is definitely missing an Ah Kong tag.
Fixed!

posted by destrius at 7:57 PM on July 5 [15 favorites]


Yeah, it's a great post, and a perfectly cromulent MeTa. I don't think anyone should feel bad about anything here or there, it was a misunderstanding, and there's no need to rip OP a new one, just if we disagree with interpretation or possess a little more context.

This is the system working!
posted by smoke at 8:24 PM on July 5 [25 favorites]


Thanks for everyone here who took the time to point out my misunderstanding of the original thread and to call out my own biases in both discussions; your comments have been kind and patient with my mistakes. I jumped in too quickly without noticing the greater context and derailed the discussion. While it wasn't my intention to hurt or alienate any POC/non-Western MeFites reading, I absolutely hurt you anyway and I'm sorry. I hope to read and to listen to many more international discussions from you on MeFi in the future.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:41 PM on July 5 [61 favorites]


i just revisited the thread and i'll just repeat a point i made there here: namely, i appreciated the satirical framing also because i'm too familiar with the govt's litigious nature
posted by cendawanita at 12:38 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


This may be quite tangential to the discussion at hand, but recently a lot of usages of the words "Western" and "Westerner" have been bothering me. Often they seem like code words that imply that some society or cultural artefact is more modern and advanced and civilized and prosperous, with the resulting implication that "non-western" things and societies and people are lacking those qualities in some way.

I live in a "non-Western" country that's fairly well off and technologically advanced, so it's weird when I read an article about the economy of a developing country, for example, and they refer to things like cell phones and videogames as "Western technology." Hey, hold on a minute! I've read about Russian visitors to Bangkok being referred to as Western tourists, although I suppose they somehow stop being Westerners once they get back home to Moscow.

I'm not intending to criticize any particular usage of the term "Western" - usually the meaning can be gleaned from the context, even though it's a very vague term in general. (And I certainly don't want to police any usage.) But it seems like the word itself is somewhat anachronistic, a way of seeing the world through a colonialist mindset, and maybe becoming less and less useful in the modern world.
posted by Umami Dearest at 1:45 AM on July 6 [14 favorites]


I can also think of plenty more posts (and comments) on Metafilter that were rife with Orientalism and exoticism [...] This isn't one of them.

The First Law of MetaTalk is: when a harmful pattern is being called out in a post, the specific thing being pointed to will not actually be an example of the pattern at all.

Maybe people get anooyed by a real pattern of behavior, and the thing that makes them snap is something that seems so ridiculous they can't even process it. It's ridiculous because they've misunderstood it. That doesn't necessarily make them wrong about the pattern. Their overall complaint can still be true.

(The Second Law of MetaTalk is: when someone comments, "No one here said that," roughly two people in the thread said that.)
posted by fleacircus at 2:17 AM on July 6 [26 favorites]


"without the name 'Lee' in the headline and the child named 'Jade,' this same text could have been about King Arthur"

It's interesting, because Lee is a common white name, and Jade is increasingly common among white women. I didn't click through to the actual articles, but just reading the post with those names, I didn't pick up that it was about an Asian family until I saw the link to the South China Morning Post. (And even that doesn't guarantee to me that the subjects are actually nonwhite.) If the poster had left out the Facebook links at the bottom, I probably would have guessed that the subjects were Asian, but I wouldn't feel confident in that guess.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:47 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


> I'm not intending to criticize any particular usage of the term "Western" - usually the meaning can be gleaned from the context, even though it's a very vague term in general. (And I certainly don't want to police any usage.) But it seems like the word itself is somewhat anachronistic, a way of seeing the world through a colonialist mindset, and maybe becoming less and less useful in the modern world.

Ohhh, you're not wrong. "Western," on the face of things, a seemingly neutral geographical description...except that it is absolutely used to indicate "y'know, countries like us" versus "those other cultures." Less impolitely on Metafilter than other places, thankfully.
posted by desuetude at 6:23 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


It is a very old and common orientalist/racist trope when translating from other languages to English to translate given names literally, like they are an Exotic Foreign Title instead of a person's name.

No doubt true, but note that there are many thousands (millions?) of people born in China during the Cultural Revolution whose given names are literally and consciously political slogans. There often aren't any non-literal translations that the persons would recognize as their name.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:37 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


nicebookrack, thank you for listening to everyone's feedback. And thank you aielen, for giving additional information and context.
posted by zarq at 7:02 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


There often aren't any non-literal translations that the persons would recognize as their name.

I think what nicebookrack was talking about was using the actual words of a person's name rather than a translation -- unless you know specifically of a person's preference, it's better to call them "Kangmei" than "Resist U.S. Aggression", since "Kangmei" is what that person would likely recognize as their name.
posted by Etrigan at 7:15 AM on July 6 [7 favorites]


As someone who reads the grey more than the blue: thanks for this MeTa. Without it, I'd have missed an interesting FPP about the happenings in a land not too far away from me.

Also I feel that American Pie parody lyrics would have been an acceptable alternative framing.
posted by pianissimo at 8:17 AM on July 6


Ohhh, you're not wrong. "Western," on the face of things, a seemingly neutral geographical description...except that it is absolutely used to indicate "y'know, countries like us" versus "those other cultures." Less impolitely on Metafilter than other places, thankfully.

On one hand I don't like how in many Asian cultures there's this constant harping of an East vs West dichotomy, that anything progressive and liberal came from the West and is thus suspect, unlike traditional conservative values which "belong to us".

But on the other hand, "western" is an incredibly useful shorthand in a country that was once a colony and where countless parts of its cultural heritage were shaped by the colonial masters.

Case in point, there's a group of foods sold in Singapore that are known as "western food". You go to the hawker centre, and you see a stall saying it sells "western food". On the menu are things like chicken and pork chops or cutlets*, always served with fries, baked beans, coleslaw, and a deep fried bun. These were the dishes the Hainanese chefs used to cook for the British back in the old days, but it has gradually changed and morphed into its own unique thing. They don't really look or taste like anything you'd see in the UK. There really isn't any name for these dishes other than "western food", because they are products of a colonial history, where "west" had a clear and distinct meaning. Malaysia and Hong Kong have the same category of foods too.

* A chop is always grilled, and a cutlet is always breaded and deep fried. It's one of those things.
posted by destrius at 8:18 AM on July 6 [39 favorites]


destrius, you are handling this with a lot of grace and I for one really appreciate it! I have to admit that your post drew me in probably more than it would have if you'd just done it as a straight news post - I thought the writing was excellent.
posted by lunasol at 9:48 AM on July 6 [11 favorites]


On occasion, I feel frustrated with our discussions on metafilter. At other times, they make me feel good. I like that this thread exemplified that it's okay to have strong feelings about something, it's okay to get "messy" at times as we work through it, and it's okay to apologize at the end of the day with no love lost. I feel like I've learned a ton all around, mainly about modeling a good conversation about a hard thing. The world is messy and difficult right now, and I think good-faith responses all around — with a lot of empathy, kindness, and humility — goes a long way.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:13 AM on July 6 [12 favorites]


Moving beyond this specific thread, I think nicebookrack's request to be cautious in not treating the East as a fairytale land is good to keep in mind.

If this is a false positive, I would guess it is because people have experienced so many true, genuine, terrible, heart-aching, soul-diminishing, very real positives
posted by maxsparber at 10:37 AM on July 6 [12 favorites]


Case in point, there's a group of foods sold in Singapore that are known as "western food".

That reminds me of Hip Diner USA which was, at least in 1998, in the lower level of Bugis Mall. I ordered waffles and the only topping available was... peanut butter.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:36 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


To be clear, though, peanut butter on waffles is awesome.
posted by cgc373 at 12:57 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Thanks! I must admit I'm a little disappointed that this thread seems to having a more interesting discussion going on than the original one... Might be that my presentation overshadowed the actual content I wanted to share. Another thing worth keeping in mind for future posts.
posted by destrius at 4:35 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


If you'd had a line about peanut butter waffles, we'd be all over it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:50 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I don't see paying attention to framing as "policing" or suffocating. .

It's experienced as suffocating because the significant creative effort into a (wonderful) OP like this can be tainted in toto by a single ill-thought-out accusation. This encourages safer and potentially less good and interesting posts.

Here it worked out pretty well because the poster was extremely chill and the accuser was commendably open about their error, which is great, but I think it's inappropriate to deny that people have those feelings of suffocation.

I think it's preferable to acknowledge the negative side of language and tone policing, and argue the corner of it being justified nonetheless, than to deny peoples genuinely held feelings about how they experience accusations like this.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:54 PM on July 6 [17 favorites]


No doubt true, but note that there are many thousands (millions?) of people born in China during the Cultural Revolution whose given names are literally and consciously political slogans.

That's me!!

In China they kind of want you to take a Chinese name, like most of those Chinese in contact with foreigners take a "Western" or "English" name.

As a quick derail here I have seen some pretty funny adopted Chinese "English" names. One of my teachers is "Bader-Meinhof". My first thought was "Wow, a history geek!" and I tried to make an in-joke with her about it... turned out that no, she had no idea what it meant and it was a name on a cafe she saw, and she thought it was English... Should she change it? "No, no, it is perfect, please keep it!"

So anyways, I struggled with my Chinese name. Names are important, I wanted a good one. It needed a slight bit of comedy, but it couldn't be a blatant or stupid joke. At first I thought "give me the most common Chinese name ever"... the joke to me was that I am so white, and so not Chinese, there is dissonance there.

So that got me to "Wang" for my surname. But the personal name I couldn't find.

I am kind of big on history, moreso as I get older. I asked a few trusted Chinese colleagues. "So look, I am from 1968, this was a very different time in China. Communism, Cultural Revolution, Mao. What would someone from those times get named? I want a name that every Chinese person hearing it goes, wow, that guy is from 1968 for sure!"

So I found the right person, who was on my wavelength, and together we settled on 王建国 "Wang Jian Guo" - "build the new China".

Fuck yeah! And it is what I am doing here too. When people hear that name it always gets a reaction. People sometimes don't think I am in on the "joke", like I have been duped to take this name. "Who gave you that name? Why?" Some love, some hate, I think I found the right one. Let's build this thing people!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:10 PM on July 6 [18 favorites]


Case in point, there's a group of foods sold in Singapore that are known as "western food"

That's interesting, there's a similar cuisine in Japan with basically the same name, and it seems to date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It includes stuff like deep-fried prawns, stuffed cabbage, stewed beef over rice, Hamburg steaks, fried-rice omelets and curry rice. Again, not that similar to European food, but still tied to a specific era when Europe was very exotic (although in this case without the colonial context).

I think "Western" makes sense in certain historical contexts, like 19th-century Western art. But it's a weird kind of appropriation when someone refers to a Sony Playstation as "Western technology" (which I have actually seen).
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:13 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Yup I'm familiar with those dishes, we have restaurants here serving them too. Tonkatsu is a good example also.

Yeah, calling a Playstation Western is a bit weird... but I guess it depends on the context of the culture that made that comment? For example, they might have been first introduced to that technology via "Westerners", so it ends up being associated with them, even though they weren't that actual creators of the tech. To go back to the food analogy, it would be like how there are people here who would consider hummus and kebabs to be "western", even though they're middle eastern in origin.
posted by destrius at 11:07 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


This is picking a scab that should probably be left alone, but I'm curious. I live in SE Asia and I travel between Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore fairly regularly. I know many caucasians who were born in the area; some even second generation. Obviously they're the children of missionaries, or business people or even colonial appointees who never left. They won't ever be considered natives because they don't look right, but they are Malaysian, Singaporean etc. (In Asia people don't often get the benefit of even hyphenated nationalities.) I could also say same the same of my friends of Indian descent who are 3rd-4th generation Thai/Malaysian. They're often not considered "real" Thais even thought their family has been here forever. Conversely, I know 1st-2nd generation Han Chinese who are considered Malaysian/Singaporean/Thai etc because they look more "authentic".

Would the initial call out have been OK if the FPP author were white but from Singapore. What if his parents were also born in Singapore but he was still white?

Would it be ok if the author were Asian but of Malaysian or Indian descent and not Chinese Singaporean?

Would it have been ok if the author was of Singaporean descent but then adopted and raised by Americans and only moved to Singapore as an adult?

I'm curious to see how people on MetaFilter hash out these multicultural venn diagrams and decide what is ok.

One of the most interesting things about traveling abroad is seeing how deeply, openly and overtly racist other countries can be. I get really uncomfortable when my POC friends visit me in SE Asia and are confronted with an unabashed, ubiquitous racism that they might not experience in the geographical West.
posted by Telf at 12:20 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


I'm white born and raised in Singapore with Asian by birth, marriage and adoption relatives in my immediate family. Race and narrative here is immensely complex and there isn't an answer that can be given. This isn't a recent question either (see the Maria Hertogh riots for example of sanitised official narratives from different states over different racial and personal voices) and then throw in the eradication of Malay voices, indigenous groups, dialects, the careful balance of Japanese animus to friendship over generations (I still remember older people hissing under their breath at Japanese visitors when I was a kid), the PRC influx vs the visiting China scholars....

It's a library of theses, not a single conversation. Singapore's racial history and cultures are very complex under the hood.

My white-Chinese child is technically eurasian, but I had her listed as Chinese-Caucasian because Eurasian here is a specific cultural group, that she has no link to. And as a result, her siblings had to be reclassified....
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:39 AM on July 7 [16 favorites]


Basically I don't think it's racism so much as an entire symphony of racism in discussion. It's not dominated by one large group that is still in part, so the racism is constantly shifting and multifaceted and much more fluid. It gets discussed more openly as a result.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:43 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I'm curious to see how people on MetaFilter hash out these multicultural venn diagrams and decide what is ok.

For me personally, I'm really not sure what the answers to your questions should be. Perhaps somebody better versed in the nuances of racism, Orientalism and cultural appropriation would be better able to reply.

As a Singaporean though, I think in most cases I would probably find it ok. Like dorothyisunderwood mentioned, race in Singapore is kind of complex, and "white" isn't really defined in our context. Also, Chinese here are the majority race and hold the most privilege, so that makes analysis complicated as well. And ultimately, the family that is being made fun of in this case is extraordinarily privileged, to the extent that making fun of them almost feels illegal.

I would probably get annoyed by an article that used the same tropes but that portrayed regular Singaporeans as some kind of Asian stereotype. For example, if it was about LKY's funeral and it described all Singaporeans as docile conformist sheep lining up to pay respects out of Confucian piety.

(I sort of implied that in my post, but I subverted it by linking to a poem that was being critical of LKY.)
posted by destrius at 2:31 AM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I just wanted to chime in and say that as a white American English teacher in Hong Kong - a non-country with a lot of autonomy in which certain residents are 'permanent' and others are 'non-permanent' and in which you may be entitled to zero, one, two, or three or more passports based on a variety of complicated factors - I spend a lot of time helping my students understand the nuance between English words like foreigner, citizen, resident, local, native, expatriate, immigrant, alien, and migrant.

In Chinese, a foreigner is literally an other country person, which makes sense, but what if you don't live in a country? Who decides how foreign you need to be? Are people in Taiwan or Macao foreigners? What about non-Chinese people who are HK permanent residents and speak and write Cantonese? What about Chinese people living in multiethnic countries? Are you still Chinese if you don't speak the language and grow up in, say, Australia? Is 'local food' only dim sum, or milk tea and toast with condensed milk too? Am I a Hong Konger because I live here? Can you be a Hong Konger and not speak Cantonese? What if you only speak Mandarin?

These questions are at the heart of the post-colonial experience here, I think: what does it mean to belong to a society you aren't fully a part of?
posted by mdonley at 2:43 AM on July 7 [18 favorites]


Just jumping in to say that dorothyisunderwood, destrius, and mdonley all just provide really excellent responses with slightly different points.

In conclusion, Singapore is a land of contrasts.
posted by Telf at 2:58 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Just wanted to drop in quickly to say that I really appreciate the perspective offered here since I commented in the original thread. I neglected the first rule of cultural anthropology: context. This is literally my favorite part of MetaFilter. And to destrius, I apologize sincerely that I sidetracked the discussion of your excellent post.
posted by Krazor at 12:15 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


destrius and Krazor are forging a standard of user interaction that I will never be able to live up to.
posted by maxsparber at 12:34 PM on July 7 [14 favorites]


So it all feels awkward to me, as if I am being told I am reading things wrong and I need to be taught how to do things right.

This is really the challenge.

The early comments in this thread, by restless nomad and others already clarify our proposed approach, so that's not why I'm commenting. Its when I saw that sentence above that I decided to add my international 2 cents worth to add weight to the chorus. (and while not technically Singaporean, my parents do live there and have done so for 35 years, its "home")

I grew up in Malaysia as an expat, and back in the 1970s, the multicultural environment and ambience was not dissimilar to Singapore - the two had only recently parted company into separate countries. While there are pros and cons to the way this flavour of ASEAN culture embraces its artificially created multicultural, multilingual, multiracial environment, the biggest takeaway from Singapore's approach, in all these 50 years of my life spent on many continents and countries, including the USA, is that of RESPECT.

Respecting different peoples' different dietary requirements, respecting different ways of believing, doing, seeing, speaking, and yet embracing and integrating them into a whole. Nowhere else in the wide world could I have learnt that the Other is my neighbour and friend and family as I did in Malaysia, and then Singapore.

While we might not have political correctness or all the things I have come to learn about through metafilter, we do have laws against hate speech that are enforced so that riots never ever happen again. There are always tradeoffs to be made for the mythical mystical golden ideal of "freedom", whatever that might actually be. The nuances of which I'll leave to the legal Singaporeans to choose and decide for themselves.

The point is the policing that goes on, across the internet, that its not enough that you'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, now you want to teach them to think just like you.

Respect isn't erasure of the existence of difference. Its the embrace of diversity as a foundation of strength.
posted by infini at 1:52 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


And to destrius, I apologize sincerely that I sidetracked the discussion of your excellent post.

Apology accepted, no worries. :)

This is why Metafilter is a great place, I think... I always feel the need to be my best self here.

infini: I agree, but I generally find that in Singapore it tends to be less about respect and more about tolerance... people are generally very tolerant of differences and diversity, but if you dig deeper you find lots of unspoken racism and discrimination.
posted by destrius at 8:05 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


you're right destrius, however my word choice might have come about only because I believe a measure of our tolerance arises from a sense of respectfulness... i.e. it's not a disrespectful tolerance, in the way PoC are "tolerated" in some countries where they are minorities
posted by infini at 8:09 AM on July 8


Otoh, we "tolerate" migrant workers on our void decks in that fashion ;p
posted by infini at 8:10 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
In the context of call-out culture, it is easy to forget that the individual we are calling out is a human being, and that different human beings in different social locations will be receptive to different strategies for learning and growing.
posted by infini at 8:16 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Malaysia as an expat, and back in the 1970s, the multicultural environment and ambience was not dissimilar to Singapore - the two had only recently parted company into separate countries. While there are pros and cons to the way this flavour of ASEAN culture embraces its artificially created multicultural, multilingual, multiracial environment, the biggest takeaway from Singapore's approach, in all these 50 years of my life spent on many continents and countries, including the USA, is that of RESPECT.

Respecting different peoples' different dietary requirements, respecting different ways of believing, doing, seeing, speaking, and yet embracing and integrating them into a whole. Nowhere else in the wide world could I have learnt that the Other is my neighbour and friend and family as I did in Malaysia, and then Singapore.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

If this was ever true at any point, it sure ain't true now. In Malaysia at least everything's become so Islamicized that now Malay people are being told not to celebrate Chinese New Year, Christmas, Deepavali with their friends lest they become apostates. Non-Muslim kids are forced to eat in school bathrooms during Ramadan. Just today I read an account from someone trying to sign up for satellite TV only to be told "if you're Indian you MUST sign up for Auto Debit" and have their application refused because they wanted to pay some other way.

And let's not get started on what it's like if you're not Malay, Chinese, or (tenuously) Indian. You might as well not fuckin' exist, which sometimes feels like a better alternative to being the national scapegoat. Job ads are all "Chinese only" or "Malay only". The country runs on literal Malay Supremacy ffs. Only time I ever see my race represented in local media is as a criminal.

Respect? Pah. That's what they try to sell you on, but that's not what they have at all.
posted by divabat at 5:48 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


divabat, our generations are at least 20 years apart. Which is why I specifically noted the 70s.
posted by infini at 12:36 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


My parents came to Malaysia in the 70s and they still had to deal with a lot of bullshit, some of which had repercussions further on (there are reasons why it took forever and a day to get permanent residency and citizenship, even with shenanigans involved). If you're an "Other" - and god forbid you're Foreign on top of that - it's never really been good for you.
posted by divabat at 2:27 AM on July 9


I think that however bullshit-y it was in the 70s in terms of tolerance and respect for cultural/racial diversity, it's become worse nowadays (in both Malaysia and Singapore). Sometimes I wonder what would happen if both countries re-merged - whether this would compel both countries to be more racially respectful (probably wishful thinking). I do feel both countries have strengths and weaknesses that would complement each other though (economically, politically, etc).
posted by aielen at 2:54 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


It does feel like the two countries exist in a state of Alice's Through the Looking Glass with respect to each other. Like two social experiments running side by side....

in any case, i find growing up in somewhere like malaysia to be quite invaluable as i try to navigate the conversations regarding identity politics, cultural appropriation etc, than if i were to grow up in a more homogenous, perhaps even more classically defined first world countries. like in this particular MeTa and our subsequent discussion, the way i've come into it, is the observation and realisation that national narratives of diversity are still effective agents of exclusion, if you're not one of those defined to be IN the 'natural/national' diversity, because the normative language simply doesn't exist. however blind to the indigenous americans it may be, the story tht america is a continual melting pot of immigrants allows new americans to access and appeal to what's theirs. that's not been the case in my/sg, where the story of migration somehow magically arrested sometime in the 1950s, wherein subsequent waves will always be foreign and will never belong. i literally had a chat with a colleague once who was herself a chinese malaysian, about the rohingya refugees here, and how they and especially their children should have access to public services like the schools. but yet, her first instinct was, "but they're foreigners mah," and i was like, "and how long ago in your family tree did you arrive here?"

anyway, and as our two countries economically progress and repeat the same kind of appropriative, majoritarian behaviours, i feel like the more those in the west are willing to listen to ppl like us, than maybe we could actually get to a point where we have a better handle on what's actually racist especially when occuring outside the immediate western paradigm. or else, we'll just get to this point where asian americans are besides themselves about #representation just because constance wu is starring in crazy rich asians, never mind it's a movie about the absolute cream of the crop of the singaporean elite. what representation is this?
posted by cendawanita at 5:41 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


re: CRA - small disclaimer - i have friends/acquaintances casted as background colour etc. but i guess because i have ppl in that circle is how i got to know about this other brouhaha regarding shrey bargava.

and back home, talking about appropriative behaviours, i know a local babywear company that employed bangladeshi weavers... to reproduce 'borneo' patterns. how are we to talk about things like this without having these anecdotes become either too complicated to contemplate, or used as a gotcha point by people who refuse to engage deeper on dismantling racist systems? i don't know what's the simple formula here, and by that i mean, i don't know how to present a neat unified discourse that doesn't get trapped by western, often american, conceptualisation of race relations.

anyway, developed asian societies. a land of contrasts.
posted by cendawanita at 5:54 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the link to the CRA article; I've not really been paying attention to the movie, and now I shudder to think that once it's out, most people's impressions of Singapore are going to be shaped by a story about the 1% here. I'm already sick of seeing Marina Bay Sands as being the "icon" of Singapore instead of a block of HDB flats.
posted by destrius at 6:45 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


cendawanita, thank you for your insightful and nuanced comment. I also acknowledge that my own experience was shaped as an outsider looking in, yet being able to pass for a local, but that bubble has always been the strength and the weakness of the expat experience.

There is indeed in a difference in feeling like you don't belong when you want to belong vs never belonging anywhere anyway.

if it helps anyone, these are some good articles to read on dancing between cultures and feeling marginalized by your "passport country" (as was the case for me at 18 when I was sent back to India after 14 years as a foreigner)

One thing I am learning from this metafilter enabled conversation is how unique each of our own experiences and thus perspectives are. We can none of us speak for another.
posted by infini at 8:00 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


infini, no worries. it's such a tragic commonality amongst many postcol societies also, that hardening of national identity against the actual reality, just because it was created as a response to decolonise ourselves. and destrius, the only reason i've been paying attention to the movie is because the casting took a darkly comic turn for this malaysian: the lead beefcake isn't even singaporean or chinese, he's half-english, half-sarawakian iban. so that's already funny enough considering how singaporean immigration treated east malaysians, but then his mum is michelle yeoh. ELL OH ELL. (otoh for once her upper class ipoh anglophone accent would actually fit the region her character's from)
posted by cendawanita at 8:23 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Wait, my English teacher was married to an Iban. What is his name?
posted by infini at 10:03 AM on July 9


Henry Golding! i only know of him vaguely, i don't watch the channels he'd be on.
posted by cendawanita at 10:29 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Arrr, no, his father is the one from abroad. Mrs Lubon's husband was the headhunter, as she described it. With a straight face.
posted by infini at 12:09 PM on July 9


I wish I could vote this thread for best post
posted by destrius at 5:21 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


"Thanks! I must admit I'm a little disappointed that this thread seems to having a more interesting discussion going on than the original one... Might be that my presentation overshadowed the actual content I wanted to share. Another thing worth keeping in mind for future posts."

The general trend in MeFi is that the more links and text in your FPP, the less discussion — in part because it just takes more time for people to get through all of it. And if they don't, the "discussion" is usually just a bunch of hot takes posted without RTFA.

So don't take the number of comments (or favorites) as indicative of the quality of your FPP.
posted by klangklangston at 7:51 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Yup, what I meant by being disappointed though was that I was looking forward to reading some interesting discussions about the topic! I have a feeling though that most of the people who would comment on it (Singaporeans and SEAsians) have already talked the matter to the death elsewhere, and didn't feel like continuing to talk about it over here. But in any case we had a very interesting discussion over here, so I'm pretty satisfied. :)
posted by destrius at 7:46 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


re CRA, its casting, representation etc: I think it shouldn't be dismissed entirely - I feel it's a complicated issue, but one that carries more good than bad. Kind of like the musical Miss Saigon and how, despite its questionable content, it actually did have a tremendous impact on the Asian entertainment industry (wrt musicals), especially for Filipinos. There was a lot of investment in training, in employing talented singers/dancers/actors - and it created a lot of opportunities and jobs for Asian talent. A lot of impact in terms of the economics, infrastructure, talent development etc that can still be felt today.

The solution to the issue of representation is really having a greater diversity of successful movies and books about Singapore/Southeast Asia, rather than focusing on how CRA, as a story about the 1%, doesn't represent the common Singaporean's experience in some ways. CRA is still a valid story, in the sense that it's actually based on the author's own experiences as a rich Singaporean. While it's unfortunate that CRA may be seen as representing all of Singapore, it still does document a segment of Singapore society/experience that does exist. It's just that there is very little representation of Asian narratives in Hollywood, such that when an Asian story is chosen to be made into a movie there's tremendous pressure for it to represent "all" Asians ("all" Singaporeans in this case), when in fact we are all very diverse and different. In an ideal world, a variety of Asian stories would be told to reflect that diversity. And it doesn't mean that CRA the movie shouldn't exist, just that other additional Asian/Singaporean stories should be made into movies alongside it (ideally).

In terms of its content - reading the book (and the other 2 books in the trilogy), there was actually a lot that the average Singaporean could identify with. (The constant descriptions of local food, the Singlish...). And even the writing style and the author's particular brand of humor struck me as pretty Singaporean - to me, it was in the vein of "The Teenage Textbook" and "The Teenage Workbook", Singapore books that were pretty popular in the late 80s and early 90s (I think "The Teenage Textbook" was also made into a local movie.). The word play and the cadences of certain phrases for comic effect in CRA ("What to do? His father just pays and pays, while I just pray and pray") are very Singaporean in their humour - reading lines like that, I think most Singaporeans can actually hear the Singlish lilt in those phrases. The Singapore literary scene has been trying, for what feels like a very long time, to come up with literature that gives recognition to Singlish/Singaporean English while being accessible to a global audience beyond Singapore. This book (and its sequels) actually seem to have accomplished this. And it still surprises me to see so many reviews from American/European/non-Asian readers who managed to read the book while understanding and even appreciating all the Singlish and non-English words peppered throughout the story. (The snarky footnotes really worked as a device to bridge this cultural gap.)

In terms of the movie and its production - so many of the movie's cast and crew are Southeast Asian. (From Singapore, we have local actors like Fiona Xie, Selena Tan, Koh Chieng Mun, Pierre Png etc in the movie... and I think there are many more whose names haven't been released.)
I appreciate that the producers deliberately sought to include, employ and give a global platform to so much local Southeast Asian talent, not just Hollywood Asian-American actors. And I also appreciate that a lot of its cast do look more Southeast Asian than East Asian, especially given the way East Asian aesthetics tend to dominate the Western idea of "Asian". I think that this movie, if successful, will put Singapore on the map in pop culture - and maybe interest people who previously knew very little about Singapore, which could be a good starting point for more people to find out more about the country beyond the 1% sector. (At the very least, perhaps less people will think Singapore is part of China.)
Most US reviewers talk about wanting to go to Singapore to eat all its food after reading CRA. And this sounds pretty Singaporean, but - having a Hollywood production company film a movie about Singapore, in Singapore, employing a ton of Singaporean workers does a lot to stimulate the economy too :p. Especially if it actually does turn into a trilogy of movies.
posted by aielen at 8:41 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


and Malaysian economy as well lmao (we're both sharing the spot for location shoots and cast). in any case, i do sympathise. to my mind it's slightly better than Memoirs of a Geisha for example, but like that, this production is intended for western (both poc and not alike) consumption rather than any genuine interest for representation. we're just there for colour. I'm tentatively excited for it in general as well, but the casting to be quite honest doesn't leave me with a good feeling that the other races won't be erased. but let's hope!

BUT HEY it is definitely MILES better than what Malaysia got with Entrapment. Or Zoolander. :D

talking about our shared food heritage, the lead game designer for Final Fantasy XV is Malaysian, and he's represented our cuisine in the game world. to underscore the messiness of our heritage though, naturally the reblog i see on my tumblr dashboard came from an excited singaporean seeing her country's chicken rice represented XD.
posted by cendawanita at 9:22 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Hey, if CRA starts a chicken rice and roti prata craze in the US, that would be awesome. I miss those dishes something fierce.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:20 PM on July 10


Did someone mention makan?
posted by infini at 12:53 PM on July 10


Omg Malaysian food will finally be hipster trendy
posted by divabat at 3:48 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Omg Malaysian food will finally be hipster trendy

It already is :((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( (i have such a hater boner for this shop everytime some unsuspecting nyc trend piece features them because inevitably i will get such rage tht they're presenting their versions as 'authentic' (do you know white coffee is healthy because it's roasted in olive oil???)). present it as americanised malaysian food or whatever, geez, no one puts tht much sambal on a nasi lemak.
posted by cendawanita at 11:40 PM on July 10 [3 favorites]


I already feel such love for this thread, but with 'hater boner' this has become my favourite thread in the whole of Metafilter. Can we flag it as fantastic?
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:00 AM on July 11


no one puts tht much sambal on a nasi lemak .

you have not been to johor bahru i take it
posted by divabat at 2:44 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


i'm already judging the ppl of johor* for 1) nasi ambeng (YEAH COME AT ME JAWA PEOPLE); 2) pronouncing otak2 as otah2 (though that is also chinese singaporean and muarian thing), sooooooooooooooo XD

but omg look at how they made the sambal as well -- they've premixed the sambal paste WITH the anchovies and peanuts :(

(*but they also invented eating fried bananas/pisang goreng dipped in cili-soy sauce so that i give them kudos for)
posted by cendawanita at 2:53 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


cendawanita that's so cool about FFXV! somehow it makes me weirdly happy (and hungry) to see that roti canai screenshot lol.

that nyc shop seems to serve super atas kopitiam food. or maybe it's just the photography and the descriptions.

pronouncing otak2 as otah2
somehow I've always used the two interchangeably/simultaneously without realizing - maybe something to do with being msian growing up in sg and going between both countries. somewhat similarly, I never realized singapore bakuteh existed until I was well into adulthood. the bakuteh I knew was always malaysian style - brown and herbal.

they also invented eating fried bananas/pisang goreng dipped in cili-soy sauce

somehow I hadn't heard about this but... it sounds.. a bit weird... is it tasty? (I like eating it with ice cream :p I guess I'm a pleb...or potato)
posted by aielen at 3:35 AM on July 11


it's very malay, because that dip is a fairly typical condiment mix for fresh fruits or like unripe ones like mangoes etc, at least in some regions. so i guess some genius decided to try it for fried stuff. i like it! it's very savoury and sweet. it's like how sarawak/indonesia invented pisang goreng with melted cheese and condensed milk lmao we're all going to die of diabetes.
posted by cendawanita at 3:45 AM on July 11


Now see how you made me drool over my keyboard with the merest mention of raw green mangoes
posted by infini at 3:52 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Internet rule #276: any sufficiently long conversation involving Singaporeans or Malaysians will end up being about food.

On one hand, that kopitiam kopitiam doesn't seem very authentic, but on the other hand I think back to the days I was studying in the US and I would probably kill for some halfway decent kaya toast or nasi lemak. I should ask my cousins living in NYC what they think of it.
posted by destrius at 6:57 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


I assume it's not authentic in the least, but one of the things I miss most about the closing of Susan Feniger's Street is the pretty delicious kaya toast. With the way it's been popping up at cafes all over town, I'm kinda surprised nobody's got a food truck doing it yet.
posted by klangklangston at 11:49 AM on July 14


(Popping briefly back in from lurking to note that I'm actively still reading this thread and thinking about everyone's responses, but that I also adore the amazing serious food-subplot that has developed here. Y'all are awesome. OK, back to quiet reading mode for me.)
posted by nicebookrack at 8:01 AM on July 15


I also adore the amazing serious food-subplot that has developed here

it's the only issue we're allowed to have opinions about. :D
posted by cendawanita at 9:16 AM on July 15 [3 favorites]


I assume it's not authentic in the least, but one of the things I miss most about the closing of Susan Feniger's Street is the pretty delicious kaya toast.

aah and now I miss kaya toast (ya kun kaya toast). I didn't like kaya toast growing up until I tried ya kun kaya toast... and then it was like the gateway drug to all other kinds of kaya toast. but I still like ya kun kaya toast the best - the thinly-sliced, crisply toasted bread with gobs of kaya and melty slabs of butter, alongside two runny soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce and pepper, plus teh c...

and you'd dip the hot buttery kaya toast into the soft-boiled eggs and eat it like that (at least, I did)... and sip the warm milky sweet tea. sigh.

I want kaya toast now. D:
posted by aielen at 4:35 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Well, if you really need some Malaysian flavour, how about the McNasi Lemak burger? my kids have all rated it solid and I'm queuing up obediently for one today....
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:41 PM on July 15


Seriously?
posted by infini at 1:17 AM on July 16


It was delicious.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:47 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Sadly, we'll never see that stateside unless I make it and I actually have everything except the pandan which I can get so... Kids all think that looks great.

I was thinking to just bone the thighs and press them and let them soak all day in coconut milk before rolling them in cornflakes.

Not trying to turn this thread towards recipes too soon.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:55 AM on July 16


I've not tried it yet... I guess I should. Heard the sambal isn't spicy enough though. And its kind of funny something called a "coconut rice burger" has no coconut rice in it.
posted by destrius at 7:00 AM on July 16


Yeah honestly I was really hoping it'd be a rice burger ala MOS burger. Otoh it's apparently nice, and the sambal is more chinese-style so it's sweeter than spicy
posted by cendawanita at 9:26 AM on July 16


For some reason all the recent commentary is reminding me of Old Chan Kee ... I could do with a stick of prawns and squid balls
posted by infini at 10:08 AM on July 16


> Omg Malaysian food will finally be hipster trendy

Wait for it. In Philly, Sate Kampar (run by Malaysian native Ange Branca, a novice restaurateur) was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant. Because of this thread and you people, I had to eat there again this weekend.

Now, I am not Malaysian, SE Asian, or any kind of expert, but I can report that in comparison to that video above from the place in NYC, they do not drown their nasi lamak in sambal. Also their goat sate is off the hook fantastic.
posted by desuetude at 11:26 AM on July 17


speaking of food, I guess we should educate ourselves on roadie prata. apparently "roti" is just how we think it's pronounced, but that's just us.

funny how Metafilter is so quick to jump on what it thinks is racist behavior and Orientalism while this kind of stuff surfaces in threads regularly - where a white Mefite decides to tell a PoC how to pronounce a PoC word and that how she pronounces the word is just how she "thinks" it should be pronounced.

Most of the time these days I don't bother to speak up about this stuff, admittedly. It's a lot of emotional energy, especially when those who aren't immediately affected (usually white/American Mefites) don't get it or take some time to understand. But with this recent "Orientalism" MeTa I found it so ironic that the subtler, more frequent and more cutting racial microaggressions are often given a free pass here while people jumped on this "orientalism" red herring. I tried to say something in that thread, but probably Aravis76's comment explains it more eloquently.
posted by aielen at 3:41 AM on July 20 [5 favorites]


whitemansplainin'

and TIL I learnt on social media that it can be any PoC doing this as well but underlying dynamic is the tyranny of dominant logic going unquestioned on "the one right way" to do something
posted by infini at 5:44 AM on July 20


actually that reminds me, i need to do a simple post on englishes, my other favourite mini-hobby being postcol people making videos of their english vs 'proper english'. that 'roadie' whitemansplainin' is so unfortunate, because it doesn't reflect usage of english especially in places like vancouver etc when the common languages have mixed and matched into their own respective patois. that's how accents and dialects form, is it not?
posted by cendawanita at 10:52 AM on July 20 [1 favorite]


also, that trinidadian roti is making me crave murtabak something fierce. it's 2am and i'm not leaving the house.
posted by cendawanita at 10:59 AM on July 20 [1 favorite]


If you have frozen Spring Home roti canai in the house (or any other brand but that's my fav and I get it here too with onions ;p) then fry that up with a broken egg on top?
posted by infini at 12:45 PM on July 20


hmmmm as she ponders the roti canai in the freezer
posted by infini at 12:47 PM on July 20 [1 favorite]


going back to the nasi lemak burger, apparently one of our locally beloved burger joints will be doing their own take in time for our Merdeka/Independence Day*.

*happy divorce month everyone!
posted by cendawanita at 11:18 PM on July 20 [2 favorites]


Speaking of roti, murtabak and burgers, I just learned about the existence of this today.
posted by destrius at 7:33 AM on July 21


*ponders the two burger patties sitting next to the roti prata in the freezer in a whole new light*
posted by infini at 8:39 AM on July 21


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