I’m hoping that this may be informative and useful to people living in Singapore (especially those who are in ‘mixed’ relationships). It may however, seem strange to most Aussies who are not familiar with the process involving declaration of race - which occurs in most Asian countries.
You see, in Australia, it is not ‘politically correct’ to ask someone their race, and in many cases (for example, applying for a job) it is illegal under anti-discrimination and racial vilification laws to even ask someone the question.
In many countries in Asia it is commonplace for the need to declare one’s race. This is always mandatory for official Government forms, applications and interviews. It may even surprise some people even more to know that race can be very important when dealing on a day-to-day basis. For example, some people will not buy a property if the previous owners are of a specific race, and some real estate agents will flatly and openly refuse to act on behalf of people of certain races… this is just one very broad example – it occurs regularly in many situations and is quite legitimate and acceptable under current legislations in many countries (I'm sure some readers will be picking their jaw up off the floor about now).
To answer the question in the title of this post - In my mind a person’s race is critical to understanding one’s own identity. Of course it is very important, however I do not agree in any way shape or form with ‘racial profiling’… for all intents and purposes, let’s take an example of a person of Chinese race born and raised in Australia (let’s say 3rd generation Australian) may have very little connection with the background and cultures of those of the same race, born and raised in China (in fact they may never have ever visited China or be able to speak mandarin or any other Chinese dialects)… in this instance, the only reason for asking someone’s race would be to consider the colour of their skin – which is blatantly wrong and racist.
This brings me to the crux of this article. When our baby was born in Singapore in 2007, it was not a requirement to declare his race in the BRF (Birth Report Form). However at the time of his birth, both my wife (Chinese citizen) and myself (Aussie) were operating under a P1 employment and dependent pass. This meant that we had a set period of time to gain citizenship for Jaime, obtain a passport and then apply for a dependents pass for him [SEE FULL ARTICLE AND ENTIRE PROCESS HERE].
Our baby was awarded Australian citizenship by descent and the process for obtaining the passport was quite straight-forward… not once in all the ‘mountains’ of paperwork were we asked to provide the race of myself, my wife or our baby.
Next we applied for the MoM P1 Dependents Pass. The usual ‘race’ field was there to complete and was mandatory. I was obviously unsure as to what I should write here – Chinese mother and Caucasian father. So I called the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) and asked if it was appropriate to put both races (with a ‘slash’ between) or if I could write the ‘relatively new’ term of ‘Eurasian’. I was told bluntly that I could only include one race – Chinese or Caucasian, and furthermore it was a requirement that the baby follow the race of the father. So from that point forward, Jaime has been labeled as Caucasian in race, which was rather interesting given that in his passport photo (which was taken 1-day after he was born) he looks almost 100% Chinese (see his passport picture on the left).
NEW DECLARATION OF RACE
With effect from January 2, 2010, parents will be required to declare the race of their newborns during birth registration by filling in an additional field under "Race" in the Birth Report Form (BRF).
Although this means that another declaration of race needs to provided, it offers flexibility to parents of mixed race marriages to decide their child's race upon birth registration.
Now it is possible for families like ours (Caucasian-Chinese) to choose to record the child's race as Caucasian, Chinese OR Eurasian.
FURTHER INFORMATION FROM ICA
If parents cannot decide on the child's race during birth registration, the child's race will be recorded temporarily to follow the father until the child turns 15 years old and is required to register for an identity card.
Parents may still change the child's race in the record at Immigration and Checkpoint Authority of Singapore (ICA) any time before their child turns 15 years old at the ICA Building or the child's school (government, government-aided and independent schools registered with the Ministry of Education).
ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMISSION OF QUEENSLAND (AUSTRALIA) – EXERPT
"Generally it will be against the law for employers and employment agencies to ask questions on application forms and in interviews about a person’s relationship status, sex, age, number of children (if any), plans to have children, child care arrangements, spouse’s name or occupation, country of birth, medical history, sick leave and workers compensation record, religion, sexual preference, political belief or attitude to unions. It may also be unlawful to request consent for access to Worker’s Compensation history. If questions like these are asked it may result in the information being used to treat applicants unfairly."