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Yesterday, this video of an Indian lady assaulting store assistants at Owndays went viral on social media. Understandably, the response was equally violent with many commentators calling her crazy, racist and requesting for her to be locked up in a mental institution.

With these kind of incidents, there’s a tendency to feed off how good it feels to be united against something that’s clearly wrong. But in doing so, we miss out on what’s really important:

(1) She’s not racist

Let’s deal with the first elephant in the room. The caption in the original video shared by Gerald Teo reads: “NBCB!! How can she be so racist!!” Commentators on Facebook have echoed this sentiment.

Yet all she was really saying was “You bloody fucking Chinese girls”, and “You Chinese girls keep hitting me in my neighbourhood” (or something like that). But addressing someone by their race isn’t a racial slur. It would be very different if she had said, “You typical cheating Chinese fuckers!”

Furthermore, calling someone Chinese doesn’t have the same charged implications as saying, “You fucking Indian (or Malay) fellow!” Like it or not, there just aren’t enough negative stereotypes of Chinese Singaporeans to make calling out someone’s race as ‘Chinese’ actually offensive.

I know this, you know this, this doesn’t even require an explanation.

(2) We need to talk about mental health

What’s certain from this incident is that we need to have better and more open discussions of mental illness. We see only this lady’s immediate violent behaviour, but we don’t know if she has bipolar disorder.

Clearly, there’s something off about how she’s behaving.

In the comments from Facebook, we see a tendency for Singaporeans to take a real dismissive attitude towards the mentally ill:

Let's cull them all.
We either don’t think it’s a problem, or worse, a problem not worth caring about.

But the fact is, there are “crazies” in every neighbourhood, and we even have an unfortunate website entirely dedicated to Yishun “siao lang”.

Instead of sweeping this stuff under the rug or laughing it off, isn’t it time we took mental health issues a little more seriously?

(3) We just love this stuff, and not in a good way

Many reactions to this video have framed the incident as being about a lady who lost her shit over a missing bracelet. Yet if you watch the video carefully, it’s obvious that something has happened even before the beginning of the clip.

The girl on the phone braces herself to be hit, and her colleague already has her phone out ready to videotape the Indian lady. The bracelet doesn’t matter; it just falls off her wrist several times.

But because it’s funny how the bracelet keeps falling off from her hitting the shop employees, it becomes the whole story.  

Everyone has latched on to the juiciest interpretation of events with glee, instead of asking what really happened. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll realise that this is less about wanting justice, and more about being way too entertained to care what really happened.

The truth is, this lady isn’t one of those difficult and unreasonable customers we’ve all encountered in public. Her actions are erratic, swinging between a kind of dazed calm to extreme violence.  

Yet drama is entertaining, especially the unscripted sort. From the cameraman who, instead of attempting to calm things down, chose to film the video for viral potential, to the shit-stirrer and the security guard clearly uncomfortable at being forced to step up, there could not have been a better cast.

There are enough different characters in this video that anyone of them could be anyone of us. And this is why we can’t seem to look away.  

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