The Price of Racism: How a US$4,000 Fine Was Not the Only Penalty for an American Expatriate in Singapore

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the price of racism how a us$4,000 fine was not the only penalty for an american expatriate in singapore

An American expatriate in Singapore learned the hard way that racism does not pay, after he was fined US$4,000 for hurling racial slurs at a Russian woman in a Hainanese restaurant. The man, who was identified as David Christopher James Roach, also faced other consequences for his offensive behavior, such as losing his job, facing public backlash, and being banned from the restaurant.

What did he do and why was he fined?

Roach, who worked as a financial analyst in Singapore, was caught on video making racist remarks at a Russian woman, who was dining with her Singaporean husband and their child at the Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball restaurant on Dec. 18, 2023. Roach, who was seated next to them, apparently took offense at the woman’s accent and told her to “go back to Russia” and “speak proper English.” He also called her a “bitch” and a “slut” and mocked her husband for marrying her.

The woman, who was identified as Elena Gorbunova, recorded the incident and posted it on social media, where it went viral and sparked outrage and condemnation from netizens. The restaurant’s management also reported the incident to the police, who arrested Roach and charged him with uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the racial feelings of another person, under section 298 of the Penal Code.

Roach pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined S$5,400 (US$4,000) by the State Courts on Jan. 7, 2024. The maximum penalty for the offense is three years’ imprisonment, or a fine, or both. The judge, who noted that Roach had no prior convictions, said that the fine was appropriate and proportionate, considering the nature and extent of the harm caused by Roach’s words.

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What were the other consequences of his actions?

Besides the fine, Roach also faced other repercussions for his racist rant, such as:

  • Losing his job, as his employer, a multinational bank, terminated his contract and issued a statement condemning his behavior and reaffirming its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Facing public backlash, as he received widespread criticism and ridicule from netizens, who called him names, such as “racist,” “ignorant,” and “loser,” and who urged him to leave Singapore and never come back.
  • Being banned from the restaurant, as the restaurant’s management issued a lifetime ban on him and expressed its support and apology to the victim and her family.

Roach, who had been living and working in Singapore for two years, also issued a public apology to the victim and her family, and to the people of Singapore, saying that he was “deeply ashamed and remorseful” for his actions, and that he had “learned a valuable lesson” from the incident.

Roach, therefore, paid a high price for his racism, not only in monetary terms, but also in social and professional terms. Roach, however, also had a chance to redeem himself and to make amends for his mistake, by acknowledging his wrongdoing and expressing his regret. Roach, therefore, should also be aware and respectful of the racial and cultural diversity and harmony of Singapore, and of the laws and norms that protect and promote them.

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