Female Singaporean Gamer Faces Discrimination From US TSA Enroute To Competition

Since the days of Daigo Umehara’s epic Street Fighter III moment, the fighting game community actually has grown from strength to strength. Depending on which circles you frequent, the community might prove elusive. These days it is not uncommon for players and fans to travel around the world to participate in fighting game conventions.

Kelly, 22, from Singapore, is one such person. However, she was in for a rude shock when she flew over to San Francisco for the first time ever to attend this year’s CEO 2019.

For those who have not heard about CEO 2019, it stands for Community Effort Orlando and is a tournament held in Daytona Beach, Florida. This year, it was held from June 28 to 30, 2019. Some of the games featured at the tournament include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11, Dragon Ball FIghter Z, and Dead or Alive 6. 2019 also marks the 10th anniversary of CEO. 

On her part, Kelly had a good time at CEO 2019, but she had a nightmare-ish episode with an immigration officer as she was heading to her next flight bound for Florida.

According to Kelly, at the airport’s immigration counter, she was served by an immigration officer named Chen who treated her in an incredibly condescending way right from the start.

Not only did Chen continuously question the relationship between Kelly and a married male friend she was travelling with, but he also made derogatory comments on Kelly’s gender, commenting on how she should have been in a beauty pageant instead of attending a fighting game tournament. It seems like Chen is still living in the ‘80’s where looking pretty is all women were good for.

Apparently, colloquial terms often used in Singapore is now another reason to get mocked by immigration officers. When asked about what she does for a living back in Singapore, Kelly replied with “I’m a uni student.” In response, Chen decided it was a good idea to tick her off for using the term ‘uni’, which most students in Singapore use to mean ‘University’, by asking her to ‘speak properly.’

In a perfect example of how the US is becoming a police state, Kelly had her privacy invaded when another officer swung by and asked to check her phone. That’s right, an officer that had absolutely nothing to do with the conversation between Kelly and Chen, decided to interject and ask for Kelly’s phone, stating that it was ‘standard protocol’. The officer then proceeded to scroll through her social media and look at her photo gallery. When vested with such power to possibly unqualified people, it’s hard to tell what purpose the exercise serves. 

As Kelly mentioned in her post on Facebook detailing her experience with the immigration officer, his tone from start to finish was nothing short of rude from what we gather. 

The interrogation by Chen ultimately led to Kelly and her friend missing their connecting flight. This in itself is a harrowing experience for most travellers let alone an individual travelling to the US for the first time. 

When asked how she felt about the experience with Chen, Kelly says that it was mostly a mixture of anger, confusion and disappointment, mostly due to the fact that Chen was a fellow Asian too so she knew that his treatment of her was not a case of racism. Kelly was also called ‘stupid’ by the officer after he found out that she had missed something out in her immigration card. Once again, uncalled for and rude. 

Prior to her trip, Kelly was already afraid that she will face racial discrimination. Especially since she was going to Florida, a state stereotypically known for having loads of racists. To her surprise, she dealt with discrimination, not in the state itself or during CEO 2019, but at the airport. 

Kelly having fun at CEO 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

In hindsight, Kelly says that she would have loved to give Chen a witty comeback for all the discriminatory remarks lobbed against her. However, she says that it was probably for the best that she kept quiet and replied accordingly. 

“Besides, I just survived a 15-hour flight and I am not ready to be deported back,” Kelly says with a laugh. 

Though Kelly says that she’ll personally never fly back to Florida again, she emphasised that others who have read about her experience should not use it as a reason to avoid travelling to America. 

Just try to be prepared for situations like these. After I made my story public, I heard many stories from people facing similar situations especially if they were of a Middle Eastern heritage,” Kelly says. “I would highly suggest booking a flight with a long layover so there is no rush if any of a similar situation happening to anybody. I’m in no position to discourage people to travel wherever they’d like, but just be prepared for these kinds of unfair situations.”

Do check out her full post below:

Now that i'm back in Singapore and safe LOL SO NO WORRIES TO GET DEPORTED. Here is my recount of my terrible experience…

Posted by Keklly on Wednesday, July 3, 2019