Are you a racist?

Are you a racist? Am I a racist?

Channel News Asia (CNA) and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) conducted a nation-wide race survey recently. The results are “revealing and eye-opening”. Link to Survey

The recent CNA documentary “Regardless of Race” was insightful, with Dr Janil asking some direct race questions.

Not really no-holds-barred, but we got some frank and perhaps “unsettling” responses. Think about taboo topics, stereotypes, and racist insinuations.

* Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and the content reflected on my blog represents only my own opinion *

I had the opportunity to share my own viewpoints on Talking Point this week (Video Toggle link, from 13 minutes 20 seconds onwards)

Race discussions can be sensitive and easily taken out of context.
Channel news Asia IPS race survey 1

During Racial Harmony Day, kids would don different costumes to school, reflecting Singapore’s multi-cultural society. But is this once a year event enough to teach our kids about racism?
Channel news Asia IPS race survey 2
(Images from CNA IPS survey)

As a parent, I am always trying to find the right opportunity to share why Singapore’s racial harmony should not be taken for granted.

I had previously blog about why racism will remain in Singapore, and to pretend otherwise borders on hypocrisy (blog link). The survey results showcase some undercurrent, which we cannot deny, but should try to understand more. Sweeping our “fears of engagement” under the carpet, just because we feel topic might be insensitive, would not help to clarify anything.

We should not be afraid to discuss Racism with our kids, we just need to find teachable moments to impart the right values (and respect).

The challenge is everyone is using different yardsticks to define racism.
We might feel we are not racists but our actions and behaviour might project another angle.
In other words, I can be a racist without realising it!

I do not really endorse the term Racial “Tolerance”.
After 50 years of independence, surely Singapore must have move beyond tolerance?
I am actively educating and talking my kids to embrace and celebrate Singapore’s multi-cultural diversity.

Most of us believe that kids are colour blind and non-judgmental.
Kids play together, become best friends simply because they enjoy each other’s company.
It is only after they are influenced by external environment (perhaps parents and peers) that they start exhibiting racist behaviours.

Personally, I belief that we should teach kids the right values when they are still young and impressionable. Parents are their role models.

Growing up, I did shared that I have buddies from other races that we were comfortable to tease each other with some racial jokes.
No malice, no ill will, we “disturb” each other because we know each other well.

Times have changed, and it is more “sensitive” to tease each with racist jokes nowadays. I am not saying that it should be recommended, but Singaporeans used to gel a lot easier then.

Society is getting more complex as Singapore gets more cosmopolitan.
Mixed marriages, Chinese from China, Indians from India, our cultural melting pot is growing bigger with more ingredients.
I would assume the cooking recipe is now more elaborate and harder to master.

One of the survey results indicate that it is ok to have friends from different races, but the same correspondents would not encourage marriage out of their own race. (The image below indicated that only 20+ percent of Chinese correspondents would accept non-Chinese son or daughter in law.)
CNA IPS survey
(image credit CNA IPS survey)

Why is this mentality still existing in the 21st century?

I have always advocate for mutual affection and love as the basis for a marriage. Neither skin colour, race nor religion should obstruct Love.

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There are many more example in the “Regardless of Race” series of videos, and some findings might make us uncomfortable, but these are all happening day in day out.

1. Regardless of Race” segments are asking Singaporeans to re-evaluate our position or racial harmony. Can we do more? Can we care more and move forward together as an inclusive society?
(Video link)

There are two segments within which makes the most impact on me.
When Dr Janil interviews the P3 students, their replies are frank and direct, and it makes me realise that racial harmony is always a process.
It is not just reciting the Singapore Pledge, but living our pledge.

2. I am a parent myself, and kids should not face discriminatory remarks in school, or worse engage in bullying of others (Video link)

3. Dr Janil ask questions and participants step infront or behind. The end result shows Chinese members in the front, suggesting that Chinese (Singapore’s majority ethnicity group) do enjoy more “privileges” in Singapore. Video link.

I am actively teaching my kids to embrace and treasure Singapore’s multi-cultural scene.
Where else can we find different places of worship co-existing together harmoniously?

We recommend fellow parents to visit Little India, Kampong Glam and perhaps even participate in a place-of-worship orientation (eg Ramadan at Sultan mosque).

Look for teachable moments, focus on the Positive aspect of race relations.
Be it adults or children, be open and we can all agree to disagree.
If it is any consolation, it is easier to talk about racism compared to sex education :p

Regardless of Race, Language and Religion.
Let us strive to live up to our Pledge.

Additional details :
– Full CNA IPS Survey results
– Talking Point panel discussion (Toggle link)
(Start from 13 min 20 seconds) promotes Racial Harmony in Singapore
– Related Channel News Asia articles, Part 1, 2 and 3.

What can we learn from the Riot?

One whole generation has grown up in peaceful Singapore.
Yesterday’s Channel News footage of rioting did not happen in Bangkok, but right in our own Little India.

We now know the riot was triggered by a bus accident which leads to the death on a foreign worker. A sad incidence, but the actions which happen afterwards were uncalled for.

Youtube footages showcase overturned police vehicles and burning ambulance.
It was fortunate that no one was seriously hurt.

More shocking than the rioting and disorder are the online comments.

Similar to the recent “annonymous hacking” incidence, a group of people were out in force spreading half truths and chanting racial slurs.

The comments were unhelpful and adding fuel to fire. Some examples are :
– send them back to their countries
– insulting slurs to Indian’s darker pigment
– along the way, someone will mention “why Singapore so many Foreign Talents” again
– Police only know how to bully residents

I can explain the physical riot to my children, but I could not find a logical explanation for the online rioters‘ agenda.

Yes, you can hate the government or the politicians, but you do not side with the enemies or troublemakers to harm Singaporeans. It is only a matter of time before we read “sensational” reporting from websites like TheRealSingapore.

(For the record, I seek alternate views, but some websites are only out to draw blood, spread half truths and fan raw sentiments)

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What can we learn from this rioting incidence?

1) Remind our kids that nothing can be taken for granted, be it peace or safety

2) We can be frank and admit that racial harmony and integration is an ongoing process. All it takes is some idiotic comments to stress Singapore’s racial harmony

3) When we see a Police officer or Paramedic (Hometeam), we can show some appreciation, he/she is keeping Singapore safe. Hometeam should organise more events to engage the community, like the recent open house

4) For a few hours during the riot, Singapore Police Force’s Fanpage and ChannelNewsAsia kept Repeating the same message :

“Police confirmed a riot at .. public stay away.. and situation is under control”

We are lucky that the situation was under control.
– What happen if the riot spreads?
– What happen if there are more casualties?
– What happen if we need to contact our loved ones who might be in the vicinity?
– Are we supposed to rely on ChannelNewsAsia (CNA) as the source of update?

During that few hours, with a lack of information, everyone went online for the latest updates. That’s when speculations and untruths spurn out of proportion.

(Most people would feel uncomfortable watching police vehicles and ambulance burning)

We need an official voice and medium, someone with authority to update the latest situation. Having an official update at 1.30am might be too late.

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If you have not been to Little India before, do pop by when things have settle down.
Absorb the surroundings, take in the burst of colours, and yes, the scents.
Our previous trip to Little India.

Majority of Indians (be it from India, Bangladesh) are peace-loving hardworking folks.
They are here in Singapore so that their families can enjoy a better life.

If the kids come up from this episode less gullible, and not taking Singapore’s safety and peace for granted, it will be a positive start.