Do we need a Racial Harmony Day? #HarmonyinSG
Singapore’s peaceful diversity did not come easily and was almost literally achieved with blood, sweat, and tears.
There were periods in our history where racial tensions escalated to full-blown conflict with lives lost and property destroyed during the 1950 Maria Hertogh riots and the 1964 communal riots.
Today, through legislation, education, and grassroots efforts, large-scale racial disputes and riots are nearly eliminated. But many minorities in Singapore are still dealing with casual and overt racism at the individual level.
Last year during Racial Harmony Day, Kindness SG published an opinion piece titled “Do we really need a Racial Harmony Day in Singapore”?
Here are some thought-provoking insights from the piece.
#HarmonyinSG #racialharmony #Singapore #unity #unityindiversity
“… some have questioned the need for Singapore to have a day highlighting racial harmony.
Isn’t it slightly hypocritical, they ask, to celebrate the occasion when there is so much more work to be done?
… A recent poll by CNA and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) said that more than half of Singaporeans believe that racism is an important problem to tackle, up from 46.3% in 2016.
So, what is there to celebrate if there is so little racial harmony in Singapore?
Perhaps breaking down the phrase “Racial Harmony Day” might help us find an answer.”
“Why not just a harmony day? By highlighting our disparate races and cultures, if we emphasise too much our differences, could we run the risk of alienating one another instead?
One way of testing how open we are to our differences is to see how we celebrate public holidays in Singapore. Most of us would see it as a break from work, but ask yourself: How far do you go to celebrate the different holidays with your friends from other cultures and races?
For non-Chinese, do you visit your Chinese friends’ households during Chinese New Year? Likewise for non-Muslims during Eid? How much do you know about Diwali? Do you think that Christmas is only about gift-giving?
This isn’t to shame anyone for not knowing details about other cultures and races that live in Singapore. The critical question here is this: If given a chance, would you want to learn?
… Perhaps in this context, having a Racial Harmony Day is just another opportunity to teach our children more than just something that appears on a test paper.”
“In June last year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Lawrence Wong spoke at a forum on race and racism in Singapore organised by IPS and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
… In the speech, he said: “The natural instincts of humans are to look out for people who are most like us, and to keep a distance from others… we would be fooling ourselves if we believed that racial and religious harmony were the natural order of things. It does not fall ready-made from the sky. There is nothing preordained about a multi-racial society.”
… Now in a positive way, social media has helped to create greater awareness of racism here. This has made us, especially the majority, look closely in the mirror and reflect deeper about who we are, and who we want to be.”
“And we clearly cannot leave things as they are. We are better than this. Whether online or offline, we must hold ourselves to higher standards, and tackle racism wherever it exists in our society.”
“… By making it an occasion, it’s a chance for our children to find out more about their friends’ lives outside the classrooms.
It’s not all just games and dressing up either. Education Minister Chan Chun Sing shared on his Facebook this morning (note: the post was posted last year) how students at Kranji Secondary School got to thinking about how they would respond to different scenarios of racial stereotypes and racism during their Character and Citizenship Education lessons.
He said in the post: “Racial harmony has been and remains a work in progress… As our schools commemorate Racial Harmony Day today, let us remember the importance of strengthening racial harmony and deepen our appreciation of diverse cultures.”