On Wednesday (Jan 29), the Young Democrats of the Singapore Democratic Party premiered another episode of their initiative called “Slack & Discuss Problems” on Youtube. The fourth episode so far, featured a discussion about an issue that is uniquely relevant to Singapore–majority privilege.
The host, Shawal Yeo, was joined by two others–Mariah Sidek, a psychology student, and Jolovan Wham, an activist and party member.
Ms. Sidek, who is of a minority race, spoke of an experience she had with majority privilege. She talked about her experiences at university and how, at school camps, most of the cheers and songs were in Chinese. “It did make me feel a bit left out,” she said.
Mr. Wham, on the other hand, who is from a majority race is aware of how certain actions of the majority can make those of the minority feel–unintentional as they may be. He gave speaking Mandarin in the presence of non-Mandarin-speaking friends as an example.
According to Ms. Sidek, one of the ways to help foster in a more inclusive atmosphere is for minorities to create openings for themselves in society by speaking up. At the same time, Mr. Wham said that people of the majority should do their part too. “It’s important [to] not just wait for the minority to speak up…we need to be able to be aware of people who don’t enjoy the same kind of benefits that we do,” he said.
Mr. Wham also shared that though he thinks the Government has put a lot of emphasis on multiculturalism and racial harmony, there are aspects of the Singaporean system that still reinforce the concept of racial privilege. He mentioned SAP schools as an example, saying, “[W]e are supposed to be a multi-racial society…I think people should be able to appreciate and learn and teach what they want, but we shouldn’t have the SAP school system where only one race comes together under one institution and they [see only] each other every day and they don’t meet people of other races. [T]hat reinforces a lot of racial hierarchies in Singapore,” he said.
With regard to reserved presidential elections, Ms. Sidek spoke about meritocracy, which is important in Singapore. “We always emphasize meritocracy, but reserving a seat for a certain race goes against that, and it is something that our country is built on–merit. So if someone says, ‘You can’t be president because you’re not Malay’ that would raise some kind of issue,” she said.
Ms. Sidek and Mr. Wham left the audience with a few words. Ms. Sidek shared an insight–that though everyone has a natural bias for or against something, what matters is the actions people follow through with. Mr. Wham, on the other hand, talked about activists, saying, “Activist is not a dirty word,” he said. “We activists are good citizens. We are not traitors to our country. We are actually a force for good.”
The episode is available on the Singapore Democratic Party’s Youtube channel. /TISG