Singapore— The recent spate of racist incidents has become a talking point for many Singaporeans, with one man stepping up to encourage all to fight racism together.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (June 8), Sattar Bawany, the chief executive officer (CEO) at Disruptive Leadership Institute, and also an author and professor, acknowledged the presence of racism in Singapore, despite the work the Government has done in endeavouring to create a “multi-racial, multi-religious secular nation”.
He quoted founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who once said, “𝑾𝒆 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒈𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒂 𝒎𝒖𝒍𝒕𝒊–𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒊𝒏 𝑺𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒂𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒆. 𝑾𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒔𝒆𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒙𝒂𝒎𝒑𝒍𝒆. 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒂 𝑴𝒂𝒍𝒂𝒚 𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏; 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒂 𝑪𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒆 𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏; 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒂𝒏 𝑰𝒏𝒅𝒊𝒂𝒏 𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏. 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒆: 𝒆𝒒𝒖𝒂𝒍; 𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒖𝒂𝒈𝒆, 𝒄𝒖𝒍𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆, 𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒊𝒐𝒏.”
Prof Bawany also added in his post the section of the National Pledge, recited by students daily, that begins with “𝑾𝒆, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒛𝒆𝒏𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑺𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒂𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒆, 𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒅𝒈𝒆 𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒗𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒔 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒖𝒏𝒊𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒑𝒆𝒐𝒑𝒍𝒆, 𝒓𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒍𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆, 𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒖𝒂𝒈𝒆 𝒐𝒓 𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒊𝒐𝒏…”
“Racial harmony has been and will remain to be a core value since the founding of our nation, where multiracialism is fundamental to our national identity,” he wrote.
However, recent incidents of racist behaviour, such as the actions of the woman who touted that she came from Hwa Chong Junior College and the conduct of the lecturer, now suspended, from Ngee Ann Polytechnic who told a Chinese-Indian couple that it is “racist that Indians marry Chinese because it is predatory”, show that racism is still a problem.
Prof Bawani wrote that “while we may detest the actions of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer in the latest racist video, it should not have come as a surprise, since the reality is that racism and racial bias does exist in Singapore.”
Prof Bawany then outlined what Singaporeans can do to fight racism together.
- Being aware of our own prejudices. “We have all been exposed to racist images, ideas, etc. It is important to be aware of our own prejudices so we can choose new thought patterns and actions,” he wrote.
- People must educate themselves, expanding their worldview and perspectives in order to understand the complex issues of racism. “The National Library has a great resource for us to start or to continue learning,” said the professor.
- He also encouraged people to speak up when racist indents occur. “All we need is the courage to say ‘That doesn’t seem right,’ and confront the issue and start the conversation,” said Prof Bawany. However, he cautioned the public to be aware of heightened tensions and seek their safety, as well as to get help from the authorities when situations call for it.
- The professor also urged readers to “𝐁𝐞 𝐚 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞” to those who have experienced racism, extending compassion and listening with an open heart. “Healing begins when others care enough to hear somebody else’s pain.”
- Lastly, he wrote that one should find one’s own way to combat racism in our everyday lives.
This effort takes everyone, as racism affects all people.
“Its presence should prompt our society to look in the mirror. Racism shouldn’t just be an issue that matters only to minorities. And the work of combating racism mustn’t be left to the victims of racism – for the same reason that we can’t, for example, leave the task of combating sexism or sexual harassment to women alone.
“Those fortunate not to experience racism must understand they have an important part to play. Social progress happens only when society is big enough to stand alongside those who are mistreated or experience injustice.”
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