A day after Singapore celebrated its annual Racial Harmony Day, the Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh lauded the efforts of young Singaporeans who have been “stepping out of their shells” to openly tackle racism in the country.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday (22 July), the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament-elect said that “racism does reveal its ugly head every now and then even as it may be more (or less) appropriately cloaked as insensitivity and even privilege”.
“And depending how we internalize the experience, exposure to racism damages some of us more than others – particularly minorities, but not exclusively so,” said Mr Singh.
Hearing of “younger Singaporeans and others in general” discussing racism more openly and earnestly, he said, makes him feel “heartened and motivated by their initiative and sense of purpose”, as it demonstrates that “they dream of and a [sic] prepared to act for a better, stronger and more united Singapore”.
Sharing a photograph of himself as a boy with his friends he met and sustained ties with “in primary school from 1983” through his student days at the National University of Singapore, Mr Singh said that all of them “became friends effortlessly”.
“They remind me that a conversation on race is, for many of us, a glass half-full and not half-empty. We are not having a conversation on race from a position of weakness and to that end, the efforts of many before us – including those in Government – to sustain a multi-racial society, should not be underestimated nor undermined,” he said.
“The ability to have deep conversations usually starts with friendships. A better Singapore will require effort, empathy and understanding from all, and most importantly, a willingness to walk in shoes of those from us. Onward Singapore,” Mr Singh added.
Mr Singh also shared the thoughts of “a long-time party member” on whether Racial Harmony Day “should be recognized and commemorated amongst adults and at the workplace, rather than primarily in schools”.
Racial Harmony Day, launched in 1997 as part of the National Education programme crafted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) for schools, commemorates the 1964 communal riots.
On 21 July every year, students are encouraged to reflect on the importance of maintaining harmony in Singapore’s religiously, racially and culturally diverse society.
Other than in schools, grassroots organisations such as the People’s Association (PA), community development councils (CDCs) and OnePeople.sg also conduct Racial Harmony Day celebrations.