Social media raises racial issues previously unnoticed

Ms Amanda Auyong Sze Yen (Give youngsters space to talk about racial issues; Aug 6) has correctly observed that today's youngsters are very vocal.

She stresses the importance of youngsters discussing racial issues, and the platform on which they do so.

Generally, much of the talk is on social media, which she mentioned played a significant part in how youngsters can influence their peers.

Social media is a valuable asset with harmful drawbacks. In today's society, everyone has a voice online, but not many know how to properly use it.

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This is a dramatic change from previous generations, where only public figures and newscasters, for instance, had the ability to influence thousands with their unique voice.

Now, anyone can tap out a few sentences to be read by millions. Has this given youngsters the right outlet to voice their opinions?

Right outlet or not, it certainly stirs up controversies and protracted discussion.

Arguably, the greatest benefit of social media is its ability to bring awareness to issues that would previously have gone unnoticed.

It is an effective tool to reveal racial discrimination missed by the majority of people who live in cocooned circles and are not personally affected by it.

These formerly untold stories now generate tons of support from people of all races, empathising together - showing more than just tolerance, but genuine care. It has provoked heated discussions, even among the young.

It would be interesting to know, if brought to the classroom, whether talking about racial harmony would debunk common misconceptions.

A school setting could give students a safe space to learn the right way to foster racial harmony and the inclusive actions they could take. Effectively conducted, these discussions would nurture students to form their own opinions or at least be more aware of the need for racial harmony.

We are making rapid progress towards becoming racially harmonious, as seen in youth discussions, but there is always room for improvement.

If we can teach children about acceptance and to have an open mind, we have a good chance of nurturing a racially inclusive future generation.

To go beyond superficial understanding of food and costumes, or song and dance, we need to encourage our young to be culturally literate and socially sensitive.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Social media raises racial issues previously unnoticed'. Print Edition | Subscribe