Forum: Article painted unfortunate picture of minorities

Parents can help their child become more self-directed by allocating check-in times for their child to review his tasks.
Parents can help their child become more self-directed by allocating check-in times for their child to review his tasks.PHOTO: FADLIN M YUSOFF

I refer to the article in The Sunday Times published on April 19 (Home-based learning - a look at three homes).

While the article intended to show how different families coped with home-based learning, its depiction was most unfortunate.

What we saw was a Chinese family seizing the opportunity to "impart life skills and values", while minority families were relying on loaned devices and government assistance schemes.

Such a portrayal is both a reflection of, and contributes to, racial stereotypes about the "successful Chinese" and "worse-off minorities".

Sadly, it was not the first time that we have seen such depictions in popular media. It is also congruent with what minorities have, on occasion, experienced in their daily lives; racial stereotypes can be really sticky.

In all likelihood, the authors did not intend to paint such a picture of minorities. But what does it say about us as a society that such an image readily comes to mind in a story that was not intended to be about race?

Race is undoubtedly a reality of life, especially in Singapore, and we must not pretend that it is not.

But some things are better understood not through the prism of race.

Inequality is one such matter. Continued portrayals of minorities as worse-off can belie the fact that other factors, including class differences, contribute to the perpetuation of these inequalities.

The media must do better in this regard.

Walid Jumblatt Abdullah (Assistant Professor)

Editor's note: Our feature was aimed at reflecting how various families were dealing with home-based learning and not intended to have any racial connotations.

We thank Prof Walid, and others, who have voiced concerns about how the stories might have been perceived.

We take his point, and apologise for any offence caused inadvertently.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2020, with the headline 'Article painted unfortunate picture of minorities'. Subscribe