Forum: Time to look at our own blind spots and prejudices

Racial prejudice arising from the coronavirus outbreak is unacceptable and must be confronted (Call out prejudice and hate speech, March 15).

It is understandable that tensions run high during such a stressful period. There have been similar instances before. For example, the Ebola outbreak sparked racism towards those from Africa. And like Covid-19, the severe acute respiratory syndrome was labelled a "Chinese disease" in many parts of the world.

Indeed, research suggests that infectious disease exposure is associated with a rise in racial discrimination. After all, it is natural to act on self-preservation instincts - flawed as they may be.

Worryingly, the correlation between exposure to contagious illnesses and racism is observed even when controlling for factors such as education.

Intelligence and rationality are not always related. And the smartest among us may be the cleverest at coming up with justifications for personal biases.

Calling out the prejudices of others is just part of the solution. Each citizen must also work on his own individual development.

It is a personal responsibility to identify one's own blind spots. In these trying times, we must all strive to react with intellectual humility and open-mindedness.

This can take time. It can take days to weigh all the facts and analyse available information. It is far easier to act on gut instinct and make snap judgments.

But by slowing down, people can make wiser decisions and combat their own tribal instincts. And with many Singaporeans spending more time at home because of business continuity planning measures, there just might be time to do quiet self-reflection.

Chin Hui Wen

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