Adults, kids need to be educated on cultural sensitivity

Students from Westwood Primary School celebrating Racial Harmony Day on 22 July 2019 with their friends and teachers.
Students from Westwood Primary School celebrating Racial Harmony Day on 22 July 2019 with their friends and teachers.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

There may be a message in the offensive video in response to an advertisement featuring a "brownface" person.

While many of us claim we live in multiracial harmony, beneath the facade, this may not be so.

As a minority, I have often experienced discrimination in public places, for example, people who do not want to sit next to me in the bus or train.

Friends have also shared how they have felt discriminated against during job interviews.

It makes me wonder if racial harmony celebrations are just for show.

Eating other cuisines and wearing clothes of another community do not equate to understanding another person's customs and culture.

I enjoyed my childhood immensely, living in a kampung with Chinese, Malay and Indian neighbours. Issues were settled with the gift of a chicken or a tray of eggs.

My Chinese neighbour's son ate in my home regularly without asking what we served him.

And we would go to a neighbour's house to feed leftovers to pigs he kept in a sty even though my family does not consume pork.

Children all played together and never saw themselves as Chinese, Malay or Indian.

Family upbringing plays a key role in fostering racial harmony.

Parents should stop telling their children not to associate with children of other races.

Start teaching about racial harmony and understanding from the pre-school level.

Entrants to the workforce should undergo some compulsory course on cultural sensitivity so that they can better understand colleagues of different races.

More honest feedback should be gathered regularly from the minority communities to understand their concerns and issues they face every day.

Racially insensitive remarks are hurtful and can destroy the fabric of a society. It takes just one spark to burn it all.

Janagi Somu

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Adults, kids need to be educated on cultural sensitivity'. Print Edition | Subscribe