Your Letters

Celebrate our success in building racial harmony

I applaud the efforts of young Singaporeans in promoting greater understanding between Singaporeans of different ethnic origins, but wish to caution against hawking solutions in search of problems and falling into the trap of political correctness (An evolving Singapore Chinese identity: Journey to the West - and now, the East; Feb 18).

It would be fair to say that no large ethnic majority in any multi-ethnic country has made so conscious an effort to ensure that the minorities do not feel threatened.

To appreciate this, Singaporeans need only check the many institutional arrangements they now take for granted against comparable arrangements in multi-ethnic nations all over the world.

What Singapore has managed to do is truly incredible, which, sadly, is better appreciated by foreign experts on ethnic conflicts in multi-ethnic societies than Singaporeans.

Older Chinese Singaporeans are acutely aware that any call for favourable treatment on the ground of ethnic majority will land them in deep trouble and incur the decisive wrath of the authorities.

Younger Chinese Singaporeans have multiracial consciousness drilled into their heads from a very young age, as do all other Singaporeans.

When a Chinese Singaporean makes a public racial remark against non-Chinese Singaporeans, the loudest condemnations often come from fellow Chinese Singaporeans.

When a Chinese Member of Parliament made a racial remark about Indians in Parliament years ago, the first MP who stood up to take him to task was a Chinese one.

Efforts by Chinese Singaporeans to be sensitive to the feelings of non-Chinese Singaporeans, however hard these may be, cannot change the fact that the Chinese are the majority.

Perhaps Chinese Singaporeans can do even more. But it is both silly and dangerous to conclude that Chinese Singaporeans are guilty of insensitivity to non-Chinese Singaporeans by virtue only of the fact that they are the majority.

Singapore has come a very long way in achieving racial harmony, for which the conscious efforts of the majority are not to be sniffed at.

Let's spend more time celebrating what we have built up, instead of conjuring up unhelpful and divisive terms like majority or Chinese privilege.

Cheng Shoong Tat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'Celebrate our success in building racial harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe