Important for people to retain unique cultural identity

Crowds walking near Ngee Ann City along Orchard Road, on April 13, 2017.
Crowds walking near Ngee Ann City along Orchard Road, on April 13, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

I disagree with the suggestion of removing our own racial identity just to promote interracial cohesion (Remove race on ICs to promote S'pore identity, April 16).

Our national identity is a system of shared beliefs, customs, values and behaviour that is used to aid interaction with other Singaporeans.

People typically move between groups, adjusting their ideas and beliefs as they grow and learn.

People go through cultural shifts and appreciate new customs, but they should also retain core elements of their unique cultural experiences and the identity that they were born into.

The mere exercise of removing racial identities on identity cards will not remove the scourge of prejudice, which is a shape-shifting animal that lurks everywhere and takes many forms.

The key is to, instead, continually educate Singaporeans to imbibe cultural responsibility.

The ability to learn from and relate respectfully to people from one's own culture as well as those from other cultures is neither about changing others to be more like oneself nor about changing oneself to be more like others.

It is about appreciating one's own core and, yet, honouring the differences of others.

Hence, before people are able to appreciate and value diverse views, learn to avoid imposing their own values on others, resist stereotyping and learn about members of another culture, they need to first hold on to their own cultural self-awareness, as that is the first step to understanding that others hold different values and beliefs, and believe in them as much as others believe in theirs.

Amos Wu Pom Hin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2019, with the headline 'Important for people to retain unique cultural identity'. Print Edition | Subscribe