More laws, policing not helpful in easing racial tensions

YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas offered a fresh apology for their controversial rap video in a lengthy statement on their social media accounts on Aug 3, 2019.
YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas offered a fresh apology for their controversial rap video in a lengthy statement on their social media accounts on Aug 3, 2019.PHOTOS: ST FILE, SUBHASMUSIC/INSTAGRAM

I beg to differ with Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo and police action against YouTube entertainer Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair (Need to step up efforts against hate speech: Minister, Aug 2).

With due respect to Mrs Teo's concerns for social harmony, I do not believe that increased legislation and policing are the way forward.

I believe it is unwise, in fact. And likely to increase unhappiness and tensions within our minority communities, and widen the rifts we are experiencing.

Rather than punishing our minority friends for giving vent to the frustrations of their lived experience, I urge the authorities to take heed and listen deeply.

The Government must acknowledge, as we all must, that racial bias and prejudice exist.

My experience with women's issues over the decades has informed me that only when we acknowledge a problem can we begin to address or redress it.

Drawing from the women's experience, I believe there is an immediate need for concerted public education, for sensitising programmes to make us all aware of our biases and prejudices on race/ethnicity.

We may not eliminate deep-seated prejudices entirely but we can at least begin to curb ourselves when they arise.

This surely would be for the betterment of all.

The Government is in the best position to roll out sensitising programmes to all its agencies, the police, the army, the civil service and the media, and equip teachers with the knowledge and vocabulary needed to raise awareness of racist attitudes and behaviour.

If our objective is to educate and sensitise our citizens to live together in harmony in a multicultural environment, legislation is not the way to go: Legislation silences and punishes, and will not encourage dialogue.

Dana Lam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2019, with the headline 'More laws, policing not helpful in easing racial tensions'. Print Edition | Subscribe