Put Singaporean identity above race

Instead of being classified as Malay, Chinese, Indian or Others, we must all be integrated as "Singaporean" (Students urged to speak up against racial stereotypes; Aug 29).

Perhaps our identity cards should be amended to describe race in the following way: Singaporean (race of person). It will at least increase our consciousness of being Singaporean.

It would be better if we could do away with race classification altogether. Any policy of racial classification risks having data about race being systematically collected, and even exploited.

This approach has been criticised in many countries due to a long history of such information being used to discriminate, stigmatise and subordinate minority races. Rather than valuing the differences in the population, it homogenises social groups and eliminates heterogeneity and diversity.

This is termed racialisation by sociologists. It can lead to stereotyping certain groups and justifying particular actions against them. This can divide us more.

We must dare to acknowledge that race can become a political way of marking identity that has undesirable consequences.

National identity cannot thus be based on an exclusionary and limited concept of race. We must look past racialised differences and respect one another as equal members with a shared national identity that surpasses any one single race. We will become the stronger for it.

We must dare to rethink race categorisation so that future generations will inherit an inclusive Singapore. The time to lay the foundation is now.

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2018, with the headline 'Put Singaporean identity above race'. Print Edition | Subscribe