Racial harmony needs extra care under social media glare

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

In this age of social media, it is definitely a challenge to keep race and religious issues on an even keel.

Social media is potentially a destabilising force, especially if used by people who have little regard for racial and religious harmony.

It is therefore heartening that, despite this, a recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies and racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg revealed that racial and religious harmony is improving in Singapore (Racial, religious harmony improving in S'pore: Study, July 31).

This is cause for celebration as our nation marks its 54th birthday.

However, this issue is always a work in progress. We must never be complacent.

Each person must always treat others with respect. If, or when, there is a dispute involving a person of a different race, there must be even more care and restraint, especially if something unfolds in the public eye.

Take, for instance, a traffic accident. An enraged person of a particular race might behave in a manner that is provocative and hostile towards another person who is of another race.

This could generate a lot of ill will in interracial relations if someone were to capture the altercation on camera and the footage is circulated on social media.

Some people may approach such posts with a sense of equanimity and will not be dragged into unreasonable conclusions, such as thinking that it is a matter between two races instead of merely the fault of an ill-behaved individual.

But there are people who may quickly get offended by seeing the situation as a race issue.

Our country is strong and safe only because we enjoy racial and religious harmony.

We cannot afford to be complacent about it.

Phillip Tan Fong Lip

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2019, with the headline 'Racial harmony needs extra care under social media glare'. Print Edition | Subscribe