Let dialogue on race relations gel us

Singapore has been blessed with social harmony.

Many of us are of immigrant stock. Race has been a dicey topic and we have had our share of race riots in our nation's short history.

We all learn that racial harmony is not to be taken for granted. All believe that only with peace will Singapore have a fighting chance of making it as a nation.

Thankfully, we do not share a burden of history where one dominant race subjugated another.

Meritocracy has served us well. By and large, we do enjoy social mobility through one's ingenuity and hard work. No one race is kept down because of racial origin.

We have been extremely careful not to allow race, language or religion to divide us. By nature, they are sensitive topics. One is acutely aware of his own "tribe" perhaps, and will stand to guard it instinctively.

 So, if all is well, why do we need to talk about it now?  Why fix it if it is not broken?

 Well, it is far from broken.  It works and our discourse can dwell on why it has and how to enhance it. 

We live in close quarters with one another and celebrate one another's festivals.  But some may say it is all superficial tolerance which can flare up by an "insensitive" word or gesture.

But we have bonded as one people for 50 years.  Surely, we have matured to understand one another's way of life.  Surely, the ensuing peace is not a sole result of us sweeping things under the carpet.  Surely, there must be room for give and take.

There lies the reason to discuss it - the "give and take" has been taken for granted for too long ("More open dialogue regarding race needed" by Miss Lee Peiwei, and "Still much work to be done" by Mr Jon Yoong Kah Choun; both published on Aug 22). 

Our discourse now should centre on understanding the status quo, and whether there is a need to tweak it through open discussions.

We are all blind to our own faults.  Perhaps, by sounding out how we perceive one another, we can clarify and gain a greater understanding of why we act the way we do.   

Racial relations evolve. The greater challenge lies in managing this dialogue well.

Lee Teck Chuan