Be confident to call out racist behaviour, but do it respectfully and constructively, S'pore youth told

Youth today need to be confident to call out things that don't sit well with them, but they have to do it respectfully and constructively.
Youth today need to be confident to call out things that don't sit well with them, but they have to do it respectfully and constructively.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Youth today need to be confident to call out things that do not sit well with them, but they have to do it respectfully and constructively, said National Youth Council (NYC) member Brian Liu.

He was speaking on Saturday (July 3) at a virtual panel discussion with 90 young people on shaping the Singapore Spirit.

Mr Liu, who is also the senior vice-president (people) at online retailer Lazada, was responding to a question from an attendee on the best approach to call out racism or racist acts that they witness.

He referenced Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) senior lecturer Tan Boon Lee, who was caught on camera making racist remarks to an interracial couple in Orchard Road last month. He was later found to have made Islamophobic comments to students in a class in 2017.

NP has said Mr Tan will be sacked for serious misconduct. Police investigations are ongoing.

While Mr Tan's behaviour, especially as an authority figure, was "unacceptable", Mr Liu said, calling him out "does not mean going on Facebook with expletives - that's not constructive, that's not helpful".

His view was shared by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, who was also on the panel.

He said that calling out can be done constructively, as in the case of the interracial couple, Mr Dave Parkash and his girlfriend Jacqueline Ho, who were told by Mr Tan that it was a disgrace for a Chinese woman and an Indian man to be together.

"I thought Dave was immensely measured and respectful," said Mr Tong, who noted that the recent spate of racist incidents has "worried all of us".

"That incident taught us all a lesson... where we don't (have to) react in a a way that's over the top, there's no name-calling. I also think these are things that should be surfaced so that they remain dialogue points," he added.

Such incidents becoming more prevalent, and coming to light via social media has also encouraged candid conversations, noted another panellist, Mr Fauzi Aziz, who is the marketing lead at media company TheSmartLocal.

"It is great that we are now starting to have a lot more conversations about it more candidly because if we don't have them, we are going to go through life without realising that these issues are bubbling under," he said.

"So let's acknowledge that these problems exist, and let's work towards solving them."