Youth urged to call out racism in respectful manner

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 yesterday 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.

Mr Tan was later found to have made Islamophobic comments to students in a class in 2017.

NP has said he 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 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 04, 2021, with the headline 'Youth urged to call out racism in respectful manner'. Subscribe