Singapore, Jun 25 (PTI) A senior minister in Singapore on Friday appealed to the majority Chinese community to be sensitive to and be conscious of the needs of minorities in the wake of a number of incidents that have sparked a debate over racism in the country.
In a lengthy keynote speech at a forum on race and racism organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong addressed recent concerns about racism in Singapore following a spate of highly publicised incidents.
'First, we must recognise that in any multi-racial society, it is harder to be a minority than a majority. This is so everywhere in the world,' the Channel News Asia reported quoting Wong as saying.
'It is important for the majority community in Singapore to do its part, and be sensitive to and conscious of the needs of minorities.' Wong also spoke about how far Singapore has come in racial harmony since independence, and Singapore's 'dynamic' and 'delicate' multi-racialism.
Singaporean media has reported a number of racial remarks made against Indians recently. In some cases, people expressed indignation about the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, a free trade pact, alleging that it has drawn Indian professionals in high executive positions, leaving Singaporeans high and dry.
Giving some examples of how race affects the daily lives of people here, Wong said that it matters to someone who faces discrimination when looking for a job or feels left out when everyone else in a group speaks in a language that not all can understand.
He also highlighted landlords who specify a preference for some races.
'It matters to our students, neighbours, co-workers and friends who have to deal with stereotypes about their race, or insensitive comments,' he said.
'These things do happen, not always, and perhaps not even often, but sometimes they do. And when they do happen, they cause real hurt, which is not erased by lightly dismissing them as casual remarks or jokes.' Asking the majority community to 'take the extra step' to make those in the minorities feel comfortable, he said: 'Treat others in the way you would like to be treated; and by your actions, teach your children to do the same.
'Remind those among your family members or friends who may slip up from time to time. At the same time, I am grateful that minorities have reciprocated by recognising that the majority community has legitimate needs and concerns too,' he said.
Wong also addressed the concept of 'Chinese privilege' and said that there may be 'biases or blind spots that the Chinese community should become aware of and should rectify'.
The IPS Forum on Race and Racism in Singapore was held in the wake of a series of incidents that had sparked debate on the state of race relations in the nation.
In May, a Chinese man kicked an Indian woman in the chest while uttering racial slurs.
This month, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer, a Chinese man, confronted an inter-racial couple in a video that went viral.
A Chinese woman hitting a gong to disrupt her Indian neighbour’s prayer ritual is among a number of other incidents against people of Indian origin. PTI GS NSA AKJ NSA NSA