(…) Such acceptance of diversity and ease of interaction among different ethnic groups do not happen by chance or by a natural evolution of multiracial societies. Worldwide, the reverse is true: left to themselves, communities tend to segregate, fuelling mistrust.
In Singapore, it is the result of many intentional policies. From ethnic integration policies in public housing which mandate that a quota of minorities is always present in HDB estates, to policies which censure ethnic chauvinism and racial insults, it is clear that Singapore policymakers are paranoid – in a good way – about ensuring that minorities will always have a stake in Singapore.
I am glad that the judicious use of social policy has allowed my son to enjoy friendships with children of other races. I also appreciate that on Racial Harmony Day, he can put on an ethnic costume and not feel that he has to suppress his minority heritage. Yet I am aware of the small but sizeable number of minorities in Singapore who for some reason perceive their minority status to be a liability.
Sometimes this is due to the lack of cultural capital needed to navigate different cultural settings which those of better socio-economic levels have greater access to.
Successful minorities should perhaps be more forthcoming in imparting these skills and networks to those who are trying to negotiate their minority position.
Mathew Mathews, Senior Research Fellow, in the Straits Times, 28 July 2015