21st of July is Racial Harmony day in Singapore.
When I reached my workplace yesterday, I saw many students and colleagues donning their traditional costumes. It was a lovely sight seeing people in their beautiful and colourful outfit. I admired the Chinese Cheongsam, the Indian Sharwani and the Malay Baju Kurong.
I really liked seeing people wearing these costumes. In some way, it shows that we still have the spirit of our roots. It was a warm day, but no one complained as today was once in a year that we could dress up like this.
I feel thankful that we are living in a fairly meritocratic country. Many of us has friends who are of different races and it’s so natural for us to mesh together. I feel amazed at why some outsiders are so surprised that we could get along so easily.
At the same time, lets not forget that about 40 years ago, Singapore wasnt as meritocratic as it was then. In 1964, Singapore witnessed the riots between the Chinese and the Malays.
And another incident that is close to my heart is the Maria Hertogh incident.
I feel for the two women, Che Aminah, who has been taking care of Maria Hertogh since she was a baby till she was about 13. You can see how close they are to each other in the picture. Maria has been brought up as a Muslim, Malay girl.
Eventually, the biological mother, Mrs Hertogh came back and demanded for her child. Even after fighting for custodial rights for Maria, Che Amina’s efforts was in vain as the rights were won by Mrs Hertogh.
I suppose Mrs Hertogh was too upset by the incident to think clearly and felt that it was the right thing to do to put Maria in a convent and made her renounce her religion and then later moved them back to the Netherlands.
But I don’t believe that she really did get used to life there and I really feel bad for Maria, whom was fervently wishing for her life back in Singapore, not being able to visit Che Aminah in her dying days.
Such a tragedy.
We need to appreciate the freedom and liberty that we have now. I pray that another incident like the Maria Hertogh incident doesnt happen.
But one question nags my mind. If we emphasized so much on race, does that make us racist?