Does it make us racist if we emphasized on race?

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.

Racial Harmony Day Singapore 2007

Racial Harmony Day Singapore 2007

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.

Racial Harmony Day Singapore 2007 - Rinaz is the one in yellow top and black pants

Racial Harmony Day Singapore 2007

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.

Racial Harmony Day Singapore 2007

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.

Maria Hertogh and Che Aminah

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?

Link :

22 Replies to “Does it make us racist if we emphasized on race?”

  1. Rinaz: The same question also pop into my mind every once in a while.

    I also feel that there is no need to emphasize our race that much. Look around you, Chinese, Malay and Indians are living in harmony, taking the same bus, train and attending the same school. Why do we still emphasize so much on our race?

    In face, we could create a new race call “Singaporeans”. Don’t you think so?

  2. Nay Min Thu

    I do work in a school, more like an attachment really. But I’m not a teacher. I’m a multimedia educator. I maintain an educational portal as well as making information technology fun for all πŸ˜›


    Yes, there was a time when Singaporeans pondered upon the viability of having an identity card that said our race as ‘Singaporeans’ and just omit malay/chinese/indian/caucasian

    Is there really a need to distinguish ourselves by the colour of our skin? Is there really a need to always favour another race while in jobs?

    We may be different physically outside. But as Shakespeare once said in Merchant of Venice :

    “If you prick us, do we not bleed?
    if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
    us, do we not die?”

  3. It is perfectly ok to talk about race – ONLY if discussed on a legitimate level. Say a certain working environment involves pork products, you can’t actually employ Muslims due to their religion. It depends on which aspect of races we are embarking on. If it’s for violence or discrimination, we can do better without all these.

  4. The thing I see here is, is it even right to enforce your child, or even a child that you have custodialship your own religion??

    It seems to me that for generations, religion is like passed down just like surnames are… Let them choose I say, so that at the very least they are true to their religion.

  5. Ed

    I understand where you are coming from, and I respect your opinon. But the percentage of jobs that require the handling of pork as that as compared to others is insignificant. As in secretaries, teachers, office staff, etc.

    But I do agree that discussing about race is definitely legitimate, after all, the world is definitely becoming a mixed place πŸ™‚ As Russell Peters said, the world is mixing.


    I’ll email you the picture instead πŸ™‚


    Thats a good idea, many times it is passed down from generations. I suppose the passing down makes it convenient and easier that way. You are right, in the sense that religion should be a right of choice.

    But religion has always been a complicated issue.


    What happened to your email?

  6. Hi there, nice to see your photos of Racial Harmony day. I agree with you and am really thankful too that we live in a fairly meritocratic country, and that the different races are able to live together in harmony. This is something which is not easily achieved, and neither was it achieved overnight.

    The two race-related incidents you cited are stern reminders of how we all should strive to maintain, if not improve, the level of racial harmony which exists currently in Singapore.

    Lastly, to answer your question, I personally don’t think that emphasizing on race makes anyone a “racist”. One is a “racist” only when one harbours resentful attitudes towards another race. I think sometimes the reason why we emphasize on race is to allow for greater awareness and sensitivity toward the slight difference in sensitivities between the races.

  7. so colorful!!!!1
    i Loike!!!!!

    here is my nw email addy
    e old one is gone 4 gd
    “someone ” did somethn to it..

    so email me so i cn save ure addy…

  8. Eh, so the race riots in 1964 was really caused because of the Malays?

    I didn’t know that – I always assumed that the Chinese blocked the way so that the Malays couldn’t get somewhere to celebrate or something – and a fight ensued.

    I don’t know – I never really paid attention in Social Studies lessons back in primary school.

  9. Nana Jr

    Read the wikipedia. Though I really dont think we should blame it on one race alone. It was just the circumstance then.


    Thanks for dropping in my blog!

    Great views! You made a wonderful point in saying that one is a racist only when one harbours resentful attitude towards another race, and that we emphasize on race to allow for greater awareness.

    I like that.

    I do wonder though, that with the emphasis on race will bring about discrimination and actually segregate the races instead. For example, is the institutional differences like Mendaki for Malays, Sinda for Indians and the CDAC for Chinese necessary? Or would it be better to lump them together as one institution?

  10. Good question asked and lovely photographs of your colleagues and students wearing their ethnic gear. Personally, I feel that it is important for us to remember our own roots, heritage and self identity while embracing other cultures and traditions (I guess this is why I work where I do). When I was young, I must admit that I do seem to view the world through different tints and stereotypes.

    Over the years, I realise how much more common we are. The deeper you get into the business of culture and heritage, the more you realise how much in common we have with each other. Many values, principles, traditions and morals are common across most religions and cultures.

    My wish is for the world to one day realise this and to try to live with each other in greater peace and harmony. What’s happening right now in Iraq and Afghanistan is simply horrific and could be reversed if we learn to understand each other and to respect our differences.

  11. Excellent thoughts and viewpoints, walter πŸ™‚ I dont really have much to contribute to the discussion now πŸ˜›

    Yes, I do agree that its important for us to remember our roots, but at the same time, does this act bring about the propagation of racism? What do you think?

  12. History lesson by Teacher Rinaz seh … i remember this on our history text books. Do they still have it?

    and to answer ur question: If we emphasized so much on race, does that make us racist? .. YES. To me it is

    Well in my opinion, racism is a learned behaviour from the people around us, even our parents

    It’s inevitable not to bump into these lots. if the parents method and handling the kids about racial issues is ‘sound’, i think even in the company of someone who has something against other than his ethnicity, he/she able to think for oneself and form a sound judgement

  13. In a way, I think to a certain extent we are naturally a little bit racist ourselves sha. Because many of us has preference to our own skin colour.

    I remember this story of how a caucasian woman who was very convinced that an african-american was the one responsible of raping her. She said that she could recognize how he looked like, his features et all.

    But in the end, she convicted the wrong person and he was in jail for several years. But it wasnt entirely her fault because people of different races do find it difficult to distinguish others.

    Sometimes I cannot tell between Gwynneth Paltrow and Lisa Kudrow. But its easier for me to tell between Japanese, Koreans and Chinese. πŸ˜›

Comments are closed.