Racial Harmony Day


So apparently the authors of the Chinese Privilege Tumblr Site have requested the following.

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So I have decided to oblige by talking about everything I love abt RHD!

1) I have always loved having the opportunity to have that one day to share more about my race and religion with my students. I teach in a school with a very rich Chinese history and hence the student population is predominantly Chinese. Given that my students range from 13 to 16, many of them hardly have any exposure to Indian and Malay cultures and I completely do not blame them. At 13, MY priority wasnt to go and find out more about other races and religious groups, and I was probably too much of a self-absorbed teenager to give the concept of ethnic sensitivity much thought.

So I take this day as an opportunity to have some time to speak to them about my tradition, and practices. 99% of the time, my students are interested and eager to find out more. I also get so many students wanting to loan indian outfits from me. Are they misappropriating my culture?  I hardly think so. At 15, that is probably one of the FEW ways in which they show their acceptance of different cultures and I think that ought to be encouraged.

Any racist remarks that are made are quickly nipped in the bud with humour, wit and firmness.

Infact, forget racial harmony day. As an Indian teaching in a predominantly Chinese classroom, I encounter racist comments very often. And I have learnt to cope with it, not by getting used to it, not by getting angry and most definitely not by calling Chinese in general racist. I cope with it by countering them with logic. I enjoy doing it, because it is gratifying to see students STOP making such remarks henceforth. Also, as a teacher, I rather I hear these comments, so that I have the opportunity to address their behaviour, rather than have them get into serious trouble outside of school. 

2) I enjoy using RHD as an opportunity to address racism. One of my most memorable Racial Harmony days was spent sitting in a circle with my students and getting them to recollect ALL the racist comments they have ever made, and all the comments they have had made against them. We spent a good couple of hours talking through these comments, exploring the misconceptions behind these comments and rectifying them.

Till today, I have students who thank me for that session because it helped them to integrate better when they went on to junior colleges and polytechnics that had so much more racial diversity.

Wearing ethnic costumes belonging to other groups, having concerts, getting the canteen to sell special food items, all of these are aspects of the celebration that are most visible. That does not mean that meaningful exchange is lacking.

3) Have the Maria Hertogh and 1964 riots been used by the government?  OF COURSE. Should the government be using these riots? You bet! The current generation is growing up in an era where they have NOT experienced the turmoil and hardship of war and conflict. They will NOT know the damage racially/religiously insensitive comments can inflict on a society, especially a multi-ethnic one that is already so fragile. I dont see social studies textbooks telling everyone that the Indians and Malays are minorities and hence dont matter. I see them educating people that EVERYONE matters. So is it Chinese privilege that the Indians and Malays are considered minorities and are specifically highlighted as being a group whose needs need to be taken care of? I say its a FACT.

I cannot stand accusations about how SS textbooks are propaganda. In the hands of a GOOD teacher, NOTHING is propaganda. In all my years of teaching, I dont have a SINGLE student who left my classroom feeling that he had pro-government propaganda imposed on him, or feeling like he has no space to be an active citizen or no space to voice CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. I know we have leaps and bounds to go in terms of freedom of speech and I wont deny that. That doesnt mean one can disregard importance of students knowing our history, ALL of it, and the importance of RHD.

My school will be celebrating Racial Harmony Day this week. I am going to have a fabulous time with my students, talking about all things racist, taking a million different cliche photos and tagging all of them #RHD #RHD #RHD.

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2 thoughts on “Racial Harmony Day

  1. I don’t deny we are relatively more privileged being the majority race (among other reasons), but I get so tired of being viewed as the enemy by fellow Singaporeans such as that tumblr. I still remember when, according to one blogger, Chinese who attended/didn’t boycott this blogger awards event which had only English and Chinese language in their materials were racist. I embrace changes to give equal rights/privileges to all citizens but I do detest being told what to do to prove something. Sorry for going offtrack; just wanted to applaud your attitude and I’m glad at least some students are having a great teacher.

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