Tuesday, 7 August 2018

New videos on race dialogues launched: One People, Many Voices

OnePeople.sg to groom harmony ambassadors, hold public talks
By Melody Zaccheus, Heritage and Community Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Aug 2018

Is the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (CMIO) race categorisation model still relevant in Singapore?

In a new video conversation series by OnePeople.sg, a ground-up national body that promotes racial and religious harmony, participant Brendon Fernandez, an actor and presenter, said he believes it reduces people to just four boxes.

Mr Fernandez, an ambassador for OnePeople.sg, said it also results in people labelling and categorising others. For example, some landlords in Singapore are known for preferring certain racial groups over others as tenants.

The conversation on CMIO - led by Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, the chairman of OnePeople.sg - will be launched today on the organisation's website.

The conversation, to be run in several episodes, also discusses how the CMIO system, at the other end of the spectrum, looks out for minorities and is one way to develop a sense of personal identity.

Two videos have been filmed so far. One is on CMIO while the other tackles the topic of casual racism and where the line should be drawn.

Another three conversation topics will be added to OnePeople.sg's stable by March next year.

The series, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, is designed to serve as a model to the public on how such conversations can be conducted respectfully within their own groups and networks.

OnePeople.sg director Ramesh Ganeson said the new series promotes dialogue and "allows us to go beyond the superficial and forge deeper understanding".

"It is really about the creation of the space to talk about such issues in a constructive manner... Usually such conversations are held within closed quarters resulting in echo chambers," he added.

Psychologist Sharifah Mariam Aljunied, who is a facilitator featured in the video, said that if people avoid talking about such issues, negative stereotypes and perceptions might fester. "Such conversations can make a person more aware of his own subconscious stereotypes about other races, see other people's perspectives, and see the impact of negative racial stereotypes on other people," she added.

OnePeople.sg is encouraging the public to watch the videos. It is also extending the dialogue to them via monthly public discussions called Experiential Conversations. Attendees will get to participate in surveys on the spot and the findings will help inform the facilitated discussion that follows. The next discussion will be on Aug 18 at the OnePeople.sg office in Toa Payoh.

OnePeople.sg is also grooming facilitators to champion its cause for racial and religious harmony.

Concluding the video conversation on the need for the CMIO model, Dr Janil said it is not intended to influence personal relationships and dynamics, but rather to develop functional policies.

For instance, he said the model helps keep schools and towns representative of Singapore as a whole and ensures there is adequate parliamentary representation, among other things.

He added that in the absence of such a system, as it might be in the case of other countries, it is hard to measure if racial bias exists, for instance in their university admissions policies or in terms of how social welfare is being handed out.


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