Anyone who has done some basic research about Singapore would know that Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious country.
In fact, that is one of the draws of Singapore which makes it stand out from its other ASEAN or even Asian neighbouring countries.
So, how does Singapore keep that peace and harmony between different groups of races when everyone’s cultures and backgrounds may not always align?
This is where awareness and education come in. Cue the Racial Harmony Day.
Here is what Racial Harmony Day in Singapore is about.
Racial Harmony Day Takes Place on 21 July Every Year
Just like National Day falls on 9 August every year, Racial Harmony Day falls on 21 July yearly.
We commemorate this day to “remind ourselves not to let racial differences divide us, and instead turn diversity into our source of strength”.
This day was introduced in 1997 as an initiative by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in schools for students to understand the importance of tolerating racial differences.
It has since been a critical feature of students’ education to build up their acceptance of others despite any visible or non-visible differences.
The History Behind Racial Harmony Day
One main reason Racial Harmony Day occurred was to reduce the racial conflict between different races in Singapore. More recently, it has pivoted to combat racism in daily life.
Back in 1964, racial conflict was strife, and there were racial riots between the Malays and Chinese in Singapore. After two riots in six weeks (the first rioting occurred on 21 July 1964), over 36 people died, and more than 500 were injured in the physical violence.
These painful riots came after tensions between the two racial groups, partly sparked by political tension from the merger between Singapore and Malaysia.
There had been ideological differences between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) after the merger, as the former wanted to have face-free and neutral politics. At the same time, the latter wanted to provide special privileges for the bumiputras (also known as the indigenous people from Malaysia).
For those unaware, PAP is the dominant political party in Singapore (which has made the news quite a few times in recent weeks for some members’ unsavoury conduct), and UMNO is the dominant political party in Malaysia.
Recently, incidents such as people criticising interracial couples have also brought to light the undercurrents of racism existing in Singapore.
Activities on Racial Harmony Day
To celebrate Racial Harmony Day, it is common for schools to organise various activities promoting racial harmony.
These often include allowing students and staff to wear traditional costumes of other races.
There’s no better time to see your favourite teachers don a sari or cheongsam than on this special day.
Schools may also offer different traditional games, food and quizzes about other races to increase the students’ knowledge and understanding of other races.
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