Millennial Voices

Racism And Equality Through Inequality – Singapore’s 2017 Election In A Nutshell

Now, in case you let this piece of news slip under your Trump-filled radar over the past couple of weeks, let me get you up to speed.

On November the 8th (the day of the US Presidential Election, no less), PM Lee announced amendments to the Constitution that would reserve the next Presidential Election in 2017 for Malay candidates.

“Wait, what???”

Yeah, while you were busy Trumping about, our government slipped underneath the hairpiece of America’s racist President-Elect, and dropped a racist election on us.

Can I hear a yay for democracy?

Equality of Opportunity, and Equality of Outcome

What does it mean to be fair?

In a meritocratic society like Singapore is supposed to be, equality and fairness mean providing equal opportunity, regardless of the outcome.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, Malay or Indian, everyone gets an equal chance, as long as those characteristics don’t impact one’s suitability for the position in question. That’s equality.

Gaming the system to favour one race over others in an attempt to achieve some superficial semblance of equality through an underlying framework of inequality? That’s racism. That’s equality of outcome.

Imagine if the Olympic Committee announced that the 100m Sprint finals at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games would be reserved for Asian sprinters, because we haven’t had an Asian Gold medallist in that event in the longest time. Imagine the controversy, the PR nightmare.

“But that’s different!”

Oh yes, of course, that’s the Olympics! We’re only talking about a country’s president here. No need for the same standards of fairness.

That was sarcasm.

Social Progress and Race Neutrality

Malays do not need tokenistic hand-outs and special assistance from the government to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their countrymen. Malays are every bit as capable of being president as any other race, because race shouldn’t factor into political discourse at all. A Chinese president should represent ALL races, not just the Chinese, and so should a Malay president.

While the move to ensure a Malay president will help to present an image of racial harmony to the country and to the world, it will also sow the seeds of racial discord among the non-ignorant in Singapore. You can be president, if your skin colour is correct. Message received, loud and clear.

If we don’t pursue our country’s race-neutral ideals of equality and meritocracy, how will we ever achieve true social progress? You don’t move forward by moving backwards in the name of “pragmatism”. Sure, expecting absolute racial equality might be idealistic for now, but fair and race-neutral elections shouldn’t be that much to ask for, even in our current political climate.

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