I read this in today’s ST Forum. I’ve reproduced it below.
The naivety and the underlying racism of this letter is making me very upset. In the first place, has this guy never encountered people who have worked hard yet not achieved what they hoped to? Does he really think that hard work is all that is needed to succeed in life? And also, he is clearly implying in his letter that the Malays are lazier, less competitive and thus not succeeding in society.
People like Mr Chen Junyi here, who blithely think that it is simply a lack of effort that makes the difference as to how well you do in the world are either incredibly naive as to the workings of society or have been incredibly privileged in life and never descended from their ivory tower.
We all know that the Malays are under-performing both academically and professionally. To blame this all on their laziness, lack of competitive spirit or lack of desire is simplistic and helps no one. Everyone starts life at different starting points – some, through sheer luck, are born into wealthy families and have everything at their feet. Others start out life less fortunately and are born into families who are barely able to support themselves. Who has a better chance at success? The child who can attend tuition, who has the opportunity to travel and see the world, who worries about nothing except his/her studies, who attends independent schools with wonderful facilities or the child who has to work part-time to help his family, who has parents who cannot help him/her in his/her school work, whose parents are too busy working to be around, who attends schools filled with similar students and thus are unable to provide a similar experience as the “elite” schools?
There is a student in one of my classes. Malay of course, whose father has disappeared and whose mother married again and kicked him and his brother out of the house. For some time, they lived with their aunt but she didn’t want the responsibility of looking after teenagers and so told them to leave. Now, they sleep wherever they can find shelter and naturally, they need to work to eat. As a result, although he works hard in school, he is often absent. Now you tell me, when he does not succeed in life, whose fault is it? Is it his because he was not working hard enough? Perhaps he should sleep less, eat less so he can work less and come to school instead. Of course the school is trying to help him but he isn’t the only student we have like this. There are so many of them with varying levels of problems.
So yes, the Malays are not doing as well as the other races but this is only going to continue if no one is willing to help them and instead conveniently lay the blame at their feet, claiming they are a group of lazy people. It is because people perpetuate the idea that the Malays are lazy that many employers are reluctant to hire them. I’ve even heard teachers complain that certain schools have too many Malays in them, that’s why the school’s ranking will never improve. When people already give up on the community and give up on people because they belong to that race, then that’s racism. Sure, we don’t hurl stones at them or beat them up, but we limit their opportunities in life, refuse to help them and then blame them when they can’t seem to rise above their problems.
I get angry when people say that there is no racism in Singapore, that we are a harmonious multiracial country because that’s just not true and believing that means we never talk about racism and we never come up with solutions to this. Just a month ago, I brought my students for a competition. The students were all Malays (and female) and when the opposing team saw this, they said, within earshot of my students, that this round would be an easy win because their opponents were Malays.
As a postscript, I want to point out that despite what others may say about meritocracy in Singapore, it has been found that there perhaps really isn’t much social mobility in Singapore. If you are born into the middle class, than chances are you will remain there.
Puzzled by professor’s Malay argument
I AM puzzled that Associate Professor Hussin Mutalib disagrees with the Government’s dismissal of United Nations Special Rapporteur Githu Muigai’s comments on affirmative action (‘Don’t be too quick to dismiss views’; Tuesday).
Prof Hussin identified only two possible answers to the conundrum of the PSLE performance of Malay students, the median income of Malay households and the percentage of Malays in administrative and managerial jobs.
I do not think any ethnic group is cleverer than another. But the cultural background of an ethnic group has a significant influence on the aspirations of its members.
By aspirations, I do not mean day-dreaming but a desire and willingness to commit oneself towards a target.
One cannot honestly say that one aspires to be a superb soccer player like David Beckham if one makes little effort to be good with the ball.
Does Prof Hussin know of Malay Singaporeans who, through no lack of effort, failed to achieve their aspirations?
Success in life owes more to determination than intelligence.
The challenges faced by Malay pupils in the Primary School Leaving Examination, such as lack of support and affirmation from their families, are not unique to the Malay community.
The same proportion of Chinese and Indians face the same problem.
What is different is the degree of peer pressure in each ethnic community.
In fact, such pressure in the Chinese and Indian communities often results in an unhealthy degree of competition by proxy among adults and undue stress on their children.
In their adult lives, many also suffer from their pursuit of material possessions, seeking advancement in their careers out of financial motivation rather than personal satisfaction.
Finally, any national stimulus package should benefit all underachieving students rather those from a particular ethnic group.
Customisation to different profiles of students should be done according to attributes such as their individual aptitudes and aspirations rather than their ethnic background.