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  • Writer's pictureJeslyn Chng

Strength in Colors

Mankind can trace the breadcrumbs of its ancestry back to the ancient Africans, as extensive researches have claimed. However, the world as we see it now is no longer one of uniform ethnicity, which includes social norms, cultural practices, and beliefs. Instead, it is one where differences in ethnicity are prominent and indisputable, but not always accepted or valued. Recently, media around the globe has put ethnic diversity in the limelight, and despite the controversy of the issue, living in an ethnically diverse society is vastly beneficial.

A society with diverse ethnicities is the golden key to learning to accept differences in cultures, thereby fostering a more peaceful and harmonious community. As people are brought up in a multi-ethnic society, we become accustomed to intermingling amongst people of different cultures and the presence of groups of various beliefs and traditions around us. This ingrained familiarity teaches us to complement each other in a diverse society by recognizing each other’s cultural differences and embracing them, thereby reducing the number of xenophobic individuals in the country. It also strengthens people’s ability to integrate into a country of different cultures as we are used to interacting with people of various ethnicities, thereby strengthening social cohesion. For example, Singapore is a harmonious melting pot of cultures, where 40% of marriages each year are between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans, implying the fact that living in a diverse society allows people of different ethnicity to reach out to one another, building friendships in a peaceful country.

Besides, living in an ethnically diverse society builds in us a greater appreciation of various cultures while fabricating a vibrant and charismatic community. Exposure to a wide variety of cuisines, mother tongues, and cultural festivities spice up the lives of citizens. People’s interests are piqued when they discover new things, from watching a cultural performance to learning a foreign language. The interactions between different ethnic groups also provide a platform for deeper understanding and higher recognition of the varying cultures and beliefs, as citizens see and experience different cultural norms. From where I come from in Malaysia, the presence of various ethnic groups like Malays, Chinese and Indians spice up the lives of Malaysians by providing a huge array of traditional food, from ketupat to char koey teow to roti canai. Evidently, the fusion of people from diverse ethnicities builds a nation with character, style, and variety.  

Living in a diverse society also facilitates the exchange of skills and information. When people of different ethnic backgrounds come together to work and collaborate, diffusion of knowledge occurs. This is due to variation in people’s upbringing and education, hence prompting contrasting ideas which often leads to greater chances of success on a project. The local population also benefits when foreign talents and expatriates pass down their skills and expertise. For example, a collaboration between Singapore’s research company, A*STAR, and Switzerland’s Cytos Biotechnology AG led to the discovery of the H1N1 flu vaccine. With the exchange of ideas and information, made feasible by the openness of a multi-ethnic society, the country would benefit from the exchange of expertise which propels progress and development.

We are, especially recently, familiar with the claim that living in an ethnically diverse society is a stimulus for racial riots and social unrest. The hate-brewing killings of African-Americans George Floyd, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and so many others have shown that tensions and frictions arise from interactions in a diverse society. Even 31% of Asian-Americans have experienced discrimination since the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is, however unpleasant, part, and parcel of moving towards a more peaceful global society. Peaceful protests that uphold the name of racial equality is the lighthouse which guides people towards finding common ground in a diverse society. The increasing awareness of racial inequality across the world has greatly fueled the progress of humankind to achieve racial harmony. No man is an island and no country can completely sever ties with people of different ethnicities. Hence, in order to minimize tensions when interacting with ethnically different people, we must first learn to adapt to cultures and practices that vary from our own. We need to learn to embrace and respect these differences. Living in a diverse society is the fundamental, albeit tricky, way to achieve this goal. Therefore, it is undeniable that a diverse ethnic society is critical in working towards the greater good of the world.

We are better when we are together. Growing up in an ethnically diverse country, I have learned to see beauty when different cultures fuse to form one harmonious nation. The variation in culture and beliefs brings about recognition and appreciation for the differences as well as the exchange of valuable skills and expertise. With the rapid progress of globalization, no longer are we the homogeneous ancient African society, but a diverse society of ethnicities that complement each other, running the race towards the constructive development of humankind. Indeed, strength lies not in similarities, but in differences. 

To read more articles from Jeslyn Chng click here

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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