In this ever shrinking world, diversity is fast becoming another important factor to consider when talking about racial integration. Now, let us have a case study of racial diversity in Singapore. There are many subsets of racial diversity, and the first one that we are going to introduce is culinary diversity.
In the past, before the 1800s, the island was mostly occupied by indigenous Malays, with their traditional foods. However, after British colonization in 1819, many traders and immigrants flocked to the island to seek new business opportunities and/or better lives. These people included the Chinese, Indians, Malaysians, Indonesians Arabs, Eurasian, Caucasians and many others from around the world. Following them were the countless culinary skills, recipes and even utensils. For many early settlers, it was a food heaven, where one could sample different races' foods and delicacies. Things like curries and herbal soups, which were unheard of to Europeans back then.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, street hawkers gained increasing popularity, as immigrant workers needed a cheap and satisfying source of food, and hawker food fitted snugly into that category. Typical hawkers came in two varieties; hawkers which went from neighborhood to neighborhood selling common foodstuffs such as eggs and roasted cuttlefish, and hawkers who set up shop along roads selling staples and snacks. With so many hawkers each selling their own traditional foods, there were no culinary boundaries, and culinary fusion quickly increased its pace. Popular fusion foods were Roti John, a bread fried with egg and minced meat, Fried Kway Teow, or flat rice noodles with a sweet soy sauce, and many others; one could spend an entire book just talking about them.Not only that, local chefs trained by the British gave a unique touch to some local foods, such as fried Hainanese pork chop with tomato gravy. Or chicken pies with added peppers and other spices.
Now, in modern Singapore, eating still remains as a national pastime; and every year, festivities such as the Singapore Food Expo would be organized to celebrate Singapore's diversity in the culinary field, but would this be possible without all the different races together? We think not...
The next part of diversity we would be talking about is language diversity. As said earlier on, large numbers of immigrants and traders came to Singapore to seek a better life. These people each brought their individual languages and dialects along with them from their home countries. At first, the settlers came and lived in their own defined areas. Many lived in kampongs (small local villages) and had little contact with people of other races.
However, after Singapore's separation from Malaysia, it started to implement rules on housing, stating that each block of flats must have a certain proportion of people of different races. New government schools catered to people of all races unlike some race/religion specific mission schools in the past. People were encouraged to interact with one another through numerous community-organized programs and CIP. Many signposts all over the island were even replaced with signs sporting 4 languages, English, Chinese, Indian and Malay, the main races that make up the Singaporean population.
It is no surprise then that over time, as the people spoke to each other, they lent their influence of numerous different languages to the national language, English. Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil phrases contribute to the creation of this form of Singaporean english, or Singlish. The great influence from such a large diversity of languages, it is no wonder that many non-Singaporeans find Singlish extremely hard to understand. Examples of Singlish include,
"Wa lau, why he so malu for what? No need to be like that mah."
Did you understand it? Well, now well help you 'decipher' it. "Wa lau" has origins from Chinese dialects, and it is a form of exclamation placed at the front of a statement. "why he" is literally why is he, with the is left out. "Malu" is a Malay word to mean embarrassed, and "for what" is a suffix used as an question of exclamation with a meaning similar to "what for?". "No need to be like that" means, "there is no need to be like that", and "mah" is a suffix of Cantonese origin and is used to express something obvious. In proper English, the sentence should be,
"Why did he get so embarrassed? There's no need to be like that."
Without much need for explanation, you can see the obvious differences diversity brings. Moreover, when a large diversity twines together to form a united front, you know that racial integration is well on its path. As seen from the food and language examples, both started out as many different things that eventually integrated into one common Singaporean identity. However, all these examples can be applied universally in any situation; not just in Singapore but anywhere in the world.
Back to topic
Now, what does diversity have to do with a shrinking world? You see, as we have more opportunities to relate with people of different races around us, the level of diversity in today's society will continue to grow, and it is how well you can relate with others in this diversified field that makes the difference. Diversity, a problem and an answer to our ever shrinking world; diversity what helps us advanced in this new world.