It might be yesterday’s news that Hong Kong is prone to its fair share of racial profiling; stories of mainlanders misbehaving are always met with a roll of the eyes and a branding of “typical”, and who could forget the textbook scandal, which perfectly illustrated Hong Kong’s culture of discrimination rather than promoting racial harmony, as was its aim.
However, what is new is that Tom Grundy, the man behind the Hong Wrong blog and the first person to bring the textbook travesty to light, is still willing to give his two cents on the matter as he lobbies for social change and equality. Good on you, Grundy!
Hong Wrong had to reset its servers as the post reached a whooping 250,000 page views with thousands of (some racist) comments when it originally went out in May this year. The textbook images also went viral and were featured in numerous publications worldwide.
Made by Educational Publishing House in Singapore for Grade 3 and 4 students in Hong Kong, the General Studies textbooks shocked Grundy and the majority of us for such blatant stereotyping. The New General Studies P3 textbook invites students to match race and profession, while The Wonderful Life textbook for Grade 4 makes a comparison between physical characteristics and race.
Educational Publishing House responded at the time by saying that the idea behind the exercise was to make students “thankful of people in various working positions”.
Check out this brilliant parody of the textbook. You’ve gotta laugh or you’ll cry!
Grundy, a co-founder of the HK Helpers Campaign – an advocacy group supporting Hong Kong’s some 220,000+ domestic workers – believes that the blunder was a classic case of the right idea but the wrong approach. He suggests that such ‘liberal arts’ courses (which the textbooks were made for) should be taught in a more holistic manner by involving minorities more in discussions.
Grundy added that Hong Kong is largely monocultural as 95 percent of the residents are ethnically Chinese.
Similarly, Yip Ho-ling, the executive director for advocacy at Hong Kong Unison, a charity that works to better the lives of ethnic minorities, told SCMP, “there is no discussion of Hong Kong as a multi-ethnic society. When you alienate the minorities, it creates an ‘us and them’ situation when we should be fostering one community.”
However, hopefully such shortsightedness has in fact resulted in a change for the better. The Educational Publishing House informed Grundy and the Education Bureau that it has engaged in an academic review to rectify the content accordingly, and will, in the future, consult various ethnic minorities and stakeholders “to avoid any unintended interpretation of our teaching materials.”
Here’s to change!