The weaponization of inclusivity
Singapore Paralympic swimmer, Sophie Soon, was in the news again last week. Soon had chosen to shame an employee and a business for what she termed discriminatory behavior.
Soon visited a local eatery with her guide dog and after the employee had consulted with her management, Soon, who was accompanied by her mother, was seated in the outdoor dining area with the guide dog. Soon claims that she was given three conditions by the employee in the video for remaining in the restaurant: the dog must be leashed, it must not be fed, and customers must not complain about the dog.
Soon, who was expecting sympathy from her Facebook video, was surprised by the backlash she received from netizens who called her out for being entitled and confrontational. Soon subsequently deleted her video, apologized, and said she would focus on positive content in the future.
For the record, while Singapore law allows guide dogs in restaurants, it does not require it. So it was well within the rights of Rocky Masters — a halal-certified restaurant frequented by Malay Muslims — to refuse Soon service if the management believes that the presence of the guide dog would make other customers feel uncomfortable. Soon, a self-proclaimed advocate for guide dogs knows this full well but has chosen to ignore this fact and portray it as her right.
This is the trouble with inclusivity movements. Inclusivity has been weaponization by irresponsible activists and innocent people become collateral damage.
While the absence of bias cannot be proven (as it is a perception), it is also wrong to conclude, without proof, that bias was present whenever you think there is discrimination. Simply put, just because you feel discriminated against, does not make it true. And, as it is human nature to see what we want to see, if you go around looking for discrimination you will find discrimination.
While I sympathize with Soon, I do think that she is being self-entitled. Her “right” to eat in Rocky Masters is not greater than the right of other patrons not to feel uncomfortable. To me, being socially responsible means that your rights do not infringe on the rights of others.
It is my hope that as we work to become a more inclusive society, we learn from this episode. The weaponization of inclusivity is counterproductive. Inclusivity is about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. With the former, the latter will take care of itself.