Since today is Mother's Day, I want to say something about the woman who gave birth to me, raised me and still nags at me to get my hair cut.
She is a racist.
Mum used to warn me not to play with the neighbour's kids - of another ethnic group - as they were 'dirty'.
And she also forbade me to marry anyone outside my race. And even if the girl is Chinese, she absolutely positively could not be Khek (or Hakka). Why?
Because, my mum said, we were Hainanese - as if that explained everything.
Even when young, I had been easily unnerved by blanket assumptions made of whole swathes of people.
So imagine the shock of hearing such vileness from my own mum, otherwise as loving and caring as mothers are supposed to be.
The struggle was to reject her racism, but not her. To embrace her, but not her bigotry.
She's my mum, after all.
For many children, unfortunately, this is how racism is handed down from generation to generation.
My mother probably learnt it from her mother. Like charity, it begins at home.
I'm not saying that the parents of the PSC scholar who made the racist comments in his blog should take all the blame.
But surely parents have the responsibility not to turn their kids into bigots.
They should teach their children not just 'racial tolerance', but to celebrate the diversity of all races.
Mind you, like most people, I suffer lapses.
Once, I had an argument with one of two Indian colleagues in my office. He denied saying something that I knew he had.
In exasperation, I blurted out that, if it wasn't he who said it, then it was the other Indian - because they both looked alike to me.
I regretted it the moment I said it.
And I've come to realise that he, as a member of a minority race in Singapore, has learnt to accept such incidents as part of life here.
I experienced the same thing when I was a student in the US.
My best buddy in college was a blond Irish-German Protestant named Darren. He had befriended me because he mistakenly thought I could teach him gongfu.
He was fond of calling me 'Chinaman' and 'ricehead', and half-jokingly saying 'Chinks have no soul'.
So was he a cardboard-cutout bad guy?
Yet Darren also took me home to meet his small-town family for Thanksgiving, who seemed good people.
Ironically, he would move to Taiwan to teach English and marry a 'chink' girl he met there.
I wonder how her mother felt about the marriage. Mine would freak out.
Happy Mother's Day, Mum!
- Published in The New Paper, 8 May 2005
TRENDING POSTS OF THE WEEK
A week ago, The Straits Times reported that middle-aged men are getting testosterone injections to boost their sex drive. This confused...
It’s like 1996 all over again. Only instead of the Macarena , we’re dancing Gangnam Style . Instead of watching the White House get bl...
Another major MRT disruption, another call for the SMRT CEO to resign . In the wake of tonight's massive MRT fiasco, will SMRT CEO Des...
Talk about box office gross behaviour. By now, even non-movie buffs should know who Harvey Weinstein is. But did you know Weinste...
Dear Jem, Congratulations on your opening yesterday. Four days late. Wink, wink. Just between you and me, the delay was intentiona...
A few days ago, my former employer, MediaCorp, announced the surprise resignation of its chief executive officer, Lucas Chow. So what ...
I first met Darryl David at Gurmit Singh's wedding dinner in 1995. David's date was a woman named Lynette Pang , who was a stag...
Two years ago, when celebrity radio deejay Glenn Ong revealed that he was dating fellow MediaCorp deejay Jean Danker after splitting fro...
Last month, it was reported that Nike would stop supplying to smaller shops like those in Queensway Shopping Centre and Peninsula Plaza. ...
There will be no Today tomorrow. At least in print form. On Friday, Mediacorp published the final print edition of Today newspaper and S...