I feel like I am forced to embrace my Chinese identity.
Being brought up in a traditional Chinese family and having gone to two Chinese schools for a total of 6 years, I find it very surprising that I enjoy going to Little India and Kampong Glam more than I enjoy going to Chinatown, I find it very surprising that I absolutely love Bollywood, I find it very surprising that I want to embrace Islam. Sometimes, I look back at my life and still feel very amused at how much has changed over the span of 3 years. To be very honest, I love the way I am now because it has made me extra sensitive to the little joys and the subtle discrimination that the minority ethnicities face in Singapore. I personally believe it is very important to be open and embracing of the many differences present in our human race. We may not need to accept the differences wholely but we definitely need to respect them.
Back to how I feel like I am forced to be a “Chinese”. My friends would taunt me (jokingly) for not eating pork. I will just smile and dismiss it. The real issue comes when my parents tell me to act like a “Chinese”. What does that even mean? Well, to them, it means having a “Chinese” religion, finding someone who is a “Chinese”, upholding “Chinese” values and continuing the “Chinese” bloodline. I am really puzzled. I thought values while not necessarily being universal, they are common to a certain extent. I never knew values were an exclusive thing. Also, I thought blood was divided into different blood types, since when was blood categorised based on “race”/ethnicity? What exactly is a “Chinese” religion? Well, in highly-racialised Singapore where even religion is a victim of our CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) race policy, a “Chinese” religion usually refers to Buddhism or Taoism, Islam is reserved for the Malays and our Indian Muslim friends while Hinduism is reserved for Indians. It is 2018 and it is time we move past that.
In conclusion, I feel coerced to be a “Chinese” because I am expected by family and society to think and act like a “Chinese”. When will I be embraced for who I am on the inside, rather than my skin colour? I hope the questions raised in this submission will help readers start questioning “race” and its value. When will we be able to see one another as a human being, and not as that person’s “race”?
P.S. “Race” is in open-close inverted commas because I want to highlight that it is arbitrary in nature.
Tan En Nuo