Sometimes, it’s better to see everything and say nothing.
“You cannot get a nose piercing because you’re Chinese.”
My heart sank when this is what my parents said—loud and clear over the phone—when I asked them if I could get a nose piercing.
“Was it your Indian housemates who influenced you to get one? You’re spending too much time with them!” Mum roared, already enraged at my proposed suggestion.
“You’re Chinese, not White or Indian. If you get a piercing, you’ll be despised by our relatives and our fellow church members. We dare not face them,” Dad remarked.
My eyes widened at the absurdity of it all, trying to digest the words that has just been fired towards me at top speed. I was appalled and rendered speechless by their firmness.
Many parents would not consent to their children to have piercings, and that, to me, is perfectly normal. Sadly, what irked me was how they chose to say ‘no’ to me. It is how they used ‘race’ to justify their argument of why I should not get a piercing. It is how they said ‘no’ in a prejudiced way, without bothering to ask me what my motivations were behind my desire to get a piercing, which might be useful in their parenting if they truly wanted to understand me better.
Growing up with prejudiced parents makes you more aware of the problem because it hits so close to home, and you feel more helpless because sometimes their prejudice is so strong it overpowers you. It is extremely difficult, to grow up with parenting methods that are influenced by such prejudiced opinions and—knowing that it is bad—having to work very hard your whole life in order to resist them.
At the same time, I do understand why my parents reacted this way. A huge stigma still exists in my hometown and sadly, my parents still care about what other adults think, despite my countless efforts to tell them that they should not allow other people’s opinions to dictate their life. As much as I understand them, I truly do not admire their lack of courage to stand up against the norms. They not only chose to conform, but also expected—and still expects—me to do so.
“If you get a piercing now, what are you going to get next? A tattoo? Do drugs?”
“We sent you overseas for an education, not to change your appearance.”
They proceeded to remark that I was on the road to becoming an ‘Ah Lian’—a Singaporean slang used to describe the archetype of a lowly educated, crude and distasteful female. They expressed their disappointment, talking as if getting a nose piercing would cause all knowledge I’ve gained from my university education to magically disappear.
Under this assumption lies a prejudice that all people with a certain appearance are bad; and I really do wish, that nobody would ever have to deal with these words from their parents’ mouth. I really do wish, that nobody would ever be judged by their parents according to how they look like and not how they behave. The ‘slippery slope’ argument my parents made about getting a piercing—that is, Action A leads to Action B—is unfounded.
Growing up with prejudiced parents costs. And it costs a lot.
I have been hesitant about introducing my black friends to them, hoping deep down that they won’t say anything to them that hurts or embarrasses them.
I have hidden my friend’s true sexuality from my parents, knowing that they would not allow me to be friends with him if they knew he was gay.
I could not stand the thought of my parents bad-mouthing my friends in front of me and behind their backs. They have done so to some of them even though they did not meet them in real life before.
When you’re raised by prejudiced parents, you are aware that society is what it is today—less tolerant and more hateful—because of people like them. You are aware that all these activist marches for equal rights and rallying speeches exist just to fight people like them. You wonder if their opinions are worth respecting if it’s not backed up by facts.
It hurts, to see the two people that you care most deeply about discriminate those who are gay, and stereotype people based on their skin colour, race, nationality, and appearance. You fear for them, knowing that they might not get away with the things they say should they say it in public one day.
It hurts, to see the two people whom you are supposed to emulate and look up to, say the very things you look down upon. It takes a lot to respect their reasons of why I should not get a piercing, even though I do not agree with it at all.
In the 21st century, we were always taught to speak up in the fight of love, equality and human rights. We were always taught to fight, to talk, to advocate. It is critical that we must do so wisely. Sometimes, in the case of the home, it’s better to see everything and say nothing; for words seem so foolish when we are unable to talk sense into close-minded people no matter how hard we try.
We are still fighting an unseen battle, however. Wherever there is opposition, there is a fight. Our role is to stay vigilant and not fall prey to such negative influences. Our fight begins within.
People may say that writing this article is an act of rebellion. It isn’t. The purpose of this article isn’t to shame my parents, or to expose them.
I am writing this because it’s proof that the root of the problem stems from every individual; and sometimes, it starts from the very small unit of the family and spreads like wildfire to the society outside. I am writing this for any child out there that faces the same situation, and I hope that you know your strength is enough to fight against the hate and discrimination in this world. I hope that you know you are doing very well, and your efforts in resisting these prejudices will be rewarded one day.