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By Serene Leong
Race has been in the media for a lot of the wrong reasons recently.
We’ve seen xenophobic outbursts where people have been verbally and physically abused for being from another country or a particular race, and we all remember the infamous Dave Prakash incident where the Indian-Filipino Singaporean was lambasted by an ex-Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer for dating a Chinese girl (she is actually Chinese-Thai), among other racist comments.
This is the world we live in today, the world our children are growing up in. While parents are unable to avoid or prevent such incidents from happening, we can use them as teachable moments.
We can keep the conversation on racial harmony going at home, so that our children understand, accept and appreciate cultural differences.
Perhaps, we can also shift the lens to look at race from our children’s point of view.
For Children’s Day this year, The Pride, in collaboration with Interracial Family Singapore, spoke to six children about their interracial backgrounds.
Here’s what I learnt.
Children do not see race
As I entered the studio, I was greeted by Ariel, 7, whose parents are Nigerian and Indian-Chinese. She was playing and sharing her Lego with Kierann, 7, whose parents are Chinese and Indian.
“Is pink and purple your favourite colour?” I asked Ariel, observing the Lego blocks in her hands.
“No,” she replied with a grin. “I don’t have a favourite colour.”
Later, as we chatted on camera, I found out that Kierann speaks Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English while another girl, Klaire, 6, speaks English, Chinese, French and Japanese. It was both fascinating and heartwarming to see Klaire and Emma, 6, conversing in Chinese despite being from completely different races.
Do the kids like being mixed?
“Yes!” Many of them said with a smile.
“I like being mixed because I am unique,” Kierann announced.
However, even though mixed-race kids have the benefit of knowing more languages and being exposed to more cultures, they too experience difficulties being different from their peers.
8-year-old Mika explained: “During mother tongue lessons (in school), they don’t have a German language so I have to do it on Sunday. So I have to do something different during mother tongue (lessons). I usually draw.”
“Sometimes you get disturbed by other friends. Sometimes, you get called names,” said 10-year-old Kayla softly, and added that she feels angry when they do that but she ignores them.
Kierann said: “In my first day of school, my student care teacher said that I cannot eat Chinese food because they thought I was a Muslim.”
He had to tell his teacher that he was actually half-Chinese!
Children just want to have fun (and friends)
In the conversations I had with the kids, one topic gave them the most excitement: their friends.
“It’s more fun to have friends because we can play together,” said Klaire.
“Every time I see my friends we always play hide and seek. We like to say kind things and silly jokes,” Ariel added.
Their faces lit up when they talked about what they enjoyed doing with their friends in school, whether it was going for recess together, playing games like catching or just drawing rainbows!
It didn’t matter that their friends come from different races and backgrounds, it hardly mattered to them — they just enjoyed playing and doing things together. And that was what made their friendships special.
Mika said: “Even though I’m mixed, even though I don’t speak the same language, I still play the same thing as my friends.”
Kayla agreed. “It’s not important that my friends are not like me, but the most important thing is that we have fun together.”
Perhaps we adults can take a leaf out of their book and learn a thing or two from our children and the way they interact with each other.
The Pride wishes all children (and parents!) Happy Children’s Day!