Racial Discrimination in Singapore
I met my husband, *Nick, at a friend’s birthday party in 1979. Six years later, we got married. In the beginning, things went smoothly. But as we became more serious, his family started to have objections and my husband was influenced by his siblings.
When he broke up with me once, I was so depressed that I attempted suicide but I was rushed to the hospital in time by my best friend. Eventually, we made up—to the dismay of my family members who said, “There are so many other guys interested in you, why did you choose to be with him?”. Because of my marriage, I fell out with my own family.
During our wedding arrangements, one of *Nick’s brothers met with an accident and died on impact. I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral, for they blamed me for this death. His sister accused me of placing a curse on his brother, while the others said I was a bad omen to the family.
My parents didn’t attend my wedding; we only had a two-table dinner for his family and mine. During the ceremony, his sisters refused to serve tea to me. When I poured tea for his brother, he said, “When you marry into this family, don’t create any problems.” For me, my wedding was a sad one where I never received my parents’ blessings.
She spat and said, “I won’t eat with this bloody Indian bastard.”
While I was pregnant, my mother-in-law told me to sit and join for dinner at the coffee shop my father-in-law owns. Once I filled my bowl with rice, my sister-in-law spat on the floor and said, “I won’t eat with this bloody Indian bastard.” I’m actually a Portuguese-Teochew mix. I felt so humiliated but my husband didn’t utter a word.
When I delivered my eldest son, my sisters-in-law came to visit the baby—but not me. They almost successfully convinced him to get a divorce. Even today, my children, who inherited my skin colour and features, are always the last to be acknowledged. My in-laws still dislike my grand-daughter, even though she’s already 75% Chinese.
I live in fear of him hitting me
Till today, my husband still threatens to hit me and I live in fear because he used to do it. Throughout my marriage, my friends feared to visit me as they saw my husband as a ticking time bomb. They always wondered why I never left him even though I was financially independent. I always chalked it down to fate: if fate wants us to be together, no one can stop it.
I tolerated everything for the sake of my family. To pass my time, I joined friends in a charity organisation. With social work, my mind wandered less and I became less focused on my own worries. I always reminded myself that I chose this. But after everything, I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets. If I were a pure Chinese, things would be entirely different.
Things mixed race couples in Singapore should know
Even in a modern multi-racial society such as Singapore, it’s not rare to hear of racial discrimination within the family. After being married for 32 years, my only advice to mixed race couples is that you have to be ready for humiliation. Sure there’ll be good times, but as harsh as it sounds, be prepared for the worst if you choose to carry on with the relationship.
Every marriage requires sacrifice—some more than others—and at times, there may not always be two hands that clap. Don’t expect your partner to stand by you. Until you settle down, you won’t know what life with your partner truly entails.
This story was contributed by a ZULA reader, in response to the article about mixed race couples.
*Names were changed to protect identities.