Qipao debate gave insight into Singapore minorities

I commend the recent analysis on the issue of cultural appropriation surrounding the teenager in the United States who wore a qipao to her prom (Why some are offended over qipao prom dress; May 5).

Interestingly, netizens from China supported the girl's decision to wear their cultural costume to prom, while Chinese Americans took issue with it.

Following the row, I remember reading a Facebook comment from a Chinese Singaporean friend: "The way China reacted is the way it should be. We must prevent ourselves from being victims of the political correctness that has plagued the US."

As a fellow Chinese Singaporean, I am not surprised at this reaction.

We regard the teenager's use of the qipao as culture appreciation instead of appropriation, because it's easy for us to take this perspective when we make up the majority race in our country.

We are not discriminated against, and so we find it difficult to empathise with those who have been and still are.

On the other hand, Asian Americans were offended by the girl's dress because they felt their culture was often mocked while they were growing up in America as a minority.

As someone who has no idea how it feels to be a minority, it's not my place to tell them that their feelings don't matter or that they're being too sensitive.

Instead, this entire issue has taught me to empathise with minorities in Singapore.

They go through experiences unique to their position in society. If we aspire to be a better society, it is imperative that we listen when they speak.

I hope that teachers and parents will also use this opportunity to educate the younger generation on racial harmony and its nuances.

Michelle Lee Wei Yit (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Qipao debate gave insight into Singapore minorities'. Print Edition | Subscribe