Parabjot Kaur Singh, Board Member of Punjabi Language Education Association, was brought up in Surrey. In an email interview with Surbhi Gogia she talks about her growing up days and the bias people have towards the city she loves
How was it to be born and growing up in Surrey – a city that has always been target of media due to gangs and gun violence?
There were more positive than negative moments while growing up in Surrey because majority of Surrey’s youth is doing exceptionally well and living good lives. Growing up in Surrey did have its cons such as Punjabi male adolescents following the wrong path, fearful parents disallowing their children to go out after dark, and relatives discussing about how difficult it has become to trust young kids nowadays. However, most of my life was surrounded by positive vibes that took place in our very own city, Surrey.
Have you ever faced bias belonging to the city?
I have faced bias due to the city of Surrey itself, but I don’t think I’ve had a moment where I have been directly labeled as a “Surrey girl.” I can recall a moment when people have rated Surrey more unsafe than other cities in BC’s lower mainland.
During a group discussion in one of my classes, we discussed about the cities in which we grew up. A couple of the group members began to compare the cities and all of them agreed and rated Surrey as the worst city to grow up and live in. I was the only one from Surrey in the group. I didn’t agree with their opinion, but respected it nonetheless. Even though their argument was based on statistics, the generalization did not reflect the majority of Surrey’s youth.
Do you think that there is much brighter side of the Surrey youth that is being ignored?
Bright young people are everywhere in Surrey. We just have to reflect on the positive side of our city and it is much bigger than the negativity that we hear about Surrey.
What are the dreams and aspirations the youth?
The youth of Surrey dreams and aspires about similar things as the rest of youth from other places. We want good careers, safety in the city, role models, and opportunities to thrive in our lives.
What do you think society should do to correct this stereotypical image?
Being human, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of almost everything. Society needs to focus on the positive along with the negative. If we only focus on the negative aspects, we will recall negative aspects of our city. This is why we have this stereotypical image of gang violence flooding in our minds about Surrey. We must not forget that majority of Surrey’s youth are doing amazing things with their lives. For example, high school students give back to the community through organizing fundraising events such as bottle drives, blood drives, taking care of the environment and much more.
We need to put in more effort to recognize these individuals and lend them a helping hand in any way we can. Furthermore, healthy communication between parents and children must take place in the home every day, especially in the evenings. It is extremely important for parents to be role-models for their children.
Healthy communication leads to forming a strong bond between parents and children as well. Children and adolescents sometimes find it difficult to discuss their problems with their parents. We need more mental health facilities that they can easily access. It is really important that teachers, parents and other adults recognize any unhealthy emotional symptoms in young people before they become a bigger problem. It is usually unresolved emotional problems that lead young people into entering the wrong path. These are a few of the many steps that we can take as a society to break the stereotypical image of Surrey.