Friday, September 26, 2008

Malaysia: I am a racist. Are you?

While Malaysia might not be my birthplace, it is certainly the place where I was raised throughout my life. Despite of what I say about myself, it's hard to imagine growing up in anywhere except for Malaysia and be anything but Malaysian. The values learned still bears a stark contrast to the cultures I'm more comfortable with everywhere else. One of which reflects the inherent birthright of every Malaysian because I am a racist.

Yes you heard me. I am a racist, that Malaysian you know is a racist, that person raised in Malaysia is a racist. In fact, everyone born and raised in Malaysia is a racist.

How could we not be? Regardless of whether Malaysia claims to be a racially tolerant nation, from young we are taught to look at our skin colour, our language and our beliefs. What's yours is different from other people and with it comes the stigma that's all too coloured.

"The Malays are lazy and want to convert everyone to Islam…"

"The Chinese want your money and care for nothing else…"

"The Indians are dirty and will steal from you…"


These beliefs are drilled into the minds of every child with every Malaysian parent in an unending cycle. Echoed in the simple friendships we make to the people we fall in love with. Interracial relationships have it hard in Malaysia, more so given the differences in religious beliefs that primarily govern every race. These differences are reinforced by our peers and even more so by the education system. Regardless of whoever claims that they are not the least bit racist, it is that awareness of our physical, cultural and religious beliefs that starts the long line towards a "racial" segregation.

Even though, other Malaysians children do outstandingly well in their education, it is the Malaysian Malays that benefit the most from Government scholarships, If I still recall correctly, the racially enforced public university quota still exists. To what end, I can't even fathom, but it does breed an underlying belief in the core of our society, that whatever you do, you're never going anywhere unless you're born into it, or rich enough to escape it. A belief that has turned into a wall of mistrust and suspicion between the races in Malaysia.

Perhaps the worst part of Malaysian racism is our subconscious quest to prove that we're better, not just as a nation, but as a racial and religious stigma. Religion and race are tied as one in Malaysia. By law, every Malay is automatically a Muslim. It is enforced in forms we write and the social security cards we carry with us all the time. The walls separating the people further raised by religious differences stereotypically carried by birthright. Sometimes it's no longer about the cultural stereotype, but whose God is better. An argument that has no ending, only a pathological misunderstanding, hatred and perhaps more than a fair share of broken hearts in between.

Then there is the motherload with Malaysian politics bringing to light the constant struggle for every racially governed faction to claim that they are better because everyone else is a racist but themselves. While I make it a point to never touch Malaysian politics, considering only a racially prejudiced person would single out anyone else that's different as a racist. This "pot-calling-the-kettle-black" hypocrisy of such claims beggars belief.

The only hope at least for something to change are the new generation of youths exposed to the world and all its ideals. Youths that are taking a stand somewhere along the line saying "Something is not right with our country". With that are youths who aren't afraid to admit that yes, we are racists, but by knowing that we are, we can start doing something to change that. By admission of our own faults, we can start by repairing the damage so future generations won't look at another person and think race first.

I'm not saying that this is going to be an easy road to walk on. I admit, I for one am a racist because I have a deep hatred for my own race and what it has stood for. I find myself hating the very structure of the system that has alienated me from people who I could have known better. But in knowing what I am, what I see and what I hate. I know exactly where to turn back from and where to make amends for.

If more people could do that. Then maybe Malaysia would become more than just a nation with racially tolerant people. It'll be just a nation with people and I like the sound of that.

malaysian chinese
via email
26/09/08

1 comment:

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