Good-bye to racial politics?Posted: September 21, 2008
I have a Chinese friend. She went to Singapore to study for about 5 years all through secondary school, before coming to New Zealand. So I know her from uni.
That day, we were talking, and she said to me, “You Chinese in Malaysia have it real bad, haven’t you?”
I was like, huh? No…why?
She said that according to the Malaysian Chinese friends she made back in Singapore, most of them hated Malaysia. They said that they have no status in Malaysia, and that everything was given to the Malays. They were glad to be away from Malaysia, and never plan to go back. She said, “In general, all my Malaysian friends say that the Malays are lazy people who don’t do anything, and yet get everything, and the Chinese are left to fend for themselves. Is that not true?”
I had a hard time trying to explain to her that this wasn’t the case. She didn’t really buy my reasons. She said again, “But the government only helps the Malays right? They don’t give Chinese scholarships or places in local unis because they want to give it to the Malays. And the Malays don’t even deserve it, because they score so much lower than the Chinese!”
“All my friends don’t like the Malays.”
In the end, my friend said to me, “You’re the first Malaysian I’ve met so far who doesn’t hate the Malays.” You think I feel proud? It makes me feel sad.
And we wonder why racial politics has flourished in Malaysia for 51 years.
I wrote an article for Project Malaysia about racial politics in Malaysia. I wrote about how political parties based on race are detrimental to our well-being as a nation. Click HERE to read.
But it doesn’t really stop there. We can’t afford to push all the blame onto the political parties up there, and wash our hands of all responsibility for our own actions, words, and thoughts.
How many of us can really say that we’ve never felt like how my friend’s friends felt? How many of us can truly say that we don’t know people like that? How many of us can say that we’ve never been like that before? How many of us can say that we aren’t like that NOW?
Sure, we can say that we are the minority, and that the government is unfair in their policies, and that we are subject to discrimination. And it’s all probably true too. But argue we may till the cows come home, nothing is going to change if we don’t stop thinking of ‘us the minority’ against ‘them the majority’.
We’re not the only ones who are subject to discrimination and “racial slurs”. We’re all guilty of being myopic every once in a while. We’ve just got to see it, acknowledge that we’re still a work-in-progress, and stop turning around in an endless cycle of defensiveness.
When I wrote about the Ahmad Ismail case, where he called the Chinese in Malaysia ‘squatters’, I said that there is no question about the legitimacy of Chinese as citizens of Malaysia. Comments like “Yeah, if we’re pendatang, then the Malays are pendatang too!” only do more damage to an already crazy argument that was doomed to go nowhere.
If we really want to see an end to racial politics, we’ve got to start acting like we want it. Dr Mahathir, I believe, was not all wrong in his writing about how racial politics has stuck and grown roots in Malaysia. It is not entirely their fault. We have to assume some of the responsibility as well.
Don’t even imagine that racial politics is going to stop cold-turkey once Pakatan Rakyat takes over. Things don’t miraculously happen. Change takes time, and commitment. You want change? You BE the change.
Read A. Asohan’s piece HERE. He’s probably summarised everything up better than I have.
We need to stop reacting to racism with our own bigotry. We must be willing to risk being labelled “traitors” to our own race for the sake of the nation we all belong to. We need to walk a mile in each other’s flip-flops.
Most of all, we need to stop ignoring each other’s pain.