Skin-deepPosted: October 4, 2008
When I read this in Malaysiakini about a blog posting that allegedly posted insulting remarks about Indians in Malaysia, I decided to go have a look.
I was also able to read the said posting, which has been removed from the blog itself.
The first thoughts that entered my brain were these:
Do I defend her rights for expressing her anger and disappointment over having her cellphone stolen?
Or do I be extra critical for her posting such insulting words and remarks, and over-generalising people according to race?
As a Malaysian Chinese, do I defend her? Or do I be extra critical of her?
I had to stop my thoughts right there, because I was going in the wrong direction altogether. I was thinking of how I’m supposed to react when one of ‘my own kind’ wrote something as insensitive as that.
She has since posted 3 apologies on her blog. The comments that were coming in were diverse to say the least. Some thought that she redeemed herself by apologising, some thought that mere apology wasn’t enough, and some even went as far as calling her all sorts of names and cursing her. I think there was one comment who suggested the authorities to use the ISA.
Some of the comments, I realised, came from Malaysian Chinese, and they identified themselves as such. These were the comments that were critical of her, saying that she should really think before she writes, and that a mere apology that ‘isn’t even sincere’ and ‘made grudgingly’ wasn’t enough.
There were those who identified themselves as Malaysian Indians, and they were the more forgiving ones. After admonishing her for being so unthoughtful, most of these comments ended along the lines of “Just make sure you don’t do it again”.
Of course, there were comments coming from unidentified persons, as it were, and I will make no attempt to group them into any particular group.
But to go back to my earlier thoughts of “To defend or to criticise”, is it just all too easy to fall back to that familiar thread of ‘communal thinking’? Would my line of thought be any different if it were a Malay who posted such remarks, and not a Chinese ‘like my own’?
Do we really focus so much on ‘who said it’ instead of ‘what was being said’? Sadly, I think I’ve proven to myself that it is easy enough to fall back on that trap of ‘communal thinking’.
I had to pull myself back from thinking ‘like a Chinese’ in response to what ‘another Chinese’ said, and almost lost the plot that the important thing is actually ‘what she said’.
It’s not supposed to make a difference if the person who wrote such things is a Chinese or Malay or Indian or Mat Salleh or anyone else.
So, after rearranging my thoughts, and coming from this direction, I am absolutely appalled by what she wrote. Given that she was angry that someone stole her cellphone from right off of her table, right next to her hand, it didn’t give her the privilege of cursing and lumping all Indians into one lump of degrading words and adjectives.
It was A PERSON who stole her cellphone, not the Indian community as a whole. If she wanted to be angry, she should have targetted her anger and disbelief at that ONE PERSON. Some have suggested that this is exactly why there is a phrase that goes “Don’t write anything when angry”. More often than not, we end up writing up ridiculous nonsense that we only live to regret.
It is hurtful when we get lumped into this category of ‘no good people’ simply by virtue of having the same skin colour. If we are to really want a united Malaysia, we should stop grouping ourselves and others according to the colour of our skin. That is literally just skin-deep.
So coming back to this particular issue, what happens now that she has issued an apology? (Her earlier apologies do not count, as they were specifically targetted to ‘educated and good Indians’, and only if they were offended by the said posting. That assumes, wrongly, that ‘uneducated’ Indians, along with people of other ethnicities don’t qualify for an apology)
Hindraf, who were the ones to bring this issue up, have decided that she has done enough, and are ready to accept her apology.
So what about the rest of us?
KTemoc is of the opinion that we should forgive, but not forget. As for myself, I still find it hard to get over the things that she wrote. Very hurtful indeed. But if there is anything to be learnt from this incident, it is that we should all know that generalising people into lumps is just wrong, and would hurt more people than we think.