I Am A Racist

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.

14 thoughts on “I Am A Racist

  1. You are right. I am also a racist…and that part of me really started when I was turned down for a scholarship even though I did much better than a schoolmate of mine who was of the “preferred race”.

  2. If he is not a racist, then the whole Putra Jaya offices would be a nice place to look at.

  3. Bravo! Great write up! Even University Malaya chooses to place students into dorms and student unions with their own race – so much for 50 years of Merdeka.

  4. Sad but true. =( How we wish it isn’t so, how we fight against it. But in the end it is in our psyches, it is in our skin, it is hardwired into us.

    Malaysia has a long way to go.

  5. One of my closest friends here in Melbourne is from KL, and he echoes all the racial sentiments you talked about. He sticks with them, but yeah, it’s all in how you’re taught. The bad thing about racism and reverse racism is that, no matter which it is–shaming or celebrating of color–it separates people. In America, the whole liberal white guilt thing can be just as bad at times, because it’s still a misunderstanding of people. People shouldn’t be ashamed or celebrate a skin color any more than a color from the color wheel. Color isn’t really what it’s about. Skills, personalities…those are the things that matter and should define how we see the people around us.

    I hope we get to that point one day, but it seems that we only find ourselves in extremes, at present: either racist or reverse racist. A great example of the latter is how when I used to lie on standardized tests about my race–because I thought that was a pointless field–I only ever got scholarship offers if I was black or Hispanic. I made excellent grades, as a white girl, but I didn’t get any offers for that.

    Things will work out eventually, though, I reckon, though not in our lifetimes. Either evolution and travel will do their work, and we’ll all end up beige eventually, or we’ll just wise up. My bet is we’ll have to go beige before everyone learns.

  6. pablopabla: Or maybe even earlier. Part of being raised in Malaysia is the inescapable upbringing that we will always differ from other races. The sad thing is many of us don’t know what we’re doing because do not know any better.

    Shower: I’m not sure who you’re referring to, but I’ll just nod my head and smile. 🙂

    Rave: There are student unions for different races? I’m sorry but what? I haven’t heard that piece of news before.

    Eli: Hardwired? Hardly. It’s passed on from our parents and peers yes, but it’s not hardwired. It starts when someone decides to break the cycle. If there are to be any real changes it starts with us knowing what we can do to change and our future generations to learn the better way. It’s not like there is no choice.

    Lelia: It’s a long time since I’ve heard from you! Reverse racism is just as bad because it still embodies the fact we’re separated by race and to make things worse, we’re apologetic for it. You’re right by saying we don’t have to be ashamed for WHAT we are much less condemn people for the same reason.

    The thing is though, traveling doesn’t do much to change people’s mindset of race if they choose not to open themselves up to it. I have seen even my own peers stick with the bunch because they are just too closed to mingle.

    Whether we wise up or not is a different story. But as long as there are people like us who stand and say “there is a better option”, then there is always hope. Until then, that’s the reality we have to face. One where people will always look at different colours.

  7. I am lucky that I am bringing up my kids (who are of mixed heritage) in the UK. Hopefully they will grow up without a racist mentality.

  8. Oh, I’m fighting it, Edrei – it’s just so hard sometimes, when everyone around you is making the same generalizations and the same comments about other races.

  9. Adam: They will grow up with a different mentality. It’s all about how you nurture them from the start.

    Eli: Then at least don’t buy into it. Know what you’re capable off and make a difference from there. I know you have enough common sense to know it doesn’t matter.

  10. i still stand by my beliefs that in order to truly break the mold one must be willing to admit that one is guilty of the sin… and i agree, I am racist too, now what am I going to do about it.

    its a pity too many people keep defending their right to be not racist, and there’s so much energy thrown into arguing who is more racist than the other, who deserves the label more than the other. In the end after all is said and done, more is said than done.

  11. i’m racist because i believe i am a victim in this country. i will be overlooked for a promotion because of the colour of my skin. my children will have to work doubly hard because of their names. i believe that hard work can only bring me so far…which makes me wonder why i should still try anyway.

    of course i’m trying not to feel that way. after all, my friends are of all races and whatever they have received, more often than not it is exactly what they deserved. plus i’m sure the main reason those policies are put in place is not to victimise certain groups of people in malaysia. but until i won’t ever be 100% certain until the day i am there with the people who implement those policies, until i am able to change them if the need be.

    still, am trying to be optimistic. there is hope for this country yet. in 20 years, our generation will govern malaysia and that’s when i think things will really look up.

  12. Minishorts: It’s all about accountability and the public face. People don’t stop and think that the damage is already done, so why not try it from a different angle?

    Lishun: Change starts in yourself and the people around that you affect. You’re always needed to change what’s wrong. To better what’s worse. These things take more than just a few days to make a difference let alone a single day to change everything. It takes constant influence over yourself and your surroundings. So rather than being optimistic, why not be active as part of the process? A single person might not be able to change the world, but at least it’ll help it along the way. Just like everyone else.

  13. @Shower, Edrei and all – I’m not sure if you ever work in MNCs or not. While you only notice that Putrajaya was occupied by mostly folks from 1 race (you know which one, I can say similar things on the private sector especially MNC. Does it happen because of favouritsm or they have insufficient qualification?

    Yeah, you may said that it is due to your own capacity and capabilities, still there is a racist sentiment. Ok, I give you one sample

    When managers mostly hired from 1 race, the rest of employees from other races different from the managers were success in their interview when they’re interviewed by westerner/outsider. Is this coincidence if it happens few times to you and your team mate?

    Now on the promotion .MNC has proper assessment and evaluation system, better than our s**k gov, but I have witnessed numbers of incident when folks that highly regarded even by our overseseas counterpart didn’t get that due to his color. And to make thing worst, the chosen 1 is totally crap. You see, the system built by human can be gamed by any races

    One can easily saying nonsense and generalizing everything about other races without looking at the bigger picture. And one can point out the favouritism toward one race when one didn’t get what he feel he deserved .The same pain, felt by me in MNCs.

    I won’t hate my teammates from other races and talk bad, because I know that they feel the same being indiscriminate like me but maybe on other field such as maybe studies

    When certain group of people in certain races doing bad, it doesn’t mean that the rest of them are similar.

    This is the truth that hard to get rid of. Talking crap and nonsense toward other races won’t solve the problem. I prefer living in Harmony with everyone

  14. I never said it was due to your own capabilities. I just said that if you’re in Malaysiam whatever you do will be subjected to racial prejudice, irregardless of where you’re at. While I’m not fluent in the works of Multi-national corporations (which I assume is what MNC stands for), I would expect the same kind of racial biasness anywhere especially if whoever makes those decisions are raised in Malaysia.

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