Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Race Card

More than three years ago, I read an article and saved it. Today I read it again, and I found it still relevant.

So here it is: The Malaysian Race Card with a brief excerpt.

Chinese and Indians have become more vocal in opposing discriminatory policies, but they have given little indication that if they were granted greater equality they would rise above their own clannish tendencies.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying that all Malaysians are racist and clannish. In fact, the Bersih 2.0 rally was testament to the fact that we are colour blind deep down.

Then again, those who came out to stand up for their rights as voters are those who love their country and countrymen.

The problem is those who love to complain about the state of this nation but have never lifted a finger to do their part, be it signing a petition or attending a talk, much less participating in a rally.

I notice an interesting phenomenon when I read articles in Malaysia Today by Raja Petra Kamarudin.

When RPK posts a blog-entry that slams the Malays, many Chinese and Indians cheer him on. Interestingly, the Malays graciously accept their weaknesses and admit it.

But when RPK criticises the Chinese or Indians (rightfully), there is much angst and vexation over it.

Some time ago, John Malott, former US Ambassador to Malaysia spoke out against institutionalised racism practised by the Malaysian government.

I personally think the Malaysian government is rotten to the core and all its policies are designed to aid them in lining their own pockets.

But they still have the support of the Malay population because there is still a certain amount of wariness towards the Indians and Chinese as elaborated by one Umar Mukhtar in Malott painted only half the picture of racism.

A few excerpts:

Yes, two wrongs do not make a right. But as the saying goes, “It takes both hands to clap”. That is to say, Mallot's article runs the risk of completely absolving non-Malays from any responsibility in the racial predicament that the country is in. That is nothing less than avoiding reality and counter-productive to any effort to improve race relations in Malaysia. Malays have their grievances, too, against the Chinese. The fact that they seldom get aired does not make those grievances any less legitimate or valid.

Education for the very young is one obvious area where racist attitudes can be nipped in the bud.

Often the excuse given by the Chinese for insisting that their children go to vernacular schools and for more such schools to be built is the poor quality of national schools. Surely the solution is not to build more racially-segregated schools but to join hands with Malays and Indians in insisting and ensuring that the quality of national schools be improved for the benefit of children of all ethnicities. Perhaps that is considered such an outlandishly 'out-of-the-racial box' thinking that I have never heard any Chinese make that call.

Any sincere and honest effort to improve race relations has to take cognizance of the fact that racism exists in and racial discrimination is practised, to one extend or another, by all the races in Malaysia.

However, my own honest observation is that the Chinese never want to admit or acknowledge their own racism against Malays or other races.

Official and overt discriminatory policies can easily be criticised as institutionalised racism but covert racial discriminations by their very nature are harder to pinpoint. That does not mean they don't exist or any less invidious than the former.

When a “Mandarin speakers only” requirement is stated in job advertisements, even for jobs which do not conceivably require much language skills, that surely is equivalent to saying “Chinese only”. But you will be hard put to find any Chinese who would admit that the practice is racially discriminatory.

To many Malays, given the refusal of non-Malays to even acknowledge their own racism, the prospect of a rollback in whatever few affirmative action policies left on the plate appears to be concessions which are unlikely to be matched in a similar spirit by the Chinese in the spheres that they predominate, namely the commercial and economic.

If Najib can be accused of pandering to militant Malay groups, Chinese political leaders in the government and opposition, too, can be accused of pandering to their racial constituency.

In my lifetime, I have yet to hear of any Chinese leader asking that the Chinese to join in and contribute towards the betterment of national schools.

I have yet to hear of one calling for Chinese businesses to assist or at least not to gang up against their fellow non-Chinese businesses or to not practice discrimination in their employment policies.

Mallot failed to take into account one side of the equation in his brief exposition of the race relations situation in Malaysia. Hopefully, I have managed to redress that and allow a better understanding of why things are the way they are in Malaysia.

It would have been more gracious of Mallot if he had used his relationship with Malaysians during his tenure as a diplomat to impart his country's experience and firm action with regard to vigilance against the emergence of the evil that is racism, than to make things worse by dogmatically adopting the attitude that sympathising with the minority makes one righteous.

Unlike Umar Mukhtar, I have met the Chinese who speak out against racism. They are a wonderful bunch.

But the majority of people are more content to watch out for their own interests rather than the collective well-being of everyone involved.


walla said...

Perhaps it's because they know the people who run the party that runs the present government have been racists and will always be racists so that when the Umar's ask for one type of school, there is doubt it won't mean assimilation into a Malay-centric framework, rather than integration of all elements as equal. Just look at the Sejarah syllabus of the national schools for a start.

Yes, it takes two to clap. Since the rakyat don't trust the present government, and by rakyat we include more than two-thirds of the Malays in Umno itself, therefore the present government and its ruling party should start first.

But Najib already showed he puts Muhyiddin's Malay First above his own 1Malaysia. In one short revealing reply to a student, he just punctured everything he has been saying from day one. The political mask fell off.

Can you then blame the nonMalay Malaysians for being cautious since they are constantly reminded of where they should be standing and how they must behave by the likes of Ibrahim Ali and Awang Selamat?

And we haven't even started with Muhyiddin's Malay interest group that is in waiting in Johor for his ascension to be the next Mahathir.

With all the usual rippin'.

Do you know what is tragic in this country? It's that it is dangerous to be kind and openhearted.

Crankster said...

But that's the problem, isn't it? The wariness, distrust and clique-ishness. I feel that by doing that, we are giving BN exactly what it needs and wants.

Only the fools ever believed in Najib's 1Malaysia. Everyone else could see it for the farce that it actually was.

Yes, we do have mat rempits who are a menace to our streets. And who are probably bred in the cauldron of racism.

And of course Awang Selamat and Ibrahim Ali make their presence felt, because the whole idea is to intimidate people (both Malays and non-Malays) into conforming and submitting to their ideas and rhetoric.

But why should we? Who are they? Why should we put them on a pedestal that they don't deserve?

But I agree with you that in this country it is dangerous to be kind and openhearted.

You get taken advantage of and intimidated.