by Natasha Christopher.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
This iconic speech impacted not only thousands of people that was at the March on Washington in August 28th, 1963 but it continues to breathe into people’s mind and hearts till today. The fight to eliminate racism is still very much alive now, and it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to overcome the storms of racial slurs and mistreatment from its surroundings. At times, it comes in a more subtle and some straightforward manner.
I can’t help but to wonder: where did the spirit of unity go? Whatever happened to accepting an individual without discrimination? After all, our blood is still the same red colour. It’s the same as saying that no matter how rich or poor you are, you’ll still end up six feet under.
This may not come across well … but let me show you some of the profound examples of racism we have experienced in the world.
Recently, renowned football star and World Cup player for Germany, Mesut Ozil – who is of German-Turkish descent – announced in a statement that he is leaving the German football team because of racism. It all started when he met and was photographed with current Turkish President Erdogan in London for a charity event.
Ever since then, the German media made a huge response about this image of him and the president.
“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.” – Mesut Ozil
They trashed Ozil, saying that he was being deceitful to his own country, Germany, which he grew up in. It went so overboard to the extent that German politician, Bernd Holzhauer, called him a goat-f**ker and Werner Steer, the Chief of German Theatre, told him to “piss off to Anatolia” – a place in Turkey where many immigrants are based in. He has since received hate mail, threatening phone calls and vicious comments on social media. In his statement, he said, “When high ranking DFB officials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough. That is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it. Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
Successful basketball star, LeBron James said that “being black in America is tough” in responds to police investigating a racial slur spray-painted on the front gate of one of his home. James has always been vocal on the issue of racism and hope to see growth of unity acts throughout sports.
“It (racism) is hidden most days. It is alive every single day.” – LeBron James
The sitcom “Roseanne” has been a real top new comeback show of the TV season.
However, it all backfired when it was cancelled by the American ABC network after the main star of the show and self titled in the sitcom itself, Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist comment.
She referred to Barack Obama’s top adviser Valerie Jarrett (who is African-American) as an ape – a slur so extreme and very racist.
An internationally acclaimed popular clothing line which has a reputation for its fast-clothing for men, women, teenagers and children made new enemies and lost deals over one thing: a racially insensitive hoodie jacket that featured on both H&M’s UK and US websites, where a child’s green hooded top was emblazoned with the phrase: ‘Coolest Monkey In The Jungle’. What made this an issue was that the model for this attire was a black kid, which means, not cool H&M, not cool. Historically, the term Monkey was used as a derogatory term against the African Americans and has negative connotations attached to it.
While racism is going on in other parts of the world, Malaysia, on the other hand is a beautiful place which is filled with many diverse and friendly people although racism still lives amongst us.
For those who know me, I despise racism. I had to endure racism whether I liked it or not on a frequent basis up until today. From being mistreated for my skin colour, “You look pretty for an Indian” statements, not being selected because I was not a certain “kind”, people underestimate me because of the Indian “stereotype”.
This gets me so riled up, so much that I feel the need to spread the good word of unity to others. This is why I wanted to write this article, in hopes to inspiring millions of people out there to love one another and to not see race as an obstacle to make the world a better place.
I decided to ask help from my friends and social media on their encounter with racism and the results were astonishing. The amount of slurs and mistreatments we as Malaysians get from another, is truly mind-blowing, and this is something that should be addressed in order to change people’s perceptions.
Warning: Contains strong language. All of the comments and the race that they are addressing specifically do NOT reflect on them as humans. These are their opinions and thoughts. Names shall be kept private for safety reasons. Keep an open mind before you proceed.
- “At a Ramadhan Bazaar, a Malay lady walked past me and my family while muttering ,“diaorang tak puasa, datang sini buat apa?”
- “As an insurance agent, I used to get the response “I would rather have a Chinese insurance agent. Sorry.”.
- “I’m a Chindian man and I was eating at the mamak during fasting month. A passerby screamed, “Melayu bodoh, tak reti puasa ke?”
- “Once, after school, it was raining heavily. I then noticed one of my schoolmates offering some friends a ride home, and so I asked if I could get a ride too, but he said no. Reason being is because his mother does not like black people in her car.”
- “During my primary school days, I got into an argument with one of my classmates, as she said that Malays are the superior race and I should feel inferior.”
- “When I was young, I remembered a small young Malay toddler walking to me because I was smiling at him. Next thing, his mother told him in Malay: “Cina babi, jgn pergi dekat.”
- “I was riding a bus back home when I saw two tourist was asking around for directions, nobody was helping them so I stepped in. When I explained to them in a detailed manner as to how they can get to their destination, they straight away ignored and didn’t look at me because of my Muslim roots.”
- “I’m a Ugandan and I receive quite a number of discrimination from Malaysians. There is one incident that left me speechless. I once entered the lift that had a family of mum, dad and two kids. As soon as the mum saw me pushed her kids into the farthest corner and pulled her husband in front of her as if to protect her from me.”
- “Just because the stereotypes of Indian label us as criminals (which is not true), that doesn’t mean you need to lock your car whenever we walk past it.”
- “When I was looking for a room to rent in Malaysia, every signboard/posting said ONLY Chinese.”
- “Being a Chindian is tough when people give me the stare for not following the ‘tutup aurat’ ways. Plus, now I’m getting to know an Indian guy, and I overheard an Indian family commenting: “Why must she take boys from our race, why can’t she date her own race?”
- “Happened to a close friend of mine, and she is currently studying in a government university. She receives torment and verbal abuse from her batchmates for her entry in a local Uni just because she is not a “bumiputera”. She spend her days crying and feeling insecure about herself.”
- “Apa bangsa ah?” said the house owner. He only wants Chinese because it’s less of a problem if Indians were to stay in.”
- “Once there was a Malay patient that was dying. He needed blood transfusion urgently, but he insisted on having only a Muslim’s blood to be transfused. He said because “Cina darah ada babi, India darah ada arak.”
- An employer replied to me within seconds for a teaching job only because I told him that I could speak Mandarin (he didn’t respond before that), just to test the waters. My answer to his job opening: NO THANK YOU!”
- “I’ve gotten discriminated simply because of my inability to speak my mother tongue.”
These are some of the many examples we as Malaysians have to go through on a daily basis. Although we may be a multiracial nation, it honestly doesn’t feel like we are living as one. With the constant racist remarks, sometimes you can’t help but to wonder that probably the main reason as to why people become racist is due to how we were brought up by our folks and the elderly.
You have no idea the amount of “if you don’t behave, the apunene/black man will come and catch you” words, and your treatment towards others that you tell your kids could affect their perception towards another race in the future.
Dear parents, if you want a steady and a harmonious country, don’t tell your children about which race is good or bad. Just because you went through a bad past with others does not determine who they are in the present. Don’t pass on your hatred to the future generations. You don’t fight racism with racism; the best way is always through solidarity. Children, count your blessings if your parents taught you to accept diversity.
“I make fun of all races including both of my own, but people call me racist. So perhaps we should highlight the real definition of racism so that they don’t misunderstand the difference between a racist and an annoying person.”
This was an eye opening statement that I received. There are people out there who joke about other races including theirs, but people don’t call them racist. Even stand-up comedians use these type of jokes as material. People get a good laugh out of it and do not feel offended.
Why? In my opinion, they are not racist because they are not mistreating people through their actions, nor are they showing or suggesting that their race is superior than the other. There’s a fine line between being a good sport about it versus discriminating.
Recently, Malaysia has been going into the right step of fighting racism when just few days ago, three new bills state that instigators of racial and religious hate could face a jail sentence of up to seven years of a fine of RM 100,000. This will be tabled in Parliament soon. So, fingers crossed!
To end this, I hope all, if not most of you, get a clear idea of the brutal world we are living in. My parents always tell me to put myself in the other person’s shoe and not judge a person so quick. If you are a self-proclaimed racist, all I can say is one day just go out and have a friendly conversation with every race here with an open mind. As time goes by, you’ll soon realize what a beautiful place we are staying in – just like how I see it through my eyes.
Here a quote from Nelson Mandela for all to reflect.
“People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
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Cover image courtesy of Macnamara & Associates.