Racism: Are You Part of The Problem?

Posted on September 25, 2015



“I will never forget these moments. Throughout the rally, I heard them calling me keling (a derogatory term for Indian), bangsat, bodoh and a pendatang. They stood tall as they said this. Their friends laughed and then jeered as well.”  These are the words of a reporter who was covering the recently held Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu or “red shirt rally” on Malaysia Day in Kuala Lumpur. She was not alone. Others were called “Cina gila babi (Crazy Chinese pig) and Cina bangsat (Chinese bastard).

On the day when we were supposed to celebrate 52 years of nationhood when Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore came together on the 16th of September, 1963 to form a new nation called Malaysia, we have a racist hate fest in our capital city.

It is beyond irony that on Malaysia Day this rally took place. The whole theme of the rally was “Don’t challenge the Malay, this land belongs to the Malay, this is Tanah Melayu (Malay Land) and all the rest are penumpang (squatters).” This is nothing short of the rejection of Malaysia, a coming together of not just four geographical regions but of multiple ethnic and religious communities.

Racism is alive and well and it is tearing up our country. The flames of hatred towards other ethnic groups are being fanned by politicians with the help of certain mainstream media and fuelled by social media.

It is turning our communities into time-bombs or minefields waiting to explode at anytime or at the slightest provocation, where a common theft of a handphone or a vehicle accident can turn into a racial riot.

We have a problem but we have a choice as well. We can either choose to be part of the solution or to be part of the problem. The problem does not lie with the politicians alone and neither is the solution.

Racist leaders thrive on the fears, insecurities and suspicions in each community. Such environments are like oxygen to a fire. Deprive them of the oxygen and they will be snuffed out in due course.

First thing we can do is to stop hero-worship leaders who only champion for their own communities. I am not talking about the Malay supremacists alone because for every Ibrahim Ali, Ali Tinju or the new kid on the block, Jamal Yunus, we can find their equivalent in every ethnic communities.

These leaders want to be “superheroes” to their own kind by exploiting on the vulnerabilities of the people. Often times they hide behind the language of their community, inciting anger, fear and hate towards others. They articulate those primal feelings and amplify them. Their egos are inflated at the expense of our collective harmony.

Such leaders are the problem, not the solution to ending racism. We must expose them for the charlatans that they are and stop listening to them.

Secondly, we can all be and must be good neighbours. We would be tempted to get inflamed by racist remarks and we want to do “an eye for an eye” thing. But since we can’t get hold of these racist leaders, we do the next best thing. We take it out on our neighbours who happen to share the same ethnicity as the racist and thus the ripples of hate expand.

But it’s our choice. We can either choose to douse the flames of racism with love, kindness and respect, or add fuel by inconsiderate acts, rudeness and racial slurs.

Lastly, spread goodwill, not fear and hate. The tools of social media are powerful. Wrongly used they can wreck havoc. Used wisely, they can halt the cancer of racism.

Fear and hate are spread at a tap of the Send button on our smartphones and computers. The next time we receive some hateful text or images or even “well-meaning” advice to stock up on essential foodstuff in case of a racial riot, my advice is to just delete them.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, share them on the social media.  

What are we feeding ourselves on? If you are feeding yourselves on media that are clearly promoting racist agendas, unsubscribe them. If you are following those racist leaders I mentioned above, why not Unlike or Unfollow them? Deprive them of the oxygen they need to burn this country.

The red shirt rally was a wake-up call to us as a nation. We are in serious trouble and unless we do something about it, our nation would be destroyed.

Apart from rejecting politicians and political parties that are race-based, we have to pull together and reach out to each other, one neighbour at a time, one colleague at a time, one stranger at a time and one click at a time. Let’s reclaim Malaysia for all our children.

This article was first published on my weekly column at The Malaysian Insider.