Sunday, September 28, 2008

Road to damnation – racial politics

I am anti anything drawn along racial lines. The more I think about it, the more toxic I think racial bias is. Asians (or should I say, the Chinese) are brought up to identify with the “superiority” of their culture. History tells us that the Chinese already considered themselves a superior civilisation while the West still lived in the dark ages.

It doesn’t take long to see how flawed the notion of race superiority is. I have been trying to shed my own ethnocentricity for years, but it is not easy. Being married to a pakeha (white) and having a half-Asian-half-pakeha (white) daughter, I am reminded daily of how my racial/ethnic background dictates how I live, view the world and think.

Being brought up in a small town, it was definitely difficult getting away from the great racial divide where schoolyard jokes like these are common: “If you meet a cobra and an Indian along the road, who do you kill first?” (Answer: The Indian, because he can be more potent than a cobra), or “why did the Jews spend 40 years wandering in the desert? (Answer: “Somebody lost a quarter!”).

Hubby tells me all the time that “you Chinese are the most racist lot on earth.” I protest every time, for the sheer dramatic effect that results. But I tend to agree with him.

Devils, devils
Growing up in Malaysia, I often wonder why in colloquial-speak, the Cantonese Chinese call the Indians kee-ling kwai or Indian devils; they call the Malays, Malai kwai – Malay devil; and the Anglo-Saxon hung-mo kwai (red haired devil). Naturally, everyone else is a devil but the Cantonese Chinese.

It is human nature to fear what we don’t understand. It is human to draw simple conclusions based on our immediate experiences. It is also human to make errors in judgments, until we are shown the light or choose to see otherwise.

I rarely encounter personal episodes of racism although I have lived in Canada for 5 years, and have been in NZ seen 1997. It must be because I don’t allow myself (anymore) to sink into that thought pattern of seeing me as a target for racial discrimination.

I was tickled by how NotPC’s blog readers got into verbal fistfights (this is based on a my interpretation of the trail of "conversations") on his blog on the subject of unsafe dairy products from China (original post from me). Somehow, the discussion took a tangent of its own based on a cheeky remark on racial stereotypes. Race debates can make people’s blood curdle, boil and erupt.

Growing up, I used to threaten mom, saying I will marry an Indian one day. Why not? I love Indian food, I love Indian music. Then, I used to threaten that I would marry a Malay. Why not? Malay men are gracious, gentle and dress better than most of the Chinese men I know. Mom would have loved for me to dutifully marry a Chinese.

I decided sometime ago that I would be against anything grouped along racial lines. Therefore, I am anti race-based parties (such as the Maori party in New Zealand). I am against Peter Low’s Asian Anti-Crime Group in Auckland (although I admire his effort to help others fight crime). Crime in Auckland is not confined to Asians. The solutions should not be addressed by Asians choosing to protect their own.

I hope in this lifetime, I would see the disintegration in my former homeland of all race-based political parties – the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association), MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) and UMNO (United Malay National Organisation).

I hope, in this lifetime, Malaysian politics will be defined by ideologies and aspirations, not by myopic concerns built along the colour of one’s skin.

May13 and the flat earth
Raja Petra Kamarudin, a Malaysian blogger(now in detention under the Internal Security Act) posted a blog about May 13, 1969 (parts 1, 2 and 3) a while ago. His version of how race riots erupted is one that I have heard years ago. May 13 happened when I was 7. Every Chinese family knows Dato Harun as a dirty name.

For the longest time, it wasn't wise to discuss May 13.

I never use to view my Malay friends through a different looking glass. Not until I was told Malays have privileges that I don’t. Then I saw how different I was to them, and felt differnt. In primary school, I had a best friend, who is Malay, called Zubaidah.

What has changed since May 13, 1969? Nothing. Racial tension is at very high voltages in Malaysia at the moment. There is a threat of outage.

But what has changed is the world is “flatter” today. Blogsphere has given the average Malaysian a voice he/she didn’t use to have.

Malaysians, I think, are sick and tired of being taken on a ride that leads to the heart of darkness -- it is a journey of perpetual hatred, suspicion, jealousy, and discrimination.

A sort of change is edging its way over the Malaysian landscape. It remains to be seen whether the Malays, Chinese and Indians can shed their narrow racial concerns to work towards a new social contract -- one that opens up real possibilities for national healing, and for redemption of the lost 40 years.

Princess of the House
By the way, Princess of the House and her friends participating in the Maori cultural group did sensationally well last Thursday. The kids at school had a sampling of the beauty of cultural diversity. Princess is now gearing up for a friend’s birthday party, and practicing a Chris Brown song on the piano. Tomorrow, we check into "Hotel" Starship for the surgeon to take a peek at the strictures in her bile duct/and how the stents are doing.


  1. This piece is very well written. In a mixed marriage between the malay and the non-malay, the situation gets more confusing for the cousins. When they "reach" of age to discover that the state treats them differently because of their ethnic origin, they get very confused. And for the mixed kid, he initially may get a guilt complex. I think the mixed kid is able to see things clearer and see the folly of racist thinking because he has to grapple with himself first as to who he is. While the rest take it for granted as we do most things in life.

  2. Hi Jahamy, I know...Am dreaming of the day when the barriers of race are torn down, and Malaysians can enjoy a period of true peace and prosperity.


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