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Obsession with race

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Scrapping the race category in some forms is not going to help in any way. What has to change is the mindset of Malaysians, says our correspondent.

After reading The Star online article dated 3 March 2011 about Yayasan 1Malaysia calling for the removal of the “race” category in some public and private sectors forms, I could not help but wonder how this is really going to help foster ethnic relations.

We have become a nation obsessed with race. All these superficial programmes like 1Malaysia and 1-“everything else” are for show. Going to the ground and looking at the situation in schools (be it Sekolah Kebangsaan, Chinese- or Tamil-medium schools), I see them as breeding grounds for racism. At a young age, much emphasis is placed on distinguishing young pupils by race and religion. In fact, there should be just 1-Integrated Education System where students are allowed options to pick up various languages and cultural studies. It all starts from the young. Breed racism from young, and we end up with a situation like we are in today where there appears to be a constant need to profess that we are 1Malaysia. This is hypocrisy.

Racism prevails in many different areas. Even in the American multinationals (MNCs) in Penang, this is evident. Having worked in several MNCs for over 10 years, I have experienced and noticed racist behaviour. I realised that many Chinese Malaysian workers are still caught up with the perception that their thought processes and work habits are far superior to that of the non-Chinese Malaysians. Thus, indirectly or rather, discreetly, opportunities for new job hires and career advancement seem to favour one ethnic group. Head to a government department, the scenario is the same in favour of a different ethnic group. Getting out of this mindset and recognising a Malaysian as one will certainly take more than the removal of race categorisation in forms.

I recently attended a get-together of a group of old students from a school on mainland Penang, all 55 years of age, together with their American teacher who taught them 45 years ago. I observed that it was a truly multi-ethnic group of friends who had such great camaraderie. It was a lovely setting of what being truly Malaysian means. It was definitely not a staged get-together under the 1Malaysia banner.

Scrapping the race category in some forms is not going to help in any way. Our names, more often than not, are a clear indication of our racial and ethnic background. What has to change is the mindset of Malaysians. From a broader perspective, it is not just about being Malaysian, but being part of human kind. Basic human values are about trust, love, fairness and respect. Sad to say, we do not have leaders who demonstrate these value; instead the leaders whom we have consistently insist on wasting time and effort on useless programmes.

The bottom line is that there is no genuine intention to foster ethnic relations in Malaysia. Most Malaysians do not care about 1Malaysia. Many do not know what it is to be Malaysian. The reality is that people care more about their own pockets and rice bowls.

The writer is a Penang-based Aliran member.

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