Discussing what went wrong might take countless days, what is more important today is to nurture humanity and a sense of belonging to one another, says Barathi Selvam.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must 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.” – Nelson Mandela
Fifty eight years ago, our country freed itself from the grasp of British imperialism, thanks to all freedom fighter who were formally recognised and honoured in history, and with deepest gratitude to those unrecognised and forgotten forces in the liberation movement, especially the left and progressive parties.
But this piece is not in any way related to the history of freedom fighters or freedom movements, but is a reflection on the racism that has infiltrated today’s society, much more viciously than ever.
Undoubtedly, the spirit of Bangsa Malaysia has failed miserably to permeate into the hearts and minds of all Malaysians as the feeling of racial superiority and prejudice in some quarters of society bears testimony.
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Recent events in Malaysia, where demarcations and insults based on skin colour were evident, went almost went unnoticed by law enforcement. The attempt to give a racial slant to the people’s uprising at Bersih 4 – that the Chinese were allegedly plotting against the government – was basically aimed at demeaning the civil movement.
In spite of a large presence of various ethnicities, including brothers and sisters from the Orang Asal community, racial chauvinists and certain media adopted imbecile angle: they portrayed the mass protest as a disappointment as they said it was a single race opposing the government, when it was not.
It is truly disheartening to realise there has been a failure in building unity, in creating a single race called Malaysians among our people. Politicians and political parties who were chosen democratically are unfortunately ruling us by remaining faithful to the teachings of the colonial masters – in their practice of divide and rule for their own political survival.
One of the first efforts taken in then Malaya to promote unity among the people was in the 1940s with the formation of Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (Putera) and the All Malayan Council for Joint Action (AMCJA); their collaboration became known as Putera-AMCJA.
The Perlembagaan Rakyat (People’s Constitution), drafted by Putera-AMCJA, promoted the concept of Bangsa Melayu, and all the components in the alliance consisting of various ethnicities unanimously agreed for the sake of unification, without any arguments. But the Perlembagaan Rakyat was never accepted by the colonialists.
Today, we can feel the effects in our society as racial slurs are hurled and demarcations have been incorporated as part of the (undesirable) prevailing culture. We still can see news reports of certain politicians and ministers who are supposed to be accountable to the people but instead sounding more racist than almost anybody else.
Discussing what went wrong might take countless days, months and even years, but what is more important today is to nurture humanity and a sense of belonging to one another.
Let’s start with writing “Malaysian” in the space which asks for your race. The colour of our skin should never be associated with the identity of a person.
I am Anak Malaysia, Bangsa Malaysia!
Barathi Selvam, an undergraduate student majoring in journalism at a local university, is just a normal teenager enraged with the social injustices he sees around him. He hopes to use writing as a medium to advocate for anyone who is discriminated and oppressed and to empower the marginalised.