“But if you only have love for your own race,
Then you only leave space to discriminate,
And to discriminate only generates hate,
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate”
The Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?
A simple verse, just 4 lines long conveys a message so strong and profound. The message itself is straight to the point. Racial relations cannot be built if we continue to have hatred, misgivings and suspicions about other races. Where has all the love gone? Looking back decades ago, society was much simpler. People got along well with each other, regardless of colour or creed. When they used to call themselves a community, they meant it in every sense of the word. Now, look how the mighty have fallen. We, the citizens of this beautiful country, look at each other daily, through racially coloured glasses, peering through the mist of misunderstandings created by opportunists, trying so hard to see the faults in others. How did we come to this? Why? I’ll leave those questions for you to ponder. To answer those questions is not my goal in writing this article. In this article, I hope to create a sense of awareness of the need for us to change our ways and emerge from the fog hand in hand to create a better future for ourselves and those that will inherit the future of this nation from us.
Nothing good can ever come out of being a racist. All it does is sow the seeds of mistrust that will eventually grow into a tree of discrimination and misgivings from which we eat the fruit of hate. And the worst part is our children will continue to eat the same fruit as we impart our practises to them. Have you ever witnessed the innocence of a child? How they seem to get along with each other, regardless of the other’s skin colour. At such a young age, there is a gut instinct in each of us to acknowledge another person as a human being and stop there. Nothing else matters. We are one and the same at that age. We lose that innocence as we grow older. I bet you still remember when you were in kindergarten or even in Standard 1 you had so many friends, and you didn’t give a damn about their race. However, as we grew older and were doused with the colours of racist beliefs and practices we instinctively shunned those ‘other’ friends away. We need to get that back. The ability to look at someone as just a human being, nothing more, nothing less.
But, the question is how are we going to do that? To answer that, we must first answer the question, “Why do ornithological specimens of identical plumage congregate in their own approximation?” The reason is simple, they see similarities with each other and those similarities are comforting and we as well seek solace and acceptance in people of our own race. This is what I’d like to call our comfort zone. Now, to answer the first question, in order for us to achieve the ideal of racial harmony, we must step out of our comfort zone. Now, this may a bit difficult and life-changing for some of us. However, we must realise that most great things were done by people who stepped out of their comfort zone. Would Christopher Columbus have discovered America if he did not want to step out of his zone? Would Neil Armstrong have ever set foot on the moon if he did not want to leave Earth? Would our country have gained independence had our forefathers felt comfortable being ruled by the British colonialists? I’m sure you can answer those questions without my help.
This brings us to the next pressing matter, how are we going to step outside our comfort zone? The only way is to do things you’ve never done before. It’ll be difficult, but you must adopt the mindset that it is something that you must do, something that must become second nature, like eating or sleeping. You gotta do what you gotta do."You have to be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi. Remove those racial coloured glasses, blow away the fog, and take a good look at the people around you. Realise that they are human beings too. Make an extra effort to include them in your outings, discussions, and events. Don’t ostracize them. Be nice. Give people a chance. Stop being so judgemental. It’s not your place to judge anyway. Look deep inside and you will realise that they aren’t what you believe them to be. And maybe, they’ll look at you in a different light too. And that’s all it takes. A simple gesture of friendship can last a lifetime.
What does it mean when we say racial harmony? What are the elements that must be present? Well, firstly, it would mean that we do not look at people based on their race anymore, but just the fact that they are Malaysians, just like us. And we’ll be willing to help, to lend a helping hand to those in need without the thought of race ever crossing our minds. We’d interact with one another freely, without bound by the fear that we might say something offensive, for we all would understand each other well. We will be able to once again claim that we truly are a community that cares for its members. Just like in the old days, where racial relations were simple. We’d stand by each other through thick and thin. After all, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” Let this blasphemy never happen to our society again. Now I know that this may be a tall order, but where there is a will, there is a way!
Now, to address the need for there to be racial harmony. It’s simple. Does anyone actually want to live in disharmony? I definitely think not. It’s just that when you know everything is going well there is a feeling of satisfaction within that blossoms out. It’s a beautiful feeling. Our country needs it. In fact, our country deserves it. Malaysia is a blessed land. Deep down we all love it here. We love the food, the atmosphere and everything under the sun here. Yet, we still live today with a nagging feeling at the back of our minds, that our racial relations are less than acceptable. We love our country. Isn’t this the least we can do for our nation? Please understand that when I say country, I mean the land, the nation, not the institutions that make it up. I view our country as an entity by itself and we definitely have to appreciate all that Mother Malaysia has done for us. It’s our time to do something nice in return.
I would also like to touch on the subject of being a Malaysian race. Now, when I say this, I do not mean for you to forsake your own race. That would be preposterous. Each race in Malaysia is unique and special. Each race makes up a part of our own cultural rainbow. If a rainbow were to lose any one colour, it just won’t be as beautiful. The thing is, as a Malaysian community, we are unique in every sense of the word. You can travel to any part of the world and you cannot find a community and a society as unique as ours. With all our quirks, such as the ever ubiquitous “-lah” that we add to all our sentences, is all a part of our Malaysian lifestyle. And we should be proud of it, just as we are proud of our own race and heritage! As each race is unique, and we as a society as the fitting description of the word unique, I truly believe that we can call ourselves a Malaysian race, or ‘Bangsa Malaysia’! Carry the name with pride, my friends!
Remember, we are all in this together. Our actions in the present will determine the future of the nation and the well being of the generations to come. It’s time to take a stand, have hope and do the right thing! “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up,” – Anne Lamott. Hope and perseverance will get us to fulfil this dream. We owe our nation and the future generation this. And in the future, when they look back at our generation, they can say with pride that we did something great for our nation. We managed to give back the meaning of what it means to be a Malaysian. That, dear readers, would be something to be proud about.
In conclusion, I leave you with this beautiful quote by Martin Luther King Jr. “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”