Why we can’t have anti-racist laws

Hafidz Baharom

A FEW weeks back, our Prime Minister was quoted saying that the government will not be moving forward with the tabling of an anti-racist discrimination bill.

At first, I was livid – but a slow thought crept up, and I understood why. 

It is because we as Malaysians are adherently racist, some times in a good way, but most times really, really bad. For example, on Monday, an apartment complex in Subang Jaya decided to bar any owners from renting out properties to Africans.

This apartment complex had also tried to do it earlier in 2015. Somehow, we believe that it is fine to discredit and disallow all Africans from being tenants in rental properties around the Klang Valley, that it is not somehow racist.

Africans get a lot of heat in Malaysia not only from property owners, but also from taxi drivers, ride sharing drivers, and even certain shopkeepers - in fact, there was even one residential leader who even went with pamphlets to tell Africans not to drink in public.

Similarly, we all know that racial politics are common and thriving for both sides of the divide. It is the biased, warped, low brow and devolved mentality of Malaysian politics.

You’re either the supporter for the Keralan, or call that accusation racist, or a supporter of a Bugis pirate, or call this insinuation racist. For some reason, no side wants to see both as equally dumb and equally racist.

The truth is, we let people get away with racism all the time. 

When it comes to racism, we love to say that Umno or Barisan Nasional are racists. However, the other side is equally guilty.

In 2015, when Bersih’s Sarajun Hoda said that if it wasn’t for the Chinese, a certain Umno leader “would be wearing sarongs and eating tapioca like his Indon grandfather and ancestors”. His excuse? It’s not racist because Sarajun himself is Malay.

Sorry, but being racist and being a person of that race isn’t mutually exclusive.

Similarly, the DAP continues to take their “Superman” on tour, even though he resigned for being accused of racism for telling crowds to “use Malays to screw the Malays”. 

And yet, not a peep.

We love to see only one side of the picture, but never the whole. If racism is bad in the point of allowing a racially exclusive university, then why are we also alright with tenancy requirements and even job requirements based on race?

Why are we alright with the lack of racial diversity in companies? Why are we fine when traders charge extra for one race compared to another?

We have plenty of excuses when it comes to racism, and even revenge racism – a tit deserves a tat, if government is racist then I and my company shall be racist in return, it’s “just a preference”, and even the lovely “oh, it’s just a language requirement or religious requirement”.

Thus, an anti-discrimination law based on race will not change anything because it requires that we ourselves stop tolerating and accepting racist statements beyond political and racial bias. 

It is telling companies with majority Malay staff, or even Chinese staff, or even that property owner that wants “Malay only” or “Chinese only” tenants that this is not okay.

Of course realistically, we know this will not happen because Malaysians are too passionate when it comes to backing political parties, especially this close to a general election.

At the same time, we are talking about undoing something so historically ingrained in our country’s fabric that it would take a total bleaching of minds. The truth is that nobody is really into eradicating racism in their daily lives because whilst some take it seriously, we also believe in making fun of racial stereotypical quirks.

And we have done so for ages without having anyone get offended, or perhaps be able to look beyond it far enough to not see it as a threat towards a racially integrated nation.

So perhaps we should consider this on a personal level, without the need to have a law. Be more proactive. If you see a racist advertisement, tell your paper and the company advertising it that they have lost a customer. If you see politicians parading about racist messages, walk away.

If you see your friends, your bosses do it, throw enough of a bitch fit – from filing complaints with Human Resources, to even unfriending them – to stop them from doing it again. If a friend of yours talks about being charged extra at a restaurant, or even being conned into paying higher rent due to their race, back them up.

And this has to extend beyond Malaysians, to include migrant workers, foreign students and, yes, that includes the Africans as well. If they’ve broken the law with being here on an invalid visa, that is a totally different matter. But if we are banning people for merely the way they look and the way some of them act, then we are being xenophobic and racist. – November 10, 2017.

* Hafidz loves to ruffle feathers and believes in the EA Games tag line of challenging everything. Most times, he represents the Devil’s Advocate on multiple issues.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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  • I look forward to the days when we work and play together, race is not an issue. When we eat and dine together, religion is not an issue. The law becomes redundant.

    Posted 6 years ago by Tanahair Ku · Reply