We call ourselves a modern society. We say we are above racism, above judgement or stereotype, above discrimination, above the concepts of ‘slavery’ and ‘superiority’ that plagued the human population back in the ‘old days’. Today, we like to think that we’ve grown, we’ve developed, we’ve moved forward from the ‘backward’ thoughts the likes of which we now only read in history books.
I would like to say that we’re wrong to think so.
Yes, there may be no slavery today, and yes we may flaunt the whole ‘equality’ scenario everywhere, but who are we kidding? The stereotyping, the judging, the racism, is still very much present in my opinion – perhaps not out in the open but definitely in our minds. I’m not saying I’m perfect either, I have had plenty of moments where the thought crosses my mind – ‘Oh, he or she is a so-and-so, must be a _____ (*insert racial stereotype here*).’
Until some time ago, I had accepted the fact that it’s human nature to judge, to categorise, to form assumptions – negative or positive – at the expense of others, but I’m having much more difficulty living up to my acceptance as the days pass. It has been almost 3 years since I’ve lived in Malaysia, and though this might sound controversial, I just want to put it out there – International people in Malaysia, especially those from the middle-east, Africa, or countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc. are not treated kindly here. There is no blatant racism saying ‘You are a so-and-so’, no out in the open abusing or humiliation (and thank God for that) but subtle forms of the same are omnipresent.
Try finding a place to stay here and you’ll be faced with the words ‘My tenants are Chinese and prefer Chinese or Indonesian etc. housemates, sorry.’, Or even ‘Oh you’re so-and-so (non chinese usually), I’m not sure I can rent out a room to you.’ And this is not one instance, or not a personal grudge, this I speak from experience – both personal and from international friends and acquaintances around me. There’s also some other kind of subtleties like the faces, the looks, and at times the snide comments which the internationals experience here courtesy to the locals. I’m not saying everyone does it – there are lots who don’t either – but there is certainly a fair amount of people who do engage in it for it to be a big deal.
Malaysia is one of the many countries in the world of course which harbour such people. After all, it is human nature to indulge in ‘racism’ (which is an extension of judgement or stereotype). Take Indians vs Pakistanis, Sri Lankans vs Tamils, Chinese vs Malays, Americans vs Africans, and the list goes on and on and on.