29 June 2009

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
Wednesday June 24, 2009
Injustice through the tar brush

To stereotype through one’s shared identity does not do justice to every individual; we all live with multiple identities.

SOME months ago, I had an interesting session with some young people belonging to an evangelical youth movement. Our conversation was on stereotypes.

At the heart of racism, I said, are stereotypes about people because they belong to one race or religion. And the thing to remember about stereotypes is, every time you stereotype someone, someone else somewhere is stereotyping you.

I’ve been talking about racism all last week. Prof Aneez Esmail gave a talk on how Britain has handled race relations at a public forum and a closed roundtable session.

In both cases, we Malaysians proved that, aside from politicians, we are quite capable of discussing race with maturity and rationality.

Prof Aneez stressed that he was not here to tell us how to conduct race relations in Malay­sia. Rather, he was relating his own experience of racism as an immigrant to Britain, and how he went about challenging it.

His challenges led to recognition of much institutional racism in the medical profession and at universities. Empirical evidence about the racism was key to his success.

He proved that hospitals were 10 times more likely to offer jobs to applicants with white names than to those with non-white names.

A similar study in Australia published only recently showed the same thing among employers there.

The issue of racism is considered so sensitive in this country that the general prescription is that we should not talk about it. This has only led to mounting tensions when problems remain unresolved.

Ironically, politicians are not censored in the same way as others, even though they seem to be the ones least likely to be capable of rational discussion. As a result, they have led to a further heightening of tensions.

Having said that, I believe that many of us are sincere in wanting to grapple with the issue of racism all round. Everyone feels hard done by in one way or another, whether officially or unofficially.

Prof Aneez stressed that we all live with multiple identities. I am not just Malay or Muslim, I am also a woman, a wife, mother, daughter, activist and whatever else I do and am.

So to stereotype through one’s shared identity does not do justice to every individual. All Muslims in the world may share some common beliefs but not all common traits.

Not all men are chauvinists. Not all Chinese are hardworking. Not all Indians can sing like Shah Rukh Khan, and so on.

The point is when we group people under one single shared identity, we invariably label them with the worst traits of that identity. Worse still, we then refuse to recognise the good in the other identities that they carry.

Thus, when we have prejudices against one group of people, we ignore the individual good traits that they might have under their other identities.

We might dislike someone just because we have prejudices against his race, while ignoring what he may have done for charity, or his expertise in his job, for example.

The other point is that when we say we want to eradicate racism, we must mean that for everyone. We cannot accuse someone else of racism while not recognising it in ourselves.

What’s more, we cannot reject racism among our fellow citizens but allow it against foreigners. Why is it okay to hurl epithets at Indo­nesians, Africans and Bangladeshis when it is not at Malaysian Malays, Chinese or Indians?

Racism is racism, no matter whom it is directed at.

While we are reflecting on how we may solve our internal racial issues, we must also reflect on why it is that we stereotype all Indo­nesians as criminals, all Africans as thugs and all Bangladeshis as poor labourers.

And why it is that we are not ashamed of ourselves when we do this?

Perhaps we don’t realise that over in Indo­nesia, all Malaysians are stereotyped as cruel and inhumane.

Africans think we have something against black people.

And, in Bangladesh, as much as they admire Malaysia, they also wonder why we treat their people so badly.

Stereotypes don’t take into account that indi­viduals may think differently; they tar everyone with the same brush.

Prof Aneez pointed out that it is not

possible to totally eradicate racism but we can do a lot to make it socially disapproved of.

We can take pro-active measures to mitigate the impact of institutional racism with time-limited quotas and affirmative action.

For example, we could introduce affirmative action to bring in more non-Malays into the civil service and police force with special incentives as well as punitive measures for non-compliance by those institutions.

The lack of candidates cannot be an excuse but an unacceptable lack of effort.

All we need is political will. And therein lies the problem.