'Are we all racists?' A response

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“What I want you to know is that this is not your fault, even if it is ultimately your responsibility.”
– Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

COMMENT | PSM’s S Arutchelvan makes the same mistake in the racial discourse that most people, especially political operatives, make. He conflates a whole range of issues – social, economic and political – and arrives at the conclusion that all Malaysians are racists, and efforts need to be made to sort out our differences through a class-based prescription.

While Arutchelvan correctly acknowledges the systemic racism of policies meant for the majority, he makes false equivalencies between those rejecting those policies and the majority who benefit from them.

The matriculation quota, for instance, is a racist policy. Those objecting to such a policy are rejecting racism; not being racists themselves merely because they view such ill-treatment through their non-Malay community lens and support non-Malay political operatives who oppose such policies.

Similarly, the debate about language requirements in certain sections of the private sector is not ab initio 'racist' merely because some in the Chinese community say it is.

Malaysiakini columnist Zan Azlee, for instance, correctly points to the weaponisation of language, and this could also be applied to the public sector of Malaysia, where citizens' interaction with a bureaucracy defined by race and religion becomes a cultural battleground instead of a public service.

The racial discourse in this country is a tricky terrain to navigate...

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