Once again incidents have cropped up which make us wonder: Where are we as a people now?
Most recently it was the KFC thing, earlier it was the thing with the bread and earlier on was the whole 8TV Ramadan advert hoo hah – all, somehow, with racist undertones. How racist have we become?
In all these events however, the worrying thing was not what actually happened, but the comments that followed. The worrying part was what we said, shared and argued with one another as observers of the event. When it comes to something as personal as culture, race or religion, perhaps it is understandable that we are wary. We are so used to the stigma of racism, almost, that we are quick to raise a flag whenever we see a hint of it. We are so suspicious now that we count every ‘Malaysian’ ad or poster to make sure it has 1 Malay, 1 Chinese and 1 Indian on it, or else someone is being marginalized.
Perhaps the day when buying bread becomes about race, we know that we have gotten too overzealous, too quick to raise that flag.
In voicing our defenses, we need to be careful not to enforce the very ideas that we are fighting against. In defending against any racism we think might be happening, we must make sure we do not end up building and reinforcing that wall which divides. When it comes to that, it is not those people directly involved in that video or ad or article who draw the lines. What will define our society is how we as a people reflect in the mirror of these events. It is our own reactions that are suspect.
In times like these, it is urgent that we be extra vigilant to check our own reactions – think twice and extra carefully about what you feel, what you want to say and ask yourself why. If we don’t know enough to make a conclusion, find out more. Our first line of defense should be to check ourselves.
If we find that we are the ones square-pegging it into race when the heart of the issue is something else, then let’s step out and look at it again. Do we see people as ‘us’ on one side, and ‘them’ on the other? Do we automatically differentiate based on race or religion or gender or politics, even when we don’t realize it?
We need to be extra vigilant because it is ourselves who are at stake. There is danger in square-pegging things this way – it makes it easy for us to become that which we hate, unknowingly.
When we see others as either good or bad by making a sweeping assumption based on race, religion, political leaning or anything else; it makes it easy for us to forget the truth: the real line between good vs bad divides each of us as individuals.