Wake up! Do not define racism so simplistically

malaysian-racists-1By TK Chua

I think Abdul Razak Baginda needs to do more analyses. I say this after reading his “rant” on racism in FMT: “Only Umno is racist? Wake up, says analyst”.

Maybe it is true Umno is not the only racist party in the country. Maybe it is also true Umno has never deliberately intended or wanted to be racist. But in any causation study, we need to know who is more culpable and impactful. We need to know who is most responsible to set the tempo and ethos of this country.

Maybe our nation started on the “wrong-footing” at the time of independence when political parties based on race were first established.

After independence, these “racial parties” led by Umno became the ruling parties, first as Alliance and later as Barisan Nasional. These same parties have governed this country till today.

My question is: “Why didn’t these parties, particularly Umno, “de-racialise” themselves when they had all the time and power in the world to do so?

As ruling parties, they set policies and provide direction to this country. Short of making a sweeping statement, I think the whole political ethos of this country today is based on the product and culture of Umno. If Umno can’t change, it will be very difficult for other parties to change Malaysia because most people have been compartmentalised into various pigeon holes for the last six decades.

Over the years there have been political parties which tried to go the multiracial route. It took many years for the DAP to gain that recognition, but today the party has been stigmatised as another racial party based on non-Malay or Chinese support. The PKR has tried to do the same but the success is limited despite Anwar’s strong leadership. Essentially all these parties have been labelled as not being able to defend and protect Malay/Muslim interests.

Here is the irony: Parties fighting for multiracial Malaysia are considered as racist and detrimental to Malays/Muslim interests. How then can multiracialism survive in this country when Malays and Muslims constitute the majority? I think it is for this reason PPBM decided to go the “Umno route”, at least for the time being.

Put it this way, non-ruling parties must take cognizance of the tempo and ethos set by the ruling parties even if they disagree with each other. I think this is the situation we face today.

We have to be a little circumspect when defining racism. When a political party fights for a rightful place for all Malaysians or against the vested interest groups, what justification do we have to define it as racist?

We can talk about Malay and Indian tokenism in the DAP. But the most important thing to consider is whether or not the party has been able to defend and protect all Malaysians – particularly the marginalised, regardless of race and religion.

I will not consider Umno as racist if it had fought for all Malaysians, even though taking care of Malay/Muslim interests is their declared raison d’etre. We know staying in a multiracial country like Malaysia needs delicate balance and the spirit of give-and-take. The challenge really is to find the right mix.

It is not racism if we help or give preferences to those deserving within our community or race. It is racism if we deliberately choose to hate others simply because they are different. DAP is not racist if it helps poor Chinese. DAP is racist if it deliberately excludes Malays/Muslims or Indians from any of its party or governmental programmes.

The worst form of racism is not even trying to help our own race. It is using race to further our own personal interests. We create imagined enemies among the people while we amass the privileges to ourselves.

It is always easy to label others as racist but not ourselves. But I am a strong believer of this maxim attributed to Abraham Lincoln: You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

I leave it to the discernment of the people, while political parties, racist as well as non-racist, do their work.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.