Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Nationality And Race

Here's an interesting post from La Mason which I found via Tomorrow. It's regarding racism in Singapore. I have to say that I agree with him wholeheartedly on the points he raises in his entry.

Here's an excerpt:

"I can never understand why there is a need to state your race on the identity card. Wouldn’t it be sufficient to know if the person was “Singaporean”? Why segregate the population further by categorizing them according to race? I thought the idea was to minimize racial distinction and make ourselves more as one, being Singaporean first and your race second? Incidentally, classification by race on identity cards was a colonial practice (in fact, the IC was a colonial practice too) when the British Administration thought up an ingenious method to rule over the largely immigrant population."



I've mentioned this point to a few of my friends before. Why do you have to state your race on your IC? Doesn't that go against racial harmony by dividing and categorizing the people? If you're a citizen in France or Germany, no matter if you're Indian, Chinese or any other race, your passport will simply state that your nationality is French/German. That's it. No categorizing of race.

One friend asked me once, "So what race are you ah?"

"Erm, Filipino."

"No, that's your nationality. I mean, you know, like here in Singapore, your nationality is Singaporean, but your race is Malay, Chinese or Indian. So what race are you under then?"

"Eh, I don't know leh. I guess my race and nationality is the same. It's like that in other countries too right?"

And that's when I realized that the system of race and nationality here causes people to adopt race as a part of their identity. It's a double edged sword I guess because remembering your roots and culture is always a good thing but at the same time this categorization causes division among the people.

Here's another excerpt:

"I guess the Singaporean Chinese are the most racist of the lot. Granted, the Chinese are proud of their roots and ancestry (“5,000 years of glorious Chinese history”, as the older generations would exclaim), I see no way racism can be justified at all. There is never such a thing as a “superior race”, as Adolf Hitler found out, rather tragically. Towards the end of the war, Hitler himself admitted that his claim that the Germans were racially superior was merely a convenient means to drum up support for his maniacal ambitions."



Now before I continue, let me say that I'm not anti-Chinese or anything. In fact most of my friends are Chinese. I'm just trying to say things from my perspective and trying to being as fair and unprejudiced as I can.

Referring back to that excerpt, I have to agree with that point too. However, I think that prejudice comes from the social standing of the Chinese here in Singapore. Whether you like it or not, the Chinese have the highest social standing here compared with the other races. And because of that, other races are looked down upon. My friend probably summed up this mentality when he said, "... That's why you don't see any Malays in Shenton Way."

Everybody knows how ugly and destructive racism can be. It destroys relationships and can scar someone's self esteem. But how do we get rid of it?

I was having talking with a friend one day when the topic of racism came up. He said that it was perfectly alright to be racist. I replied and said, "Since I wouldn't want anybody to be racist to me, I don't want be racist to anybody else."

I don't mean to get all religious here but Jesus Christ said it best when He taught these 2 things about living one's life.


"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you ..."

"Love your neighbor as yourself."


That's the attitude everybody needs more of.

Postscript: After reading the comments on La Mason's blog regarding this entry of his, it seems like some people think that his comment, "I guess the Singaporean Chinese are the most racist of the lot", implies that the whole Chinese race here is racist. I don't know if that was La Mason's intention, but the way I understood it, I don't think so. When I agreed with his point, I wasn't saying that the entire Chinese race or that every single person who is Chinese is racist. I was just saying that in comparison with the other races.

I apologize if I was sending the wrong message across.

19 Comments:

Blogger Laughingcow said...

Well said. Culture is culture; "race" is a man-made concept that has no purpose, no biological basis, and has been so horribly distorted and abused.

I don't remember where I heard this, but it stuck with me -- that it isn't enough to just not be racist; the fight against racism will be won only by those who dare stand and speak out against it.

Thank you for writing this.

3:06 AM  
Blogger Zhe Bin said...

i think we still need the word "race" on our IDs. surely we cannot put "culture"? i guess so long we are not overly obsessed with the race word everything seems okay. at least for now?

oh ya, tell ya something refering to "That's why you don't see any Malays in Shenton Way". you know, i've got malay friends (they're really studious) telling me that they hate some of their fellow race for always portraying they are lazy. they're kinda fed up.

seems like it's not the other races' doing for them not showing up at shenton way?

haha. hey, i hope all this are taken on a light note ya? ^^

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who profess they are anti racist always end up shooting themselves in the foot when they declare that an entire race is racist based on a few anecdotes. It's unfair stereotyping all the same.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Zen|th said...

Laughingcow: I agree. I was watching Channel News Asia one night and they had this documentary on race. And it's proven that race has no biological basis.

Zhe Bin: I guess you can't blame your malay friends for being fed up. I'd be fed up too if I was one of them.

Anonymous: I wasn't saying that the entire Chinese race or that every single person who is Chinese is racist. I was just saying that in comparison with the other races. I thought I didn't have to add that disclaimer because people would understand that. Besides, I've been around long enough to gather more than a few anecdotes. Sometimes I think I'm more Chinese than Filipino. Haha. Thanks for the comment though.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

Race does exist but it's not a clear cut thing. More of a gradient than black and white differentials.


There are only four races in Singapore: Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others.

Peranakan? Then you're Chinese. Arab? Then you must be Malay?

Bollocks.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Woof! said...

I don't disagree (geez.. that's the lawyer in me speaking.. subtle difference between "agree" and "don't disagree") with what's in the post..

But I think there are still practical (to the govt) reasons for having a race distinction in governmental records (such as NRIC), like proportion of races in any HDB block, etc.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Lynne said...

Americans call themselves Americans, they hardly call themselves "Irish", "English", "Half French, half German", 'cos most of them don't know their roots. We call ourselves Chinese, 'cos we know our roots - most of our ancestors came from China. But when I am here in the US, I call myself Singapore, so that I can distinguish myself from the mainland Chinese. No matter what, I still can't relate myself back to them, just like most Americans who can't relate themselves to their true ancestors

9:16 PM  
Blogger Zen|th said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Zen|th said...

Agagooga: Haha. I guess my race is categorized under "Others" then.

Woof: Does "don't disagree" mean that you don't disagree but don't agree too?

Lynne: Well said. I think that we can remove the idea of race here without losing our roots though.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Ang Ku Kueh said...

i remembered asking my Mauritius Friend what race he is, he told me no race, just Mauritian and i was actually confused, because in S'pore, race is part of life, even our pledge has this word in it, when it should be totally nationalistic.

Some countries are majority 1 race, so they don't have racial issues in their own country, but doesn't mean they can tolerate either. when u go Japan, they dun ask u what race, they just lump u under 'alien' under customs....

12:23 AM  
Blogger Woof! said...

Zenith: haha.. ure fast! It means "I don't necessarily agree either"... hahaha

5:35 PM  
Blogger Zen|th said...

Ang Ku Kueh: I guess putting everybody who is non Japanese under "Aliens" makes everything run faster.

Woof: Ah.. I learnt something new today. :)

3:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zenith, I love reading your blog but you do appear to have some unenlightened views on racial stereotypes and discrimination. The Chinese are the most racist compared to other races? How do you measure the racism of an entire race? By the number of incidences of racial riots initiated by Chinese against other races? By the number of cases of hatred crimes committed against foreigners in Chinese dominated countries?

If you wish to base your observations on anecdotal evidence and not on statistics then I'm sorry to say that you're making a very stereotypical and no doubt racist comment.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Zen|th said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the nice comment. Haha. I admit that my observations are anecdotal, but like you said, how else do you measure the racism of an entire race? I don't think it's possible to put something like racism down to statistics, so experience is all anyone can ever use.

I just trying to state my opinion. Perhaps I'm wrong or right but I guess that's something we'll never really find out. Like I said, for me, I think it's more a matter of social standing among the races that causes this implicit racism in certain people. Someone said to me that maybe it's because the Chinese are the majority here that causes them to look down on the other races.

Oh well, I guess we'll never find out for sure, will we? Haha.

3:56 AM  
Anonymous malaysia is no future country said...

First of all, are we (the non-bumis, that is) really to believe that the government will abolish or tone down the New Economic Policy in the near future? We must be realistic, if you have the right to buy a property at a discount and have scholarships for your children, would you let go of these rights?

With Chinese population dwindling in Malaysia, what needs to be done depends on the Chinese themselves.

There is nothing wrong with the brain drain. In fact, we should encourage our children to move to Singapore, Taiwan, China etc. if we disagree with Malaysian government policies that are based on race and religion.

When it comes to the matter of the dwindling number of Chinese Malaysians, we should talk about quality, not quantity.

We should resolve why the Chinese-Malaysian population is reducing. Official figures have more than one million Chinese Malaysians emigrating over the past 25 years. Why did they emigrate? I am sure the government knows.

Straight A students can't get scholarships or university places. Nothing new, it is been that way for the past 35 years. Nowadays, even enlightened malay Malaysians are speaking up on this injustice. The MCA and Gerakan? Busy making money from private colleges.

What is so great about having TAR College or Utar which took more than 35 years of begging? Why should it be so difficult to set up an independent university when we have scores of public ones?

While we push young talented people away, other countries notably Singapore, the US and Australia welcome them with open arms.

Is it logical that we drive away our young talented ones and then invite retired Mat Sallehs to live here and exploit our low-cost of living?

Singapore's success in particular owes much to these ex-Malaysians or their descendants including Hon Sui Sen, Goh Keng Swee, Goh Chok Tong, just to name a few.

About 30 percent of top management in both Singapore's government and corporate sector are ex-Malaysians. We export them so that Singapore can compete with, and then whack us.

Korea and Taiwan, both way behind us in the 70s and 80s are now way ahead. Thailand is breathing down our necks.

Sadly, there is just no integrity in the nation's leadership.

3:45 AM  
Anonymous run away said...

For those who are already in oversea and live comfortably. There is no reason for you to come back to Malaysia. Life in Malaysia is getting tougher each day.

Frankly, as a Chinese, I don't see there is any future for our next generation.

Another dangerous mentor that people always use is JFK "Don't ask what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for the country".

Is sound nice, but isn't how German Nazi and Japan militarism started the world war using the same mentor? Under the great "ask what you can do for the country".

Patriotism? Yes, I understand how you feel. Your love for the country was spoilt by the political party. Since non-malays will always be a second-class citizen, so you are probably the same in any other countries, if not better.

You get cannibalised by your own countrymen, intellectually and professionally.

As someone else advised, be a Global citizen.

Patriotism does not need you to be in Malaysia to work your due. Let no one pointed at you and say you are a traitor if your true intention is to generate good deeds for Malaysia wherever you are.

Save your time about coming back to Malaysia. Nothing will change in Malaysia. At least not even in this lifetime. Racism will still be here to stay, and also everything else.

I think there is such an entrenched discrimination against the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia, that it will take probably a whole generation to undo the damage.

This is happening in whole spectrum of the Malaysian government, civil service, state governments and universities. Just look at percentage of malays in all these government bodies - 98%……….

A whole generation of malays has been brought up to think that it's their inherited right to own Malaysia. The other races are damned.

I think the malays especially those in power, are scared right now that if they will to compete openly with other races, they will surely be the loser. You will see very strong resistance to hire other races even the most qualified.

The malays are never brought up to compete on even ground. This is fault of previous PM and now the present PM has to tread a balance ground to ensure the malays are not cast away as well as to make Malaysia competitive worldwide.

In US I never met a malay immigrant, although there are thousands of Malaysian Chinese and Indian immigrants. Why? Malays in Malaysia have an easier life where they are literately prince of the land.

We have infrastructure good enough to be considered first world or better. Look at the Cyberjaya, Petronas Twin Towers, Putrajaya?

Gleaming high-rise buildings but also in every city, dirty toilets abound, litter clogging up the drains, public telephones damaged, plus unreliable rubbish collection and disposal. We just treat public facilities badly, not caring about others.

Being an urban dweller myself, I am constantly disheartened by the poor public infrastructure and upkeep in our capital city.

Faulty pedestrian traffic signals, illogical positioning of bus stops, poor public cleanliness, poor quality sidewalks (which are paved using slippery tiles), un-integrated and poorly managed public transportation system, the list goes on.

Your children can't even walk safely along the Kuala Lumpur streets, as they might be bags snatched, kidnapped, murdered, raped, or robbed, as they do not know the jungle laws of Malaysia. The police won't help much as they now have a big pile of corruption cases running after them.

You owe nothing to Malaysia, you pay your due, so live on.

So, my last advice. Don't come back unless you are really suffering in oversea.

I'm sorry this sounds very racist but I think we have to be honest in discussion.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous hero said...

Chinese getting straight As are not allowed into universities. Not allowed civil service jobs. That is blatant discrimination.

Why do you support such discrimination?

Chinese Malaysians have built very successful businesses, hence they have the wealth that they have. This is not greed. They worked for what they now own.

Why do you envy what does not belong to you? Is this not greed?

It is quite untrue that business offers are conducted on the basis of race. Starting any business is very very hard work, but the malays did not have a hard working tradition to persevere. This is a cultural change the malays need in order to conduct businesses successfully.

Armed with this knowledge, do you still insist that Chinese Malaysians are greedy, and therefore it is right for malays to take what does not belong to them?

Your perception of business in Malaysia has got to be wrong.

Most goods and services can be conducted in open markets, and there is no particular reason to single out malays so that Chinese businessmen should swindle them. There are lots of swindlers in business so it is not just malays who get swindled.

Successful businessmen depend on providing real benefits to customers and partners so that it is worthwhile for them to do business again and again to both parties benefit. It is only when customers also get rich that businesses can grow.

The discrimination against Chinese, Indians and other peoples cannot be tolerated in the modern world. Countries that do this will face long-term decline.

Hard working people are not greedy as you accuse them. They are hard working because they have a mission in life to prosper, to give offspring a good chance in life to live to the full, to contribute their talents to the betterment of society……….

This is not greed.

Whereas, envy of others wealth and taking what they have not worked for is greed.

I would put is stronger. It is robbery and corruption. You talk like a Mafia extortionist when you said that worse could happen to the Chinese, so be thankful because there are more malays than Chinese, and therefore they can take even more from the Chinese if they want to.

You have to be joking to believe that your greed and prejudices are the wonderful things about Malaysia. Well, may be you do.

Malaysia as describe it is a country based on racism, lack of a conscience, and greed (taking from hard working foreigners).

Meritocracy is denounced. Robbing the wealthy is promoted.

How can there be a good future for such a country?

Looking from outside of Malaysia, it is easy to see that the malay-controlled government is enforcing a wealth-robbing programme from the Chinese who earned their wealth through hard work.

By barring bright well-qualified Chinese Malaysians from entering Malaysian universities, Malaysia is pursuing a discriminatory policy based on race.

This is not tolerated in civilised countries. It is a policy that gives Malaysia a very bad reputation and deprives itself of its most talented.

It is a policy which tells the malays that robbing from the rich is not greed because being rich, being educated is the same as being greedy.

This is moral corruption and self-contradiction which Malaysia will pay back a very heavy price.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous the model racist nation said...

The non-malays have heard this one before - If you think that Malaysia not good, please go out this country.

Umno has been brought up to think they are the prince of the land.

Every time they get cornered, Umno will tell the other race to go out where they belong. I think Umno must change their thinking or they will pull down the country to the middle age.

So far there is no Umno leader that can lead them to be modern 21st century citizens.

Rather Umno is anti this or anti that. There is no forward looking and thinking to break free perspective.

Malaysia developed nation on year 2020?

The problem with Malaysia ministers is that they are mostly underachievers academically!

That is the reason why they simply speak without logic and reasons. This is also the very reason that I admire Lim Kit Siang, Karpal, etc, who can debate intelligently with those monkeys who never bother to understand what is uttered.

Just compare the resume of Malaysia ministers with that from our southern neighbour! Then you will understand.

I know their prime minister has a first class honors in science from Cambridge if I am not mistaken. The rest of his cabinets are very highly qualified. Hence you don't hear nonsense from them.

For your information, some Malaysia ministers would not be at all qualified for even an assistant post!

Our country leaders, not necessary meaning the prime minister, but overall people in power, people of authority etc, have no integrity, no moral, no self respect and most of no accountability and responsibility.

Let's not compare with other countries, as no countries have perfect leaders, but what they have is integrity.

When they do something wrong and they know it is wrong, nobody need to tell them to resign, they won't say our Malaysia usual line "Nobody can resign me except the prime minister" - we should call this the ball-less line.

If you have integrity and honest enough, you should just resign.

This is why Malaysia is moving backward. With this kind of ministers who are not willing to tackle the root of the issue, but instead blaming others for exposing bad news and sweeping things under the carpet - what hope can you foresee for Malaysia in the future.

Perhaps we should have "Look Africa" policy, rather than "Look East" policy - since a lot of things are similar between Malaysia and African countries except oil.

Singapore has shown us that if the government plan properly and harness all the human talents and resources, a small country without much natural resources can be better than a big country with lots of natural resources.

We all started equal, MR1 = S$1, but see what happens now.

MSA = MAS and SIA. See the difference?

If we continue to ignore human talents and resources, by year 2020, the two countries will be even further apart!

1:33 PM  
Anonymous yes agree malaysia is no future said...

Well it just appeared on the google page when I searched for racism subject this afternoon.

I have been in New Zealand for 15 years and I have no intention to go back to Malaysia simply because there is an equal opportunity here for everyone, and I don't feel less ranked in the society.

I am not sure if I am part of the cream but I do have both bachelor and master degrees, and I am currently serving the New Zealand community.

I love the place I was brought up in (Sungai Petani) and the memory I had when I was attending primary and secondary schools, but the way the Chinese and Indian people are treated by the Malaysia government is just flawed.

I have no intention to go back, until I see a non-malay PM.

Way to go!

Let's celebrate the human spirit that strives against the odds!

Persistence definitely bears fruits! And certainly they are sustainable and cherish-able!

Universal truths!

One got to be prepared to look for challenges, in any areas of your interest, beyond the shores of Malaysia.

Malaysia's economy is very small and unsophisticated.

Australia's economy is bigger than all of the South East Asia countries combined.

Imagine USA and Europe!

2:00 PM  

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