Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Racial Dominance in Malaysian Social Intercourse

Written by johnleemk on 11:04:56 am Apr 4, 2007.
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Last week, I watched 300, a movie almost everyone seems to have watched, at the TGV cinema in 1 Utama. I enjoyed it so much that this week, I went back to 1 Utama with the same friends I originally watched it with to see it again. Unfortunately, there's a little technicality — as I am only turning 17 this month, I can't exactly legally watch the movie, since it's rated for those aged only 18 and above.

I really see no point in legislating against the underaged and preventing them from watching a movie. The onus is on their parents to prevent them from engaging in activities their parents consider immoral, not for society to take over the role of individual parents. If parents consider their children mature enough to do something, then what is the problem?

That aside, the purpose of this article is not to rant about the illogicality of such laws. Continuing on, a friend of mine asked for our money back. After a lot of fuss, since the tickets are technically not refundable and it was our fault for attempting to smuggle in an underaged teenager into an 18+ rated movie, we got our money back (with the help of a rude clerk whose verbal abuse we seized on as an additional excuse for a refund).

I have to admit, asking for a refund wasn't exactly the first thing that came to my mind. Normally when you're in the wrong, you don't exactly claim for compensation, especially when it's entirely your fault (the clerk asked the friend who bought my ticket whether we were all 18 or above, and she absent-mindedly answered yes). I don't have sufficient arrogance or confidence to make demands when I'm in the wrong. Fortunately, my friend has no such scruples, so she asked to see the manager, and true enough, the consumer is always right.

The point of this piece is not to defend consumer rights either. (It would be nice if more people got GSC into such trouble, though — and showed them a thing or two about customer service.) Rather, it's to point out something disturbing I noticed.

After that verbal scuffle was over, and we retired to a Burger King to consume the popcorn we had bought before being stopped at the point of entry to the theatre, our friend who had been most vocal in her bitching revealed she was glad she had bitten her tongue before she could unleash a few choice racial epithets. Apparently she had been intent on calling the Malay ticket clerk all sorts of names for "discriminating against non-Malays".

Racial rhetoric actually isn't that uncommon when people are angry. I recall that not too long ago, American comedian Michael Richards (perhaps best known for playing Kramer on Seinfeld) got in hot soup for calling some black men who heckled him at a performance some particularly demeaning names. Sadly, making fun of one's race is often the normal reaction of anger, just as I might make fun of some other trademark characteristic of a person I'm angry with. (Really, who hasn't poked fun at a particular "fatty"?)

What's disturbing is how the political aspects of discrimination have spilled over into society. I really doubt that that Malay fellow had anything to do with the government's discriminatory policies. I really doubt that he had race in his mind when he sold us the tickets, or that the other Malay clerk who asked us for our ICs had race in mind when he did so. It's a possibility, but given Occam's razor (the simplest answer is the correct one), it's probably not the reason we got in trouble. I certainly did not see race coming into the picture at all, and was surprised when it was brought up.

In the past I've argued that the political aspects of discrimination don't necessarily spill over into the social sphere, and I still stand by that. If my friend had been pissed with a Malay classmate of ours, she might have made some cutting remarks, possibly even some about race, but definitely would not have brought up the issue of discrimination at all. And I really doubt political discrimination would prevent people from making friends or going about their normal social intercourse.

But it's clear that political discrimination's effects are spilling over into any area with a Malay figure of authority. If the person in a position of power, even if he got there fair and square, even if he has no political inclinations against the non-Malays, he is automatically assumed to be in line with and as having adopted the government stance of discrimination against the non-Malays. This simply isn't fair.

Perhaps I'm being naive. Perhaps I'm just not jaded and cynical enough. But I honestly see it as unreasonable to assume that a picture should be tinged by the crimson stain of race without any reason to support that assumption. It's a belief unfounded in fact. And yet it's a belief that lingers, thanks to our government's blatant discriminatory policies. It doesn't help that rather than being told these policies are for the sake of helping a fellow Malaysian, we are told these policies are a cost of being a second-class citizen.

Not too long ago, I've heard, a Chinese Member of Parliament was called a "babi" (pig) by a Malay Member of Parliament — an obvious, if implicit, racial insult. Our leaders talk of national unity and ensuring equality of opportunity for all Malaysians. But the fact is, there is no such equality, and will be no such equality, until we stop this pretence that some people are more Malaysian than others, and until we stop arbitrarily discriminating against some Malaysians, robbing Peter to pay Paul.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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