All just equal Malaysians

HOW many generations have to pass before you are considered and treated as a fully equal citizen? It's a loaded question but think about it. The question may not apply to you but it is a question that resonates with so many around the world.

Our news feeds are showing us what inequality is doing to the world. Even if you don't want to see it, the stream of uncomfortable images of war, migration, refugees, riots, poverty, crime and terrorism are in your face at all hours.

Gone are the days of the one-off iconic image that wins the coveted "Best Picture of the Year" award. The napalm girl, the starving child and the vulture, the black power salute, the Saigon execution, the migrant mother, the green-eyed Afghan girl – all images that make us stop, think, feel and reflect. Today inequality and injustice are in our news feed everyday but we don't have the time to digest the emotional content of what is being said and unsaid.

On Aug 12 we were spectators to white supremacy racism in Charlottesville and its clap-back that was met by evil retaliation, killing and injuring those who were standing up for equality. With the enabling rhetoric coming from the leadership of the country, it was no more about how this could happen but when something like Charlottesville would happen.

While many in that part of the world are condemning such hatred, last week as our country was showcasing our multicultural heritage through the SEA Games, space was given to the self-proclaimed "King of Racists". The worst part? No one rebuked him.

Is it because we are constantly exposed to racist rhetoric that our conscious prompters are too numb to react?

Is it because we have confused racist statements to be the noble work of upholding racial nationalist agendas?

Is there not a better way to empower without marginalising others?

If there is, we definitely have not figured how to do it.

Just a few weeks ago, the politicians were using race to embarrass leaders on the opposite divide. Apparently you're not good enough if you have foreign ancestors, or better still are of mixed parentage. Basically we're all not good enough for Malaysia it seems.

Instead of standing up and embracing the ethnic heritage their parents, grandparents or forefathers gave them, they instead counter insulted. As if there was such a thing as a pure race that was worthy enough especially in a mixed up country like Malaysia.

As the saying goes, their ancestors would have been rolling in their graves listening to these apparent grown ups hurling insults at each other.

How shameful to insult those who led you to where you are today. As the Malay saying goes "bagai kacang lupakan kulit". What greater insult to your own family and ancestors each time you deny who they were and where they came from.

This is the product of what is left unsaid. When racist speech becomes normalised behaviour, so commonplace that we do not even question or rebuke it.

It starts to feed on our subconscious that Malaysia is not for every Malaysian but only a select, pure few. The rest of us are window dressing that make for heartwarming stories of multiculturalism, only to be displayed during national events or in TV commercials.

We may not have segregated buses but we have people who manage to dictate that pupils have different drinking cups based on religion. Why not put that on our multicultural advertisements instead?

But the ruling was reversed after a public outcry. Really? The fact that adults came up with this idea and then implemented it has taught the children a distorted version of multiculturalism.

Perhaps this may then prepare them for adulthood where there are official and unofficial quotas and benefits assigned to different Malaysians.

By saying that I am Malaysian, I do not give up my heritage, my ethnicity, my religion, my principles. In fact, for me being Malaysian is synonymous to all that I am and all that you are – no one above or below each other – all just equal Malaysians. But this is not what is being said by our leaders or taught in our schools.

Knowing what inequality is doing to the world, is this the path we want to continue in?

So now ask yourself, "how many generations have to pass before you and I are considered and treated as fully equal citizens of Malaysia?"