Racism — a pandemic without a vaccine

We may not find the cure for racism, but small gestures like smiling might just mean the world to many

pic by AFP

THE coronavirus outbreak began late last year and scientists all over the world are really scurrying to come up with a vaccine.

Racism? It has been around for hundreds of years. Yet, no cure seems apparent.

The world is currently abuzz with the chaos in America — “the land of the free” — after the killing of African American George Floyd due to police brutality.

Other recent events include the senseless murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the telephone call made by Amy Cooper, a white female, telling the police that an African American man was threatening her life.

That man, Christian Cooper (not related), had simply asked Amy to put her dog on a leash, a requirement by the park they were both in.

These are just a speck of what black people in America have been experiencing for over 400 years.

Many more were killed without justice being served, but what happened to Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked a nationwide chaos.

The Minneapolis police station was torched and shops were looted. Even the White House was not spared by the rioters.

While Malaysians are also partaking in showing support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, these events have also brought back discussions of racism on home grounds.

Malaysian netizens are reminding those who are supporting #BlackLivesMatter to look at what is going on in Malaysia as well.

Multiculturalism is a beautiful part of our country, but like it or not, most of us, if not all, are racists one way or another. Racism is not necessarily violent.

We do it without even realising it. Many years ago, I told a friend of my visit to a hospital and her first question was, “What was the doctor — an Indian?” to which I answered “Yes” because at that time, I didn’t even realise how unrelated the question was to my story.

Until today, I do not know why the race of my doctor mattered. There is a meme on the Internet, highlighting some racist phrases that we often hear: “You naughty, later Indian come catch you”, “Don’t rent (out) to black people, they’re dirty”, “Don’t hire the Malay, he’s lazy”.

We are also used to saying things like “Apek workshop”, “orang gaji Indon” (Indonesians do not like to be called Indons, unbeknownst to many Malaysians) or “pak guard Bangla”, for example, instead of simply referring to them by their profession, if we do not know their names.

Those looking for rooms to rent surely have come across ads that preferred locals or tenants of a certain race only.

The same can be said for the job market, where many employers openly announce that they prefer a specific race only.

This, while not life-threatening, is just as scary because we are practising it subconsciously and unknowingly hurting friends or colleagues for whom we have no ill will.

Racism in our country could be said to have begun due to the lack of understanding of different races’ cultures and beliefs.

That would probably be an acceptable excuse in the pre-independence era, but now, in 2020, we have had more than ample time to know and understand each other.

Nobody was born with it, but racism is not something new. Global anti-racism movements can go on for years, but be it in the Americas, Asia or Europe, racism has been taught to children for many generations, making it even harder to be eradicated.

However, as individuals, we can do our part locally, one day at a time. Start by smiling or greeting someone of a different skin colour without expecting anything in return.

We may not find the cure for racism, but small gestures like these might just mean the world to many.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.