Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Between Racial And Racist...

I reproduce here a letter from Halimah Mohd Said which was published in the Star today.

"In the light of current political developments, the words “racial” and “racist” need to be explicated and put in the right context.

The word “racial” is a derivative adjective from the root noun “race” which has several shades of meaning according to the Oxford Dictionary.

Its meaning include: (i) “each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics” and (ii) “a group of people sharing the same culture, language etc; an ethnic group.”

The adjective “racist” is derived from the noun “racism” which according to the Oxford Dictionary means: (i) “the belief that there are characteristics, abilities or qualities specific to each race” and (ii) “discrimination against or antagonism towards other races”.

While “racial” has a neutral, non-emotive meaning, “racist” has emotive undertones.

The word “race” has become unpopular because of its associations with the now discredited 19th century theories of racial superiority exploited indiscriminately by certain quarters.

Today the term “ethnic group” is preferred to describe a community of people sharing the same physical and cultural characteristics.

While being partial to and protective of one’s own ethnic group is natural and should be seen as an extension of loyalty towards kin and kind, being antagonistic and discriminatory towards people who do not share one’s physical make-up and culture is not.

Speaking up for your own community is not an act of racism. It should be seen as a positive force, especially when the intention is to inspire and drive them to greater heights of achievement.

Asking the Malays to protect their own interests should be seen in this context, as it is natural for the Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups to consolidate their respective positions.

It is only when a government is prejudiced against particular ethnic groups and imposes discriminatory policies against them that it can be said to practice racism. It is only when you consistently accuse another ethnic group of being lazy or incapable that you can be said to be racist."


Hi&Lo said...

Culture is never static. It's evolving thru time and contact with other cultures.

If a race is confined to its own boundary, suspicions and prejudices become blinding. It misses the opportunity to enrich itself.

Are we sure only a Malay can champion for the Malays, or Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups best taken care of by their own kind?

Anonymous said...

I've seen so many comments with people saying "that person is racist" or "That party is racist" or "That is a racist statement" or "YOU ARE A RACIST".

Dont they realize by saying that they are the racist ones instead. You point one finger, 3 more fingers point to yourself.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nuraina,
If your opinion, is BN Government 'racist'?

Since you were born in Singapore may be you know quite a bit about the country too. Can you comment whether PAP Government is more racist or BN Government is racist?

mn said...

A.kum Kak Aina,

it should be "Between Racial, Racist,Rice and Rise"?


Anonymous said...

many many many ...years ago, the people of the same race tried building a tower to reach the heaven, GOD disallowed, so confused them with different languages & different races loh !! aiyah, LIVE & LET LIVE LAH !! ENJOY if we still can , aina , right !

Anonymous said...


Why beat around the bush. Just use Krismuddin and The Ijok Monkey as examples...racists extraordinare...and we will understand the definition clearer.

Anonymous said...

"It is only when a government is prejudiced against particular ethnic groups and imposes discriminatory policies against them that it can be said to practice racism. It is only when you consistently accuse another ethnic group of being lazy or incapable that you can be said to be racist."

IMHO, the last two sentences provide me a huge clue as to what Halimah was trying to say in this letter. Many Malays have the same line of thought as Halimah. They feel that there's nothing wrong for one to defend his/her own race. It become wrong only when other races are discriminated against.

Which is why the word "It is only" is used, as if it is not already happening. To the typical malays, there are no discrimination happening in this beautiful country of Malaysia.

An example often cited is the fact that the government are not preventing the non-malay from seeking better future overseas or doing business within the country. The government are not helping but at the same time, they are not hindering. So to a certain extent, the non-malays are not discriminated.

Similarly, when I asked my colleague if special privilege granted to Bumi is permissible in Islam, they would say, it is not encouraged, but the Constitution say so. And most often than not, they will conveniently say - "Itu bukan isu agama..."

I hate to say this. But when they are constantly stamping their right as Muslim by saying "Ini wajib dalam agama I, kamu jangan mempersoalkan agama Islam", but at the same time, willing to turn a blind eye to the blatant and unending discrimination as if it is not wajib...., my general conclusion is that these people are nothing but munafik.

The way I see it, it is useless for people like Halimah to deny the practice of discriminatory policy of the government on the non-malay. It would be more accurate (and acceptable) for Hamilah to explain that they are accepted because it is a 'fair' discriminination.

Thank you halimah for teaching me the difference between the word racial, racist and racism. But I hope you could spend some time checking out the word discrimination and tell me if discrimination can be further classified as 'fair' or otherwise.

I have blog about an interesting exchange of views in the Malaysian Bar forum.



Nuriana, I may be wrong. The letter could be understood in a totally opposite way. If that's the actual intention of the letter, my sincere apologies to you and Mdm. Halimah.

By the way, just found out about this letter by Dr. Asri. He has my full respect for his views -

Antara Kesempitan Perkauman Dengan Keluasan Prinsip Islam

Agama Bukan Candu Untuk Mengkhayalkan Orang Miskin


Anonymous said...

By the same token, is a government 'racist', when the said government constantly side-lining the rights & priviledges of a few certain ethnic groups to have a better life & future? Its happen right in front of our eyes.

Anonymous said...

Race is define by "a group of people sharing the same culture, language etc; an ethnic group.”

Malaysian Race or Bangsa Malaysia that many is trying to bullshit about makes no sense because we do not have a common culture, language etc.

Bangsa Malaysia is just a citizenship and Malaysia a nation without a state ...

To create a Bangsa Malaysia, rid of the vernacular school so that the evolutionary process to create a Bangsa Malaysia can happen.

Develop a uniform education ssytem that helps to develop a multicultural Malaysian based on a continuity of its heritage as the main thrust.

Unknown said...


Oh no, I think this is a discussion of the Malaysian Malaysia concept ...

Perhaps you may want to read a book written by the niece of Yusof Ishak for a balanced view. This is a factorial study not a collection of opinions.

flyer168 said...

Dear All,

I feel most readers can differentiate between "Racial" & "Racist".

In any case, who actually promoted, insisted, indoctrinated & is still imposing on us all the "terminology" in this 21st century Malaysia?

The Chinese, Indians, Malays & others ???