From 15th May 2020 till 15th June 2020, EMPOWER Malaysia organised an essay competition for aspiring writers aged 13 to 23 with the theme “The Freedom to Express Myself without Fear”. This is one of the top entries, an eloquent essay from Shekynah Shavena Rabindranath, aged 18, talking about how important it is to speak out against racism.
Racism; the act of discriminating against someone based on their race or the color of their skin. The belief that one race is superior than the other, equating to the fact that they have the rights to do whatever they think is right at any deemed time. Racism has been an on-going issue for as long as I can remember. Racism is inevitable and that is the harsh truth.
My name is Shekynah Shavena Rabindranath @ Twinkle. I am 18 years old, I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That is me, that is who I am, that is my identity. Sadly, for too many people, I am identified by my appearance. This should not be a big deal but for some reason, it is. From the time I was a child, and for as long as I can remember, I have always been discriminated because of the way I looked, the race that I was, the skin color and hair that I had, and the way I spoke or carried out certain tasks.
I was raised my father who is a Ceylonese and my mother who is a Malayali. Growing up, they always taught me to be proud of my race and my identity as a Malaysian. They also taught me to look at others with the ‘color blind’ attitude. This does not mean in any way whatsoever that I completely disregard their race or the color of their skin, it simply means that I should never abstain myself from associating with them based on the color of their skin.
Many of my friends would tell me how embarrassed they were to be Malaysians, and how if given the chance, they would change their race. It saddened me and it broke me. I love my country and I would consider myself to be a patriotic person. When I would ask them why, they would respond with, “Have you seen how we Asians get treated? The amount of racial hate we get is embarrassing. Everything we do has to have a consequence. We’re all being stereotyped.”
At school, when our teachers who were not from this country would make a statement that was derogatory, I would stand up for myself and for my people. I remember this one time, we had an Irish teacher who was teaching us English, and one day she walked into class and started talking about Malaysian culture. Out of the blue, she said this, and I quote her exact words: “You Malaysians are so lazy. All you ever do is sleep, eat, and play. Had I known I would have never come here.” Mind you, I was 15 at the time. This was what I replied with: “If you aren’t content with the way we perform, if you aren’t happy here, if you are going to continue to discriminate us, then I suggest you leave and go back to where you came from.” It only occurred to me later on in the day that the possibility of me getting expelled was quite high. Good news, I was not expelled.
When I grow up, I would like to become a politician. When I do, I will introduce legislations such as: ‘The Equality Act’, ‘Anti-Discrimination Act’, as well as the ‘Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.’ This will ensure that racism would be reduced drastically, and everyone would be able to live their lives without prejudices. They should not have to feel like their race is a burden or an embarrassment. In fact, they should take pride in their race and feel empowered to move on to greater heights. Not only will this benefit the individual, but it will also inspire others to accept their identity. Often times, many politicians speak to the gallery. That has to end, they have to speak in unison and in one accord; even when speaking to a certain ethnic group.
Racism starts in places like at home and in school. I strongly believe that no one was born a racist; they were taught to be. At homes, when parents discriminate another race, the child blindly picks it up and brings it to school. That is where bullying, discrimination, hate and violence kicks in. When someone discriminates my race, be it privately or publicly, I will not hesitate to protest. Being passive in a public environment where racism occurs is to condone such acts, with this, people should realize that embarrassing the perpetrator publicly would cause them severe humiliation and would deter him in the future.
To help with the eradication, here are some practical ways: get involved in assemblies or campaigns that are against racism. Educate yourself by reading interviews on people who are different than you. Welcome anyone who may feel excluded/ostracized because of their race. Don’t support racist jokes, although people may mean no harm, it can be hurtful and abusive to the receiving party. Walk away if you are around someone who is being racist. Racism can affect anyone and everyone. It can make you feel like you’re not important. You might feel upset, depressed or angry. Remember that these things take time to stop, so keep voicing out your opinions, you will have to speak out more than once if you want to be heard. Do not stop until you feel like your voice is being taken seriously and into account.
This quote perfectly sums the concept of racism, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
The views, opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EMPOWER Malaysia.
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