Rage against Racial Prejudice
In the words of Audre Lorde; “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
It’s believed that the world has progressed, that man has come a long way ever since he first set foot upon this earth, but recurring problems such as racial prejudice give me reasons to believe otherwise.
People are not born prejudiced, rather they develop one form of it or another during an early age. Moreover, a person often tends to form fixed opinions in his mind before ever meeting someone representing the group against which he is prejudiced. That being said, it’s almost astonishing that the youth today swims in the center of the pool of prejudice.
Prejudice is taught and promoted by socialization, which commonly refers to influences a person experiences while growing up. People experience social attitudes around them since the time of birth and so, family history of intolerance tends to run deep in their personality.
It’s a vicious cycle when you think about it. What we throw into this world comes back to haunt us. It’s the fear of the unknown that leads one deeper and deeper into believing that those who aren’t one of us should most likely be ignored.
It’s said that you never truly know something until you have gained experience. It had been a little over a year since I had moved to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur and like everyone, I had high hopes after settling in.
It was October 2016, during the Autumn festival when I first faced the problem. I remember making my way towards an empty table where a group of South Indian girls joined in. Soon amiable chatter followed through a series of group discussions, during which I felt like I had managed to make some new friends.
It wasn’t until they discovered that I belonged to a different religion and background that the problem occurred; and though they tried to keep displeasure out of their expressions, the damage was done. In the following weeks, I tried texting the group a number of times before I finally decided to give up.
Holding on to Hope
It’s difficult to hold on to hope. Difficult still,
when our heart is broken repeatedly by ones
whom we held dear. A single tear conjures a
fervent storm, one which destroys every last
shred until we cannot cope.
I beg my heart be still, listen to river around
you, hear murmuring increase parallel to the
sound of heartbeat. I hold onto hope in form
of autumnal leaf feeling its color and texture
fade, knowing that soon, it shall rejuvenate.
I lay my head down, resting, beneath indigo
skies, my lone companion being a luminous
moon. I whisper secrets to him, although he
cannot comprehend. I hold onto to hope in
times when there’s scarcely a friend.
Because I believe nature is truly consistent,
welcome days that arrive with a golden sun.
It reminds us that, there is a light in the sea
of darkness, it reminds us, to abstain, from
few bad apples.
With each passing day, I walk with nature
by my side.
After that, I became less enthusiastic about meeting new people. I was literally convinced that I wasn’t going to make any friends in this country. Then there were times when I would find myself thinking, ‘Was I really going to quit trying?’ ‘Was I really going to let prejudice win?’ I thought about taking one more chance, and soon began interacting with different people in the neighborhood.
For those of you who don’t know, here is a brief introduction about the three residing races in Malaysia:
The Malays (Muslims who practice Malay customs) form the largest community in Malaysia and also play a dominant role politically. Malaysia has many other non-Malay indigenous people, who are given Bumiputra status (meaning ‘son of the soil’) and are known to be the oldest inhabitants of the country.
The second largest ethnic group are Chinese who make up 23.2% of the population and have been dominant in trade and business since the early 20th century.
The Indians are the smallest of the three ethnic groups, comprising only 7.0% of the total population. They are mostly Tamils and Telugus from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and lesser from Kerala in the South of India, who were brought to Malaysia to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations, rubber and oil palm estates, construction of buildings, railways, roads and bridges.
According to Blaise Pascal; “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”
Around April 2017, I learned more about the culture and social norms in Malaysia, and sadly enough there was a pattern. The youth normally hung out and mingled in small groups, preferably within their own race and ethnicity, hence making it nearly impossible for anyone outside to make the cut.
I am going to be very honest here folks, it was a heart wrenching reality to come to terms with. Prejudice is such a basic part of a person’s thought process that any one of the causes may end up being a factor, such as a person’s appearance, unfamiliar social customs, religion or even the type of music that one’s interested in.
The Thread of Life
I feel the dead silence of the once roaring sea
waves violet splashed unto these long fingers
I too feel the apathetic murmurs that encircle
and yet, place a fragile heart upon their palm.
I, long to run, into the arms of days long gone
when, the world, seemed not bleak nor harsh,
to count, colors that adorn the rainbow above
while spirit is unbending, resolute and sound.
Oh! but unlike you, I refuse, to be imprisoned,
I, would rather drift amidst the moon and sun,
whisper secrets to the birds hiding in the trees.
I, round blossoms red, dance with honey bees.
I, would scream hope, and fling to wildflowers
lest, the world, seals lips, with growing insults.
I, would weave harmony into the thread of life,
lest, this season, brings floods, famine and fire.
‘Until death serenades and sets me free.’
And just when I had begun to lose hope, there shone a ray of light. Last month, on a day just like any other, I met a Chinese guy who changed the way I thought about life forever. During the couple of hours, we spent talking I realized how much I had missed having social interaction with another human being.
We discussed religion, music, politics and perhaps everything that could be debated on. Before I could point it out, he told me himself that he was different, that he didn’t believe in sticking to societal norms. He told me that he saw people regardless of their caste, creed and color, and refused to make an uninformed decision. And so, we ended up becoming good friends. It was at that moment when I realized that all was not lost, and perhaps humanity had a fighting chance after all.
Moods and shades of Autumn
I felt, the tender stroke of autumn in the
palm of my hand, its colors both vibrant
cherry red and magnanimous brown.
Then moment I laid eyes upon its beauty,
wind ruffled and drew backward my hair,
as though time offering a second chance.
Now, I gaze upon the leaves, different this
time around, observe its underlying depth
and most cherished wisdom.
I realize autumn with its moods and shades
is similar to the time of spring, it offers us a
second re-awakening, perhaps a renewal of
hope and feeling.
I, observed as wind changed its course, this
time gentler, more serene, as it touched me
lovingly on my cheek.
It felt strange, as though nature wanted me
to understand everything better, to wander
deeper into roots and breathe in tranquility
‘You have given me something to chew on.’
Before leaving, I would like to urge everyone who might be reading this article, to spread awareness and truth in their circle of family and friends. The world is filled with hatred and intolerance, and it’s up to us to truly make a difference.
I believe that the issue of racial prejudice can be nipped in the bud, and that children from an early stage can be taught to follow the path of love, respect and tolerance. Little by little, we can strive and attempt to mold young hearts and minds to see people regardless of race, creed and color and to accept them for what they truly are. And so, I implore you all to join me in the rage against racial prejudice. In the words of Richard Cowper:
Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us.
Sanaa Rizvi aka Sunny, from the A Dash of Sunny blog, is a 20-something fun soul who loves all things poetry and literature. Having done her graduation in English Literature, she found solace in the world of poetry and quickly realized she has a knack for it herself.
Written for Rage Against the Machine Month. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Sanaa know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at A Dash of Sunny when you’re done.
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