Rage against Racial Prejudice

by Sanaa Rizvi of A Dash of Sunny

 

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
and calm.

‘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.

 

The Featured Header Images comes via www.pinstake.com

 

39 Comments

  1. Beautiful post. I’ve been there in the same situations with manmade divisions suddenly changing the level of human decency afforded. We just have to keep pushing on finding ways to love regardless, adding to the numbers that appreciates the beauty in diversity rather than shunning it.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is so honest and sweet. It’s a perfect expression of you as a writer, reflecting the warmth of your heart. The poetic interludes are quite poignant.I’ll make room for you to sit at my table, but just remember, it’s the weird table. 😀 If you’re cool with that, pull up a chair, bring your lunch and lets have some wonderful conversations. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  3. That quote from Pascal is right on the money, and could very much be applied to the political situation in the USA where I live. I’m saddened to hear bout the youth where you live. Here, the young people are the wiser ones when it comes to this kind of thing; they tend to not see what their elders are on about in the matter of bigotry. They grew up in an increasingly multi-cultural world, and see race or sexuality in a much more inclusive way than the older generation here does.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this–I learned a lot and applaud your purpose in calling out and working against racism.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I agree that we are not born with prejudice, but I wonder if there is something basic to our human nature that leads us to that end. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but when you look at the world’s religions, the world’s nations, the world’s races, all of the ways in which the world divides itself up … well, let me put it this way. I married a Jewish woman and agreed to raise our kids in her faith although I am an atheist. I was fine with that decision for many years — until my younger son was about 16 years old and we were sending him off to Israel for a four-week trip with some his confirmation class. At the final service before the kids left, each child got up to speak about why they were looking forward to their trip. And far too many of them spoke about it in terms that made clear their belief that they were better human beings because they were Jewish. They spoke of having the opportunity to spend time in a place with other people who shared these “special” traits they had because of their shared faith … and what were some of those traits. Things like intellectual curiosity and compassion and … well, I don’t remember all of them, but what I do remember is that every one of those traits and characteristics those children mentioned was a basic human trait that is not known only to people of that faith. And I realized I had agreed to have my children raised in a faith that teaches is adherents that they are better simply because they are Jewish. And I regretted my decision and continue to do so.

    And I remember my own upbringing as a Catholic and the same thing was a part of that faith. And I look at the words of our political leaders spoken throughout my entire 53 years on this planet and I have been told thousands of times that I am special just because I am American. And I see the leaders of other countries say the same thing to their citizens.

    I want nothing to do with all of the isms we have divided ourselves into. We are human beings, first and last. And I will say this about my brothers and sisters on the left side of the debate in America — the focus on identity politics on the left is now doing more harm than good. All people should be treated fairly and equally and without hate or discrimination, but far too much of the identity politics these days reeks of demands for special treatment and denigration of those who don’t toe the leftwing orthodoxy. And I say that as a lifelong member of the left.

    As I said, maybe there is something inherent in our human nature that drives a large majority of people in a different direction. Yes, we aren’t born this way, but it is far easier to hang with those who think like you, talk like you, look like you. It’s a shame.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s painful to agree with you about the current leanings of the left. Working with them has too often become a high pressure, high expectation, low vibrational level experience, featuring a notable resistance to diversity hardly different in quality to those they are protesting.

      I much admire the work the folks at the Shift Network are doing to bring spirituality to the world of activism. It’s high time.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s incredibly tragic that racial prejudice and that feeling of being superior than others runs far and wide in our world. Like you said we should remember that we are first and foremost human beings.. it’s high time we quit dividing people into class, caste and color and think at least twice before being judgmental. Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. So well said, Sanaa. I also love the quotes you chose to include. I remember my dad telling us something when we were young. He had been stationed in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) during WWII and he had witnessed two boys fighting over religion. He wanted us to know that was wrong. It was his way of teaching us. Perhaps because of that one lesson, he set me on a course of acceptance. He planted a seed. Maybe that is all any of us can do. Thank you for planting seeds!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. They say that we are a product of our environment, and I think that is true… But not always in the way that many people mean it–I don’t think that those raised around horrors must grow up to be horrible, or that those raised in happiness will lead a life of bliss. Like your words suggest, I believe in taking charge of our lives and embracing (or facing) the world in the most positive way we can manage. I, too, believe in better tomorrows. In glorious days that can be had again (or for the first time).

    This stanza will stay with me:

    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.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. This is a really heartening article, Sanaa. Thank you for sharing both your pain and your realizations with us. Change is slow and incremental but really does happen one person at a time. Thank you for reminding me of this at a time (here in the USA) when it is very easy to feel defeated and to retreat. xoxo to you! ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Sanaa, I love that you tackled this subject and so eloquently. My heart grows weary and sad at the perceived “differences” people hold in their minds, when each of us is simply a human being trying to live as best we can. Thank you for addressing this topic, and so well. I know we humans are capable of so much more, and that harmony is possible. We need strong peaceful leaders. Meanwhile, keep reaching out. There are many who do not see differences, just shared humanity.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Such an important and relevant post, Sanaa! I like very much your (youth perspective) input into this ugly and persistent problem in our societies.
    I happen to be working with youth at present (at a secondary school) and there are subtle and disturbing behaviours, and bullying tactics, I’ve noticed especially among youth of immigrant background. These prejudices are based on religion and background, same religion but different lifestyles, and whether one was born here (the host country) or recently came as a refugee, asylum seeker and so on. Teenage stage is delicate as it. So, It is sad to witness this kind of coming together (the small groups) BUT with the exclusion of others, who don’t make the cut.
    But all is not lost. On a broader scale, youth nowadays are wise and they speak up against prejudice, in general. I believe adults, parents, families and so on, should engage often in these kind of discussions with youngsters so we can all learn and continue to keep our own prejudices in check. Thanks once again Sanaa for sharing your personal experience and this brilliant post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s a relief to learn that some of the youth nowadays make it a point to speak up against racial prejudice 🙂 Hopefully we will eradicate this social evil completely! Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Khaya ❤️

      Like

  11. I started to read your post late last night, but soon realized this was an important one and I needed to wait to read it when I was rested and my mind was clear. I’m glad I made that choice. I can sum up my reaction with the word WOW. Your post, both text and poems, is so wise and thought provoking… and beautiful. My favorite part is:

    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.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I am so glad you met someone who has given you hope in the human race. Your post reads true, unfortunately of too many people who walk around with blinders under the guise of righteousness. I was raised Catholic and quickly rebelled as a teen…not my faith but the church because I found it judgmental and far from “christian” modelling. I believe in the Golden Rule and if we all could follow this as well as compassion, what a wonderful world this would be. Your poetry is truly equisite…I could read it over and over and I love how you end with autumn as a time for renewal rather than an ending…it is isn’t it? And winter is a quiet time to get used to this new change [smiling now] My experience of racism has allowed me to advocate for rights of those deprived of their rights. I hope you continue to write and share with the world.

    despair not dark skies
    on the other side
    the sun always shines

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Thank you so much, Cheryl 😀 I m so glad you could resonate.. ❤️ I believe in reaching out and writing in a way that people can feel the emotion and message in my poems. I love your Golden Rule and agree that if we could all follow it then the world would be a much better place to live in. Thank you so much for taking out time to read and comment❤️

    Like

    1. For me, prejudice is evidence of childhood damage and neglect.

      I think of it this way because rarely do children choose to be racist on their own. It is almost always an assumed belief, an inherited stance. No one’s fault exactly as it is not usually conscious and is sometimes passed down for so many generations, the origins are lost. But kids see it in action and come to conclusions.

      When I was a young teen, I left my relatively open minded, Southern California beach life, to finish high school living with relatives in Natchez, Mississippi. Can you imagine the culture shock? This was the 1960’s and no one I met in Natchez thought twice about having Men’s, Women’s and Colored drinking fountains and public bathrooms. Why would they? It had been like that as far back as anyone could remember, and now, they didn’t even notice it.

      One of the most terrifying moments I remember from high school was on graduation night when I took my best friend aside to share my long-held secret. I did not hate Black people. I assumed that confession would end our relationship. It didn’t, at least not immediately, because his response was “Of course you don’t. Neither do I.” He was one of the nicest, most generous and loving people I had ever met so I trusted him with this secret. But it didn’t take long before he was gone from my life. I bet he didn’t even know why exactly.

      My challenge now is fighting the temptation to be prejudiced against prejudiced people.

      It is such an easy slide into the attitude that those narrow-minded, intolerant, right wing bigots are the problem.
      Changing sides is not the solution. Not that I know what is but I do believe that Absolutism is what causes wars, both big and small. We need to teach our children something else, and quickly.

      Thanks so much for your beautiful, thought provoking post, Sanaa.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I, too, went from California to Natchez! I lived for a little time with Maggie Berkeley (the “Witch of Natchez”, tolerated in her eccentricities for her membership in one of the oldest families — which, being the only southern town not bombed or burned during the Civil War (they bought their way out) is pretty old. I learned a lot about how that gracious but somewhat, um, backward little society operates.

        For instance, not even Maggie herself had ever been, or would ever go, to Silver Street, six blocks from her home, where the tourists’ paddle boats pull up for espresso and postcards in the quaint row of establishments there. In fact, no society woman had. You see, a hundred years ago the — black people — brought the rice up by that road…

        Like

        1. Oh my I have never met anyone I have that in common with….(with whom I have that in common?)
          Anyway, ironically, Silver Street is where we hang out a lot whenever we go back to Natchez. My James is a long time musician and Under the Hill Saloon is where some of the best local musicians play!

          Like

          1. I’ve danced there! As I remember, the locals figured any female really letting loose on the floor was looking for something more than a date. My then-employer, the owner of that hideous barbecue patio where I had a musical gig twice a week sent his brother over. Soon as I’d told that brother to move back a little not to be dancing directly on top of me, I’d sure enough lost that gig. Ah, the South!

            Like

  14. I am so touched by your words.. it takes a lot of courage to share your pain with others, and also because we don’t know whether the person we are confiding in would understand or not. I m honored that you chose to confide in me.. and can relate to the cultural shock which you have spoken of. Sometimes, people fail to notice what others are going through around them as they are caught up in their own bubble, and we are left to deal with our own confusion and rage.. we can’t even share our views for fear of ridicule and scorn.

    Prejudice.. especially of uninformed kind.. is perhaps the most dangerous of them all .. as it’s similar to being manipulated.. You’re right we need to teach our children to abstain from falling into the fold of Absolutism. We need to nurture humanity.

    Thank you for taking out time to read and comment ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  15. God gave us each a different piece of the puzzle — in religion and in life. Only by standing close to one another and viewing and valuing the whole can the entire truth of our existence be revealed. What a shame no one saw that opportunity at that table at your festival…and what a blessing that even so, you did.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Such a beautiful thought, KC ❤️ I shall remember your words when I set out into this world 🙂 Thank you so much for taking out time to read and comment.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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