After the historical U.S. election a few days ago, many have made comparisons with Malaysia. Some of the comparisons are rather problematic but could only be read as genuine hopes or wishes that someday Malaysia or elsewhere can also witness such historical changes. The historical day made me think of two of my dear friends, April and Arkisha, who I worked with while I was in the US. I am sure the Election have meant so much to them as it is to me.
A few days before the election, I noticed a rather ironic situation between the US and Malaysia. Before the elections, there were talks about the possibility that the White Americans, who were opening supported Obama, might do the contrary on the actual Election. As a result, some voters started to identify themselves as “voting for the Democrat” instead of for Obama. It was a move to downplay the “race” issue or factor. Americans (well some of them) are trying no to be racist (at least openly).
You see, America champions “Free Speech”, free expression and religion. Many court cases were fought on the ground of the “First Amendment” that guarantees freedom of speech, expression, religion, and the Press. But ironically, before the Election, many Americans have suddenly become “politically correct”. In other words, they have become “sensitive” to “race” issue and the politics of differences. “Racial” issues are suppressed for the common good for the country. They wanted a change and they got their change.
In Malaysia, we emphasize and reinforce the so-called “sensitivity” to discuss issues related to ethnicity, citizenship, “special rights” and religion. It is the “foundation” of our proudly proclaimed social harmony and stability. Yet, quite the opposite has happened. Racist statements resurrect like the undying Pontianak (a Malay ghost) in the media; police reports are filed more routinely and willingly than most Malaysians do to their taxes. Others crowded the mosque to sworn for innocent while many went to witness these “historical” events. In other words, “sensitivity” is imposed on others. To gain political power, politicians crank up more racist assaults and human rights violations.
If there is a comparison to be made between the two countries then after the 2008 Election the Americans have turned a page on their racist history. It is like what Obama says “a long time coming” change but it has arrived. On the other hand, Malaysia sets fire to the book in order not to look at the same page repeatedly. That my dear April and Arkisha is the difference between the US and Malaysia.