I HAVE not been able to forget Sharyn Shufiyan’s last column (Why I have not emigrated, Tapestry, Star2, April 27). It was how I used to feel too: guilty about the benefits I received just by being a Malay Muslim – so much so that I turned down three government scholarships, managing to win a private company scholarship back when it was rare.
I had parents who believed in exposing us to different cultures; and when I became a parent in my 20s, in the 1990s, I would show China on a world map to my young kids and explain that the Chinese live there but that the uncle next door is Malaysian. I used to not fill up the “race” columns in forms and was proud when my teenage son followed suit at school. But things have changed since then, and to me, the biggest change happened in 2008 and onwards. Suddenly, race became a dominant topic. Suddenly, I found that I was judged based on my race. However much I wanted to not talk about it or defend the Malays, I was expected to.
When I was in my 40s and had worked in several companies through job hopping, I heard that “They only hire Chinese at that level”, that it was “preferably Chinese” or, at yet another company, that “Malays can’t be accountants”. Complain? No. I have to live with it, I believe in the concept of rezeki (earning a livelihood). Who would believe me anyway? The only people who can be called “racist” in Malaysia are the Malays. Everyone else is a victim.
I wish Sharyn Shufiyan well, and I hope that she will one day live in a Malaysia where she won’t be told that the only reason she got a job/promotion was because she is a Malay, no matter what her qualifications or experience. Hopefully, she will live in a Malaysia where meritocracy is not only for the non-Malays. Hopefully, she won’t be humiliated in meetings by being made to feel that she is inferior, there only to make up the numbers.
I must say that the late Mr Karpal Singh has a much better attitude than I do. Me? I’m giving up. I tried. After being told repeatedly in the last few years how corrupt, lazy and weak I am because of my race, how I am the product of an inferior if not defective education system, what’s the point? After doing my best (nay, I’d like to think BEING the best in my field) but finding doors closed to me because of my race, what is the point? After finding that I won’t get much work from “certain” private sector companies yet told that it’ll be easy for me to find work because I am a Malay – I’m giving up.