How not to bring up racists

With Merdeka and Malaysia Day just around the corner, we thought what better time to tackle the topic of racism. It’s not an easy topic to cover – nobody wants to talk about it; people are generally afraid that talking about it will result in a heated argument.

Racism exists, not only in Malaysia, but even in the most developed of nations. Sometimes it is more obvious like beating people up or even murder. At other times, it is so subtle that we don’t even realise we’re making a racist comment.

Industrial/organisational psychologist Dr Priyadarshini Srinivasan explains that even highlighting a person’s race is a form of racism, regardless if it’s a compliment or insult.

“When you start identifying that a person is from a particular race, that is a form of racism. You are segregating by race,” she says.

Dr Priya explains that even if you say, for example, the Eurasians are good at cooking, there is the implication that they are bad at something else.

Dr Priya comes from Chennai, India, and has been working in Malaysia for five years as a lecturer. In India, there isn’t racism per se but there is the caste system – perhaps not so much in the cities, but rather in the rural areas.

She says that even in developed countries there is racism and it is often based on skin colour.

According to her, a racist is someone who believes that their race is superior and they are prejudiced towards the other races. They believe their culture and values are very unique and they don’t like it to get mixed up with others. They just want to be with those of their own race.

Family influence

Dr Priya believes that people become racists because of their families.

“It is a vicious cycle. More than society, I say it is the family that influences children. The family might not even realise it. They might mention something when they are talking or watching TV and that is what the child picks up.”

Dr Priya: ’It is up to parents to help children accept and appreciate the differences of the races.’

She says that parents have a big role to play in ensuring their children are not racists.

“If you want to bring up a society that is not racist, parents have to be very careful. That is not to say that you don’t talk about races at all. If you don’t mention the races at all you are just making the child blind. It’s not going to help.

“Parents can discuss race issues but start when the child is young. Don’t wait until they are ready for college. It’s already too late then and they won’t be able to change much at that age.

“From young, try to make sure the child doesn’t make any negative comments about people of other races or even their own race. If the family is making negative comments about a particular race, the child will pick it up from them. Parents should show the child that they are living in a multiracial country and they need to appreciate and accept the differences. Each race has its own virtues and vices. They have their own myths, which might or might not be true.

by Brigitte Rozario.

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