Saturday, December 01, 2007

Interracial Relations

The government of Malaysia has always touted the country as one in which various ethnic groups live together in harmony.

Speaking of racial diversity, there is probably no country which can match the United States. When I worked in California a few years ago, my co-workers consisted of, among others, Whites, Blacks, Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Salvadorian, Lebanese, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Russian. Garden Grove, the city where I lived, was a 5-minute drive from Little Saigon. And throughout Southern California, Mexicans made up bulk of the staff in fast food outlets.

Interracial relations have not always been good. In 1992, the verdict of the Rodney King case angered African Americans and sparked a racial riot in Los Angeles. Racism was said to be still rampant in some parts of the country, even though Californians were generally quite liberal.

Racial segregation in America, until 1950s...

There is good news, though. Interracial marriage is increasingly common. In 2000, 5.4 percent of all marriages involved couples of different races. Angelina Jolie adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam. Madonna also adopted a child from Malawi.

Gary Locke (骆家辉), a Chinese American, was elected twice as the Governor of Washington. Bobby Jindal recently became the nation’s first Indian American governor after winning the poll in Louisiana.

Angelina Jolie and her adopted son, Maddox...

Malaysia has one non-Bumi chief-of-state – Dr Koh Tsu Koon of Penang, but he was appointed by the ruling party. His appointment, in turn, was a result of 'bargain' between majority Malays and minority Chinese. In contrast, voters of Washington and Louisiana directly voted Locke and Jindal to the office. In year 2000, there were about 2.8 million Chinese (including half-Chinese) in the U.S., or nearly 1 percent of the total population. In the same year, there were about 1.9 million Indians.

America has come a long way since 1865, when President Lincoln abolished slavery. Racial segregation was outlawed in 1950s. Today, Barack Obama, whose father is an African and mother is a White, is a Democrat presidential hopeful. (He is lagging behind Hilary Clinton, though.)

On the surface, racial relations seem to be very good in Malaysia. There has been no racial riot since 1969. However, if we look deeper, we soon notice that Malaysians remain suspicious of people of other races: Government policies are race-based; Students of public universities seldom mixed with those of other races; Job applicants must specify their ethnicity; Interracial marriages are few, except probably between Malays and Indian Muslims, and between Chinese and natives in East Malaysia who profess Christianity. (Ironically, there are, I believe, more Malays and Chinese who marry Westerners.) As Malaysia celebrated her 50th anniversary of independence recently, the government continues to rely on Anti-sedition Act, Internal Security Act and ‘social contract’ to hold the people together.

There is no room for complacency...

U.S. Census 2000 - The Asian Population
Mark Penn, Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes

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