Monday, April 11, 2011

The Finger- Star Public Speaking

arThe following is the transcript of the speech that won me runner-up in the recent Star Public Speaking Competition. If I manage to obtain the video I will post it up. The content is somewhat similar to my previous Racism Within post. I hope you enjoy!

*points finger at audience
You. You. And you. All of you.

Ladies and gentlemen, Malaysia is now filled with words. Words ( and numbers) like 1Malaysia, Unity, Diversity, Harmony. But words are not enough. Words are not enough when we do not give meaning to them, when there are incidents like Interlok, the cowhead protest, the Balik Cina comments by a school principal.

These words are not enough, because deep inside, we are ALL guilty of racism. Because as we seek to blame one another as racist, because as we are pointing one finger towards the accused, we have the other fingers pointing at ourselves.

Now before I am labeled as *ahem* unpatriotic, reflect upon the validity of my statement. Imagine you are driving in the car, when suddenly a driver, not of your race, overtakes you without signaling at breakneck speed. Do you then give him *the finger* because *words are not enough* to express your anger? Or do you think Crazy Chinese, Malay Moron, Indian Idiot? There is bound to be some form of racism, where we judge a person first and foremost by the colour of their skin.

And that is the sin we are all guilty of. Just as a ping pong ball must be returned to the hitter for the game to continue, the game of racism can only continue if both sides return volleys and hits. Some may argue that we have no choice because racism is used against us. But the truth is, being racist to those who are racist, is NOT going to make them less racist. In fact, it will only give them more reason to be racist. Racism can only lead to more racism. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

And so, racism is a monster that resides in us all. Specifically, it is a three eyed monster.

The first and earliest I, I for Interior- is our family, our homes, our innermost sanctum. From a very young age, our parents tell us what Malaysia is. They tell us that the Chinese are greedy, cheating liars, that the Malays are lazy and undisciplined, that the Indians are drunk, drugged and dirty, and that Chindians are apparently really good looking. And being young and malleable, we take it all in. And as we grow up, we pass down this culture of racism, a vicious cycle going on and on and on.

The second eye is, our Ignorance. Now as a child, I was afraid of the dark. I feared the darkness because I could not see what monsters were lurking in the shadows. I feared, and thus hated, because I did not understand. And that is what is happening today. We are kept in the dark about each other. As society moves to segregate, label and divide us according to race, we are talking to each other less, eating together less, understanding each other less. In fact, probably the most interracial contact a child has is with a maid! And because of this, we cannot comprehend each other, and thus, we fear and hate each other.

The third and final eye is our Inaction. Years ago, I embarked on my first bus journey home. It was a Chinese school, and all the students were Chinese, with the exception of one boy. This Indian boy was the subject of constant ridicule, constant bullying, constant mockery. I was shocked and shamed, but I did nothing. And by doing nothing, I had condoned and allowed such a blatant act of racism to continue, I had become an accomplice. By my inaction, I had contributed to the chaos that ensued.

I often think back to that moment, and wish I had done something. But my words are not enough. Our words are not enough to heal the racism inside, to take away our ignorance, our inaction. We must act: reflect upon ourselves and ask: Am I guilty of racist thoughts? We must stop this culture of race generalization and of separatism: for only laundry should be separated by color. And most importantly, we must attack the three eyes of racism- so that we may be colour blind.

Ladies and gentlemen, racism may or may not be institutionalized in Malaysia, but racism is definitely internalized in all of us. Fight racism inside yourself, and then carry that fight our to the world.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Author's Note:
When I first saw the theme, "Words Are Not Enough", this was the immediate idea that popped up in my mind. So many election promises and campaigns have been made since Independence to curb racism, and yet the situation is all the more dire today. I knew I was taking a huge risk by choosing a sensitive topic- some even advised me to drop the subject- but we will never eradicate racism by ignoring it. In this case, the message I could potentially bring to the audience and the minds of people far outweighed the risks of being deemed as "seditious".

In the words of George Orwell:
" In times of universal deceit, the telling of the truth becomes a revolutionary act."