Living in a multiracial country, our shared dream is to build a nation where we don’t just tolerate each others racial and cultural differences but accept them.
However, the ideal has not been reached yet, and racial stereotypes and discrimination still happen. These have been discussed and have received attention, but what of those born from interracial marriages?
They face their own unique experiences here in Malaysia. People tend to make judgements upon first appearance so it becomes a bit trickier for those with mixed blood as their looks may differ from their actual race.
An incident that got us thinking was a story a friend told us. Her mother, who is of Chinese-Indian heritage, is constantly assumed to be the maid of the household, simply because she doesn’t fit the “image” of the rest of the family, who appear more “Chinese”.
We wondered about what other biracial Malaysian faced, so we approached a few to tell us their experiences with racism and discrimination here.
“This was an incident I faced at work. I’m Chinese-Indian but I will say, I look more Indian.”
“Before I go on, I’d like to say that the company I work for is predominantly of Chinese employees. One time, our company was planning a party and it was one of the bigger celebrations we usually have so I was pretty excited to be attending. However, I hadn’t been included in the e-mail threads discussing the details of the party and only found out when a colleague had asked if I’d be attending.”
“So I approached one of the planners and he admitted to me that they were unsure on whether to invite me as they were afraid that I wouldn’t be comfortable and would feel alienated due to me not being ‘Chinese’ enough.”
“I simply replied in fluent Chinese that there was no need to be concerned as I could adapt very well despite my looks, and that maybe they should ask first before deciding on their own. After that, I never missed an invite to one of their parties.”
R.A.G.E did an experimental video highlighting the different types of discrimination faced by Malaysians when it came to renting, but multiracials have their own brand of struggles when it comes to home hunting.
“I’ve been searching for a place to rent in KL for awhile now after coming all the way from Penang. One thing I noticed immediately was how the agents act over the phone. They seemed alright with me as a prospective tenant and they had no issues in inviting me to the unit for a viewing.”
“So I went for the appointment and when she saw me in person, the agent’s face changed. She was surprised, saying that my name was Malay yet I looked completely Chinese. I was used to people saying that and it had never been an issue before, until she told me that she couldn’t allow me to view the unit anymore.”
“When I asked why, she simply said that the other tenants would not feel comfortable due to me looking Chinese despite me clearly being half Malay. I said nothing more and walked away. Safe to say, that wasn’t the only time it happened to me.”
“Back when I was looking around for jobs, I tried applying to this one gig that was part time and it was specifically for sales. They did state in their application form that they were looking for Malay people. Well, I’m half Malay albeit me looking my part as half Indian too but I didn’t think that would be an issue.”
“When I got to the office, I noticed that the interviewer kept checking back my resume. He seemed puzzled and asked about my race. I clarified that I was of mixed blood and his face immediately changed. Without really giving me a proper chance, he straight away rejected my application saying that they clearly wanted a Malay candidate and I didn’t fully fit that requirement.”
“I didn’t want to argue further so I left feeling rejected and sad. Eventually, I got another gig which found my ability to speak fluent Tamil and Malay beneficial.”
“I’m Chinese-Indian but I look more Malay than anything.”
“This happened when I was out during fasting month and I was inside a cafe happily eating my lunch. I noticed that there were a few people giving me weird looks but I brushed it off. Then an old man came up to me and told me to respect the month and not be so blatant about my non-faith in my religion.”
“I was already confused about that and he kept harping about respect so much that he only left me alone when I showed my IC to prove that I was firstly not Muslim and not Malay.”
“This was a personal thing I experienced as a Chinese-Indian who doesn’t look like one. I had this girl I liked who had rather strict parents. She told me this from the beginning but I didn’t know how serious it was until I met her dad.”
“She brought me to her house, to which her dad was already eyeing me up and down. Everything was alright until after dinner. I was about to bring my plates to the sink when I heard the girl and her father having a serious discussion. He was telling her that she had lied and asked why she chose a Malay guy to date.”
“The girl tried to tell him that I wasn’t Malay but the dad seemed to still be skeptical. So when the mother was serving dessert, I suddenly started a conversation in fluent Chinese to him and shared stories of how people would come up to me and speak in Malay because they assumed I was. Which is fine because I’m Malaysian so it’s not like my Malay is bad.”
“Now I’m still happily dating her, but I think her dad still doesn’t approve of me much. I think it’s not because of my looks, more of my motorcycle habits.”
“I’ve been told that my name can be misleading as people never expect me to be Indian-Malay and that has brought about some interesting stuff.”
“There was once, a client demanded to see me. He came over to my office and I personally went in front to greet him. He dismissed me, thinking I was one of the lower-classed ones simply because I looked Indian which was already offensive enough. He requested to see me and completely changed when he found out that I was the person who had been signing off the e-mails between us.”
“Dinner with him was very interesting that night.”
It’s not always so negative though.
These biracial citizens have also talked about how their mixed heritage has been proven useful. Knowing different languages and celebrating multiple cultures is always a plus point. It all boils down to the treatment given by society.
Discrimination in Malaysia unfortunately still runs rampant despite the many efforts to lessen it and biracial citizens face a unique version.
Stereotypes do exist, and it takes a long time to change them. But, what we can do is choose how we respond and what is our outlook. These are what we can actively take charge of as we work towards building a better and more united society for the future.
And to other biracial Malaysians, do know that you’re not alone in dealing with negativity; and revel in what makes you unique and truly special!
*All the names in this article have been changed in order to protect their identity.
Feature Image Credit: acquila-style.com