Sunday, June 7, 2009

Racism: Malaysia Vs. Indonesia

I said something racist the other day. I sat at a table of white people and two PoC (one Middle-Eastern, one Asian) and the subject of David Carradine's death came up. Somehow the newsbit read out had him hanging himself in Indonesia.

I said, "Indonesia? Anybody would hang themselves in Indonesia. Sorry, I'm just being racist."

Everybody laughed*. My Asian friend pointedly reminded me, "There's only two of us here who can say that."

And when I said I was being racist, by God I meant I was being racist. We Malaysians can be a fucking racist lot. Just ask Tiara. We're racist towards Bangladeshis who come to our shores looking for work. We're racist towards Filipino/as working as our maids. We're racist towards Indonesians who are our current source for cheap-ass labour.

My mother hires Indonesian maids to help her out at her shop. Cripes does she ever have a shitty attitude towards them sometimes - as if they should be beholden towards her for giving them a job which isn't household drudgery. She's by no means the worse employer I know of - I've seen the parents of friends scream at their maids for not doing something right / on time / a while ago. One of Mum's maids bought her sister a cellphone - her sister was immediately accused of being a thief by her employer. (Mum was puzzled by this. "Why," she wondered out loud, "would people treat their maids so badly?")

Holy shit are we ever racist. "Indonesians are lazy," we say, "liars", "thieves," only for our shit labour!

It really drove home, however, just how fucking racist we are when I read this article.
KLANG: Stray puppies are ending up as meals for foreign construction workers keen on reducing their food bills.

Indonesian construction worker Wagang Saring said the high prices of food and the need to send as much money to families back home had forced him and his friends to eat pooches.

...

Animal welfare activist Sabrina Yeap said dog eating was gaining momentum among foreign workers because there was no law against it. “It is not illegal and so no action can be taken against those who do so,” she added.

Yeap, who manages the canine sanctuary Furry Friends Farm, said it was time the Government banned dog eating as it involved inhumane killing methods.

I ranted about this a long while back, but I revisited it when I said what I said the other night.

So give me a moment to parse this:

- Indonesian workers are hired because they're cheap labour.

- We oh-so-classy Malaysians don't like them.

- We pay them peanuts. That they can't feed themselves unless they don't send home money, which is their main reason for coming to Malaysia in the first place.

- So they eat dogs. Which takes our stray dog problem off our hands.

- We point our fingers at them, "look! They eat dogs! How cruel!"

All the while forgetting our own cruelty towards them for treating them like cheap automatons there to do our shit labour.

I'm not sure what's worse: how badly we treat them, or that we care about dogs more than how we treat our fellow human beings. It's so systematic, so part of our daily lives, that we no more notice than we do other unjust things in life.

I know there are some arguments in certain quarters how minorities can't be racist towards other minorities, but that argument doesn't hold in this case here, because the power dynamics involved are clear: Malaysians have the upper hand, and still treat our Indonesian neighbours badly.

*I'm no good with this hipster irony thing, because I'll fully own my racism and do my utmost to work it off my system.

4 comments:

  1. Before anyone thinks that only Asians (or some Asians) eat dogs/cats, people in Switzerland do so as well and in the form of sausages and such. AND it's still an ongoing ACCEPTABLE practice.

    I think Ms Yeap needs to address other issues regarding cruelty towards animals rather than the fact that we just don't pay Indon workers enough money for them to be able to eat other types of meat.

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  2. Wasn't David Carradine found dead in Bangkok?

    Anyway, the dog-eating article reminds me of the similar tone used against Polish migrant workers in the UK who were accused of eating (white) swans. But in this case, swans are symbolic of beauty and purity, like national purity, that deserves to be protected. Further, the issue of swans being protected as the "Queen's subjects" i.e. illegal to hunt or kill, is always raised, fueling pro-imperialist feelings.

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  3. cycads: I don't know how it came about, somehow the first news I heard was he was found dead in Indonesia. It was only a few hours later that I heard it was Bangkok.

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  4. You know, I've always justified the fact that Indonesian workers conform to the stereotype of being lazy, stupid, lying bastards because, frankly, the best workers don't go to Malaysia. They go to Saudi Arabia, where the pay is better. And the treatment is more or less the same.

    So when I hear a Malaysian whine about how lazy their Indonesian workers are, and how stupid they are, or how dishonest they are, I say... "Well, you fucking get what you pay for."

    Okay, so I don't say it. But I'd love to.

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