Saturday, February 12, 2011

LIM: The Price of Malaysian Racism

A few months ago a friend called me up and announced with a voice of doom that she'd been promoted.  To understand why, you need to know two things: she's Malay and Malaysia has an official policy of positive discrimination.

The whole thing is summed up very nicely in "The Price of Malaysia's Racism" by former US Ambassador to Malaysia John Malott which was published in the Wall Street Journal on February 8, 2011. 

The thrust of the piece is that Malay Rights, an official policy that  gives Malays priority over all the other races in terms of education, government jobs, etc is causing problems.

As Mallot said, "over 90% of the civil service, police, military, university lecturers, and overseas diplomatic staff are Malay" and "almost 500,000 Malaysians left the country between 2007 and 2009.......most were skilled ethnic Chinese and Indian Malaysians, tired of being treated as second-class citizens in their own country...."

Stupid people think this discrimination is all very clever.  It's the clever ones who suffer. Like my friend.

When we had lunch, she said, "I have worked really hard.  The company I work for is private, so it's not like I'm in the civil service or anything.  I think I deserve my promotion." 

But what really bothered her was the nagging feeling that she was promoted as the "token Malay" - someone who can be trotted out when the company needs some government paperwork done, or to attend official functions. 

My friend is talented but the sad thing is that it may not really matter.  Everyone who doesn't know her will assume she got the job because of her race. 

Plus, as she is Malay, she will be trotted out at official functions and sent off to do govt paperwork.  In theory anyone can deal with official departments, but the sad fact is that many officials give non-Malays the run-around.

My friends company knows the advantages of having an official face and they'd be silly not to take advantage of it.  In fact, there is a great danger that the "token Malay" part of her job will become the sole part of her job. 

I really felt for her but I couldn't help but tease.  "There's one sure way to prove your worth to yourself," I said to her.  "Go abroad and show them what you can do without all your special privileges."

It worked because she laughed.  Told you she is clever.


Brian said...

It's good you were able to get her to laugh! Have a great weekend and purrs to Au and Target!

The Whiskeratti said...

That sounds very frustrating and very uncomfortable for her. I'm glad she has a good friend to help cheer her up.

junn said...

being malaysian chinese, i too frustrated when given the runaround by malay if expecting us to give them 'incentive' before able to get anything done

Jans Funny Farm said...

That's a shame your friend is in such a position. Everyone deserves recognition based on their own merit, not on any form of discrimination.

dArtagnan Rumblepurr/Diego Hamlet Moonfur said...

What an interesting insight into another country, thanks my friend.

BeadedTail said...

It was good you were able to make your friend laugh! Maybe a new generation will change this policy of promotion if they get fed up with it enough since it sounds like a lot of people don't like it. Again, thanks for giving us an insight into your country!

Ann Summerville said...

Found your blog today.
I don't know if corporate America is any different. Even with a promotion women get lower salaries than men do.

Angel MoMo and Charlotte said...

Discrimination of any kind is a difficult situation in any community. However, it is a fact of life in almost all communities and affect us all in one way or another.

Gattina said...

That's just crazy ! I don't find a word. What counts is the work and not the color of your face !
Fortunately there are no racists amongst cats, imagine with all these patterns !

Hannah and Lucy said...

Your friend must feel better with you making her laugh - it's a pity that their ways made her feel uncomfortable.

Angel Simba said...

The better policy is to make sure everyone is given a chance to be considered for a job or promotion, but not to practice an obvious a form of negative or positive discrimination. Maybe the better goal is diversity in the workplace.

Admiral Hestorb said...

Mommy just sent you an email with the information to the email address you have supplied.

Katnip Lounge said...

How absolutely frustrating for your friend. Hubby and I were once considering moving to Hawaii but (not) surprisingly, there's not a lot of well paying jobs for Haoles (white people-perjorative) if you don't have an "in" or get hired on the mainland. So here we are in Vegas!

At least your friend has her eyes open and her sense of humor intact.

meowmeowmans said...

What a difficult position your friend is in! It sounds so complicated.

Purrs and prayers to Au and Target.

Have a nice weekend, friends!

Unknown said...

You are a good friend!
Racism exists. It is uncomfortable and difficult.
Hope Au is better and kitty kisses to him and Target

sully86 said...

its lucky we dont revolt like the Egyptians do

A Bookaholic said...

I like what you said! :)

John Ling said...

While Mr Malott's views are interesting, he is actually off the mark in his assessment.

Historically, it was the non-Malay migrants who agreed, of their own free will, to institutionalize the special rights of the Malays in return for Malaysian citizenship. This 'social contract' became the framework for the country's constitution.

So it is both unfair and inaccurate to level blame at the Malays population or Malay politicians in particular.

To put this into perspective, the situation is akin to African-American being present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence and cheerfully conceding a great many rights to their Anglo counterparts.

Can you then blame Anglo-Americans for enforcing those constitutional rights? Are you going to cry discrimination after the fact?

Legally, you can't, and that's the crux of the matter.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

John Mallot is our hero now. He gave a voice and a public face to our thoughts and opinions. Your friend should do just that, if only to satisfy herself that she was promoted because of her competence.