The Anti-Racism Project in Malacca

You could say that Malacca highlights the multi-ethnic make-up of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Churches, mosques and temples are all cited within yards of one another and people enjoy the cuisine of cultures other than their own on a regular basis. Racism still exists, however, and a group of students I met was determined to help eradicate it.

Malaysians and Singaporeans are not known for being early risers, and we’re even less so on Saturdays. Hence, the local schoolgirls stood out amid the foreign tourists, trishaw drivers and flag-waving shepherds guides in Malacca’s Dutch Square. It was hard to miss their home-made placards anyway. ‘Honk if you’re not a racist,’ ‘Stamp out racism,’ etc.

They saw me checking them out and were more than eager to share about their little project. They wanted to film and interview people as well; I agreed but they weren’t ready so I carried on my merry way.

After two hours of exploring St Paul’s Church, A’Famosa and Bukit Cina, I returned to see the kids hard at work, sharing their message with passing motorists. I certainly heard many affirmative honks in response.

Now that their cameras were ready, I was roped in to say something under the clock tower. What did I think racism was wrong? What could we do to eliminate it? They also asked for my thoughts on some common stereotypes in Malaysia about ethnic Indians and Chinese that were lost on me.

The questions were valid, even if they weren’t nuanced, but I shouldn’t be so harsh on them. I wasn’t any better when I was 15. I shared that we all need to get to know people of other cultures better and consciously give them a chance to show that they do not live up to the stereotype. As much as I felt my travels helped me, I refrained from saying that. It wouldn’t have been right to make it sound as if only the privileged would understand.

Now that I was twice their age, I didn’t have a solution either. I’d seen enough to know that the fight against racial discrimination is a long one. However, with kids like these, the future looks that little bit brighter.

Dutch Square racism