KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 – A conversation with a close relative recently came to a sudden halt when he used the term “nons” in trying to distinguish between the minority against the majority.
The only thing was, we were talking about his brother’s son starting his first year of schooling life at a Chinese primary school today. He then realised that he had used the word out of the usual context, in that he was referring to the Indians and Malays being the “nons” in a Chinese school.
“Nons” usually refers to non-Bumiputera or non-Malay. But that conversation shows how easily we fall into the trap of this “us versus them” game.
The term has been floating around for many years now, and I hear it from family, relatives and friends, all of whom are of Indian and Chinese ethnicity. I have never never heard it being used among my Sabahan and Sarawakian friends though.
This term, “nons”, definitely did not exist back in the 1960s through the 90s.
I also asked around and found that my Malay friends have either not heard of it or never used it.
Getting back to the conversation, I reminded my relative that I always cringe at the use of the term, because it is a very divisive word and that which to me, is an example of racism, or even a form of reverse racism, that is trying to always pit the minority against the majority.
Reverse racism is a term that I first heard while watching a US daytime talk show in the 1990s. A black woman who had previously served in office was talking about how many from her community practice reverse racism.
Referring to some local elections in her city or district, she defined reverse racism as someone from the minority voting for one who is of their own race even when the challenger who is white being of better character and much more qualified for the office being voted for.
She said that 90% of the blacks would vote for a black candidate in a race against a white candidate simply because the former is black. The perception is that one of their own kind would better protect or serve their interests.
This is even though the white candidate has a better track record of serving all members of the community without prejudice and would actually perform a better job.
The woman being interviewed added that if the candidates’ quality were reversed, then almost half the white voters would be willing to back the black candidate.
Mahathir says no to local government elections
This has happened and will continue to occur in Malaysia. I suspect that is what Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was trying to suggest when he declared last month that there will be no local government elections in Malaysia.
This is despite the stand taken by now ally DAP for many decades, and after taking over the Penang state government, that local government elections must be restored.
We may not agree with Mahathir on this, but that is the reality because Malaysian voters will for the large part, continue to look at race when there are candidates of different races involved.
This is evident from even something as trivial as a reality show voting process.
I recall the first Malaysian Idol season in 2004. Jaclyn Victor was up against Faradina Mohd Nazir in the grand finale, and the build up in the days prior to the final was intense as the public voted for their first ever Malaysian Idol.
Back in the day before there was WhatsApp, SMS was the only way to send text messages, and at a price. Yet, many Indian friends of mine widely shared a message that I am still offended by to this day.
The message going viral within the community was something to the effect of “We have to vote for Jaclyn Victor because all the Malays will be voting for the other finalist, therefore we must put our vote behind the Indian girl.”
I told off as many friends as I could, over their racist behaviour, adding that they were doing a disservice to Jaclyn Victor as her win would then be tainted with the stain that it was only because all the Indians voted for her.
Not only that, I said I knew many Malay friends who had voted for her right through every round and would be backing her in the final because of her great voice.
Well, Jaclyn Victor won deservingly and the rest is history.
New Year wish for Malaysia that use of “nons” comes to a stop
But this is the sort of behaviour by those who demand equality and respect yet continue to distinguish themselves as “nons”, that will continue to keep this country from shining even brighter as a nation where the different races have kept the peace for decades.
My wish for this new year, 2019 – the last “teen” year for the vast majority of us – is that in a New Malaysia, the people from minority races stop using the term “nons” because it is a disservice and disrespectful to the aspirations of our forefathers when this country was formed more than 60 years ago.
We are all Malaysians. Period!
Stop qualifying “us from them” with a term that will only widen the gap and does nothing to serve the cause of those who want Malaysians to be more united in forging ahead with the people power that voted out Barisan Nasional in GE14.
– K. Anand