Racial politics

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Racial politics is the practice of political actors exploiting the issue of race to forward an agenda.

Racial politics in Malaysia[edit]

Malaysian politician Chang Ko Youn put forward "Malaysia has practised racial politics for 51 years and we know it is divisive as each party only talks on behalf of the racial group it represents... When all races are in a single party, no one person will try to be the champion of the party.... It is easy to be a Malay hero, a Malaysian Chinese hero or an Malaysian Indian hero but it is difficult to be a Malaysian hero.... The country is facing economic problems now and it is important that the Government and political parties come up with a Malaysian agenda on how to unite the people and face these challenges..." [1]

On August 13, 2008, a letter was sent to the thestar.com.my [2] with title "Why we can’t get our experts to return" saying:

Writer A. Asohan wrote: "...you started to grow up, and race increasingly became a factor. You became aware of race politics here. Insidious people would hint that being friends with the "Other" made you a traitor to your own race. The racist rot seems to have intensified over the subsequent generations. The bigotry we learned as adults are now being picked up by our primary schoolkids. Our leaders may, in a fit of progressiveness (by their standards), talk about racial tolerance, but acceptance and appreciation for other races and cultures seem beyond their ken. Racial intolerance in the country is getting worse, we tell ourselves, looking back to a more idyllic past. Bah, what crock! We Malaysians have always been racists. Heck, the entire human race has always found some illusive basis for discrimination. Race, religion, colour, creed, whether you were born north or south of that artificial line called a border – we spend an inordinate amount of our time and resources on delineating our differences rather than celebrating our similarities. If you married someone from a different race in the old days, you faced severe social censure and were treated as an outcast. Parents wrung their hands and tore at their hair, wailing “What did we do wrong? Aiyoh, how can you do this to us?" [3]

Marina Mahathir wrote: "...The same thing happened in our country. Unfortunately, race politics has not really died down yet, and some people reacted as if ethnic cleansing had just taken place...." [4]

Politician Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham when he was asked "What do you dislike most about Malaysians?", he replied: Racial politics [5]

Chris Anthony wrote: "...After 50 years of living and working together side-by-side, the people have voted to do away with racial politics but unfortunately the politicians are far from showing signs of heeding their calls for multiracialism...." [6]

Former Prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohammad said Samy Vellu is a racist in his own blog www.chedet.com "...They speak not just of Indians, but of Tamils as a separate race. They and their apologists are racist to the core....Seeing the death and destruction inflicted on Sri Lanka by the Tamil Tigers, they threaten to bring this kind of violent racial politics to Malaysia..."

Philip Bowring of International Herald Tribune wrote that the political organization of Malaysia has long been largely on racial lines, Islam has at times become a device for use in racial politics, a yardstick for measuring the commitment of competing parties to Malay racial advancement. [7]

The cause of Racial politics[edit]

One of Malaysia's Racial politics started in the early 70s when the government discovered that the Muslim-Malays were too poor yet overly incompetent compared to the economy advanced Chinese. As a result, the government of Malaysia launched a program called NEP (Malaysian New Economic Policy) giving government preferences in hiring and education to the Malay group to uplift the economy status of the poor Muslim-Malays, hoping to balance up the income of the poor with the rich.

However, after 30 years of NEP, income disparity in Malaysia has not improved. According to the UNDP 1997 Human Development Report Asian Analysis 1998 by Asean Focus Group and the 2004 United Nations Human Development (UNHDP) report [8], Malaysia has the highest income disparity between the rich and poor in Southeast Asia, greater than that of Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. The UNHDP Report shows that the richest 10% in Malaysia control 38.4% of the economic income as compared to the poorest 10% who control only 1.7%. Kuala Lumpur as the capital of Malaysia has an increasing number of squatters, shanty towns and slums, and is also seeing an increase in criminal acts such as snatch theft, robberies, and rape.

Racial politics and the rich[edit]

In the year 2006, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on his release from 6 years of prison said in a number of interviews that the NEP should be abolished and that all races should be given equal opportunities [9] and also that the NEP was bad because only the cronies of UMNO party became rich from it, however Khairy Jamaluddin from UMNO party hit out at him (Anwar Ibrahim) for saying that. Khairy said: "What cheek he has to speak" and also said that Anwar Ibrahim was the greatest UMNO party member of all and a very rich one too.

Racial politics in United States history[edit]

One of the Racial politics in United States is to describe racially charged political actions by Abigail Thernstrom, the vice-chairman of the U.S. commission on civil rights. The practice has been a major part of American government since its creation, and often divides the Republican and Democratic parties.

The United States Government has since the time of its creation been divided, and in many ways developed based upon issues of race. In 1861 the Civil War between the Northern and Southern states of the nation was fought partially over the abolition of slavery. Furthermore the tension between the Northern Republicans and Southern Democrats continued for many years after as the South created Jim Crow laws and continued the segregation of individuals of color. The Northern Republicans realized that the South would not simply erase the strong racial divide that existed despite the abolition of slavery, and so in hopes of having a functioning Government allowed for such restrictions to exist.

In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the, "separate but equal", doctrine was constitutional in the case Plessy v. Ferguson. This doctrine suggested that segregation was legal as long as facilities provided to both whites and blacks remained equal. In retrospect, the entire case was driven by racial politics, as Homer Plessy, a man who was only 1/8 black, was persuaded by rights activists in New Orleans to test a new law that required separate accommodations for blacks and whites on railroads.

In 1954, the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. The Supreme Court determined that the establishment of separate schools for whites and blacks inherently unequal, and as a result unconstitutional. This was a major step for civil rights activists of the Democratic Party.

Racial politics in the current day United States[edit]

Perhaps the most glaring aspect of racial politics today is the re-drawing and shaping of district lines to seclude minorities in certain areas. In doing this, Republicans and Democrats alike ensure certain trends in voting patterns and constituent concerns, as they place a high concentration of minorities within a voting district. This is a crucial aspect of modern day politics and is often a major factor in elections. See: Gerrymandering

See also[edit]


  • Thernstrom, Abigail. THE NATION Racial Politics, As Ever Democrats will be demagogic; when will Republicans counter them? March 19, 2007. National Review. 2007