As racism rears ugly head again, it’s time to unite Malaysians through sports

It was one of the most disgusting Facebook postings ever made against a Malaysian national shuttler.

So disgusting and disrespectful that the posting against S. Kisona – one of Malaysia’s brightest women’s singles prospects who represented Malaysia in the Sudirman Cup – shall not be repeated in this article.

And in typical fashion, after a very public backlash, came the weak, pathetic apology from the so-called ‘politician’ who made the remark. Pathetic, because for the racist individual who, perhaps had achieved his lifelong dream of becoming infamous overnight, life still goes on.

Racism is not new. It’s also not exclusive to Malaysia.

It’s a cancer plaguing the world, despite societies having evolved, supposedly, over the centuries.

And it’s the same when it comes to racism in sports. Sports is supposed to be colour blind; it is all about respect.

Yet, there are those who still treat sportsmen and women based on the colour of their skin, and not the flag stamped on their shirts. These individuals lack respect for the athlete and the sport.

The disgusting remark by this politician was just one person’s view. It certainly was not a reflection of the feelings of the majority of Malaysians. But it was something that caught a lot of attention – even forcing the Badminton Association of Malaysia and the Olympic Council of Malaysia to condemn the remark.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong and Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu also slammed the remark made by the so-called politician.

So where do we go from here? Do we just conveniently forget that this individual had posted a derogatory and abhorrent comment on his social media, that he denigrated a fellow Malaysian whose apparent “crime” was to put on the national colours and fight for her country of birth?

Do we allow this bigot to continue to sow such hatred after this? Was his apology sincere, heartfelt though it may be? Will he finally stop, or will he continue to post such vile and unfettered hate on other platforms, or even utter them, in more hushed tones perhaps, in his private conversations?

His defenders may say that the posting was him merely exercising his freedom of expression. Strangely, this is a similar, and common excuse used by white supremacists, Klansmen and black-shirted, club-wielding, jackbooted neo-Nazis who run wild across America and parts of Europe.

Remember Kedah FA president and Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who referred to Kedah players as ‘awang hitam’ late last year?

So what if the national football team comprises predominantly one race? So what if there are only two races representing the national badminton team? Does it matter? Does it make a difference? Is race now a criterion? Shouldn’t the best go on to don the national colours?

Racism will continue to rear its ugly head, until and unless we start addressing it in kindergartens and at home.

Stop identifying people by their skin colour or race. Start teaching our parents and children what respect means. Teach them that every individual must be accorded the same level of respect, regardless of how he or she looks.

Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker served as the deputy minister in the National Unity Ministry under the previous government. Today, he is the deputy Youth and Sports Minister. Ti would be the best person to initiate such a movement – to educate Malaysians on the true meaning of respecting and loving one another.

Sports is the best vehicle to unite Malaysians. We have all seen it. The roar reverberating inside the stadium after Malaysia nets the final goal, or lands a match point, is proof enough. It has the ability to transcend everything, including race. It has the power to unite us all.

Similarly, this unity of purpose was evident in the chorus of voices who defended Kisona and slammed that bigot who posted the filth on Facebook a few days ago.

Ti and Co. may not have much time in office as the political landscape in Malaysia remains unstable despite the recent change in regime. Working on uniting Malaysians, however, should take priority and must cut across the board – ministries, agencies, the private and public sectors, schools, universities, and every strata of Malaysian life.

It can be done. It must be done. It’s time for something like this to be done.

The single unifying message should be: “We are all Malaysians”. That is it.

After all, who are we, if not part of “Keluarga Malaysia”?

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