Hi there. Yes you, looking in through the windows from the sidewalk of Bangsar. Please come in and take a seat. You’re about to enter a friendly neighbourhood “English”-style cafe. But before you come in, we only ask you to get off your high horse, pretend to take off the luggage of prejudices that you carry and do put on a pair of rose-coloured glasses. We’re definitely an “atas” Bangsar cafe but the environment could emulate anything from your school’s multicultural celebrations to your university’s diversity meetings. Oh we’re most definitely very alike welcoming events that take place at your public universities, where we cheer and sing patriotic songs, pretend that our separations don’t exist while we come out of our race-segregated college rooms. Turning a blind eye on racial orientation programmes that take place right after comes as our special complimentary.
Grab a chair and scan our menu. We’re serving piping-hot tea. But we recommend you order your tea with extra sugar because as you can probably already tell, things are about to get pretty salty. But don’t worry, today, we’ll keep it light. Light – because anything heavier will bruise the ego and risk our alienation. But we only feel it’s our duty to invite you today because you see – an unsettling and highly-publicised spur in a faraway land has “opened eyes” to many around us to prejudices. We’ve even gotten invites to “share our opinion” and “oppose racism” on the basis of our skin colour and race so how can we resist? While some of us have been screaming on top of our lungs since setting foot in our educational institutions about racial inequalities, cronyism and discrimination it takes an “American” awakening to turn some heads. Trust us, we’re still surprised how some of you contest that racism doesn’t exist in our setting because in our opinion, choosing to “see” and “discuss” racism as you see fit (and not a matter of your everyday lived experience) is a privilege.
We wonder – it must be hard being in your privileged position to want to stir the pot, get the racial discourse flowing, compile “ideas” and “thoughts” that pretty much means life and death (education, employment, wage and accommodation) for others. When we saw some of our closest friends contend on Facebook that our “race” (could also read: skin colour) isn’t their preference, in places as benign as a housing office or as sketchy as Grindr, we wanted to rip our hairs out. Do they not realise the privilege it takes, to deny another of PAID accommodation, on the basis of your racism masquerading as preference? We know what you’re thinking – oh quit complaining, find another place. We know we could, because our socioeconomic and financial background are thankfully on our side. But try telling that to a dark-skinned Indian man who’s earning minimum wage trying to house his family in a low-cost housing. For him, it means everything and having an option just isn’t an option.
Take a sip of your tea. Hope it didn’t scald your tongue (… too much). Thank you for holding your tongue through our little rant. God only knows we’ve held our tongues through your tirades throughout our lives. So much so that some of us have internalised that and go on journeys of unpacking our feelings for just as long. Oh you’ll definitely be thanking us – when racial discourse becomes another “trendy” topic and you can quote all this underneath your black boxes on Instagram while you mutter a passing comment on a Zoom meeting about how every colleague has gotten more fair over the weeks of COVID-19 home confinement except the Indian (personal treat from yours truly). And before you go, remember, knowing and repeating this makes you “woke” and “trendy” but us, “hostile”, “gaslight-y”, “volcanic”, “unfriendly”, etc. Cheers.