Minority Representation: America vs Malaysia

Below is an article that I wrote in 2017 as a columnist for the news portal ‘Menara.my’ under the title, “Minority Rights: Malaysia vs America”. Seeing that the action of likening Black oppression in the United States of America to the supposed minority oppression in Malaysia is prevailing after the unfortunate death of a Black citizen due to police brutality in America, I thought that this article might be enlightening to some. Since this article was written before Malaysia’s 14th General Election, the breakdown of the Dewan Rakyat representatives is out of date. However, do keep in mind that the number of minority representatives have increased and not decreased since the previous election.

America, the “Land of the Free,” the country with the best governance and laws which provide equal rights for all human beings, no matter their race or religion. And as the Muslim Bumiputra-led government of Malaysia is always heavily criticised for discriminating the minorities, Malaysia should definitely learn about racial and religious equality from the United States … right? 

In 1788, when the United States Constitution granted each state the power to set their voting requirements, suffrage was mostly restricted to white males. [1] At that time, so many African-Americans were legally bonded to their owners as chattel slaves that the status of slave had been institutionalised as a racial caste associated with African ancestry. [2] The existence of one of the largest and most destructive conflict in the Western world, “The American Civil War” is an obvious proof of the whites’ refusal to accept the fact that the African-Americans are also humans who deserve the rights to live as freemen. The war between the Northern states who pledged under President Lincoln’s words that all men are created equal and the pro-black slavery Confederate States of America lasted for four years and cost about 625,000 lives. [3]  

Even after the Civil War ended and the Northern states came out victorious, a Confederate sympathiser who was also initiated into the pro-Confederate ‘Knights of the Golden Circle’ fatally wounded President Lincoln in an exhibition of protest against the freedom of the blacks. [4] In a clear attempt to return the newly freed slaves into their former condition, most Southern states enacted the “Black Code” which prohibits the blacks to assemble in groups [5], testify against white people in court [6], and even to simply learn to read and write. [7][8] 

Upon the long-delayed ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment which abolishes slavery and the Fifteenth Amendment which granted the rights to vote to all men without any regards to their race, the “Jim Crow Laws” were enacted, enforcing a racial segregation in the Southern United States. Poll taxes, literacy tests and threats of violent acts by the whites in the form of lynch mobs and terrorist attacks effectively excluded most blacks from the political system. [9] 

It took them nearly a hundred years to finally overrule the “Jim Crow Laws” in the forms of the “Civil Rights Act of 1964”[10] and the “Voting Rights Act of 1965”. [11] 

And yet, Malaysian minorities have been voting since the very first Malaysian election in 1955. They were neither bounded as chattel slaves nor ripped off from their rights to vote, assemble in groups, and to learn to read and write. In fact, a number of Chinese and Indians were already elected during the first Malaysian election, a stark difference against America which did not feature an African-American representative until their 41st congress. [12] 

Even today, the minorities in America are still greatly under-represented in America compared to Malaysia which has a more or less balanced amount of representatives. 

Only 7.36% of the representatives are Hispanics and/or Latinos compared to the 16.30% of the American population who are Hispanics and/or Latinos. Whereas in Malaysia, the representation of the races in Malaysia’s Dewan Rakyat is more or less well-balanced. 

Not just that, in America, the Christians, which encompasses 70.60% of the population, makes up a massive figure of 93.10% of the representatives—crowding the representatives of the minorities which makes up 28.80% of the population to only having 5.52% of the seats. However, in the Muslim country of Malaysia, the Christians (a minority religion) are over-represented, making up about 14% to 21% of the Dewan Rakyat compared to their 9.20% figure in the population statistics. The Muslims make an almost exact figure of about 61.29% to 61.30%.  

Just by looking into the history and the current political scenario of the two countries, it is already obvious that the government of the “Land of the Free” and its majority, the whites, are far more racially and religiously biased than the Malaysian government and its majority, the Bumiputras. In truth, one should always properly study a country with a fair mind before making any judgements and comments which will ignite racial and religious conflicts, perturbing the peace and harmony of the country. 

Sources: 

1. http://15thamendment.harpweek.com/HubPages/CommentaryPage.asp?Commentary=01Timeline1865 

2. https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/05/peter-h-wood-strange-new-land-excerpt.html 

3. http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-overview/overview.html 

4. https://archive.org/details/shadowofsentinel00getl 

5. Zebina Eastman, Black Code of Illinois, 1883, p 36 

6. Zebina Eastman, Black Code of Illinois, 1883, p 44 

7. Acts passed by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina [1830-1831], chapter VI 

8. https://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2017/10/05/professional-genealogist-offers-advice-on-tracing-african-american-roots/ 

9. https://web.archive.org/web/20070304111738/http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/intro/intro_b.htm 

10. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-act 

11. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act 

12. https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Black-Americans-in-Congress/ 

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