Becoming colour blind

“No dogs and Chinamen” said the sign outside the prestigious Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of British Malaya. Today, a multicultural and integrated Malaysian people (including the powerful Malay Muslims ruling the nation) utilise the Club.

For me, a visiting ex-Malayan Australian, it was the sight of a few dark-brown men wearing sandals and Malaysian shirts which impressed. They were (as I was told) local lawyers, indicating the extent to which the caste and class distinctions of the past had become irrelevant. In this context, I recall, with disgust, a Christian Ceylonese doctor who had his teenage Hindu servant sit on the floor in the back of his car.

Rubber-tapper Indian families used to send a teenager to work as a servant for families like us. I assumed that this practice was to enable these youngsters to look forward to a better life. I remember Francis (with fondness) who slept in the servant room. Whenever he minded my sister and I in our early childhood, he would spin a long tale, which entranced us, while often frightening us. He was a born story-teller. He should have progressed to a better life than that of his parents, who were indentured labourers (like the labourers sent by the British to Fiji to work on the sugarcane plantations).

“No dogs and Indians allowed” said the sign outside the Simla Club in India during the days of British rule. Yet, officials of the East India Company have been described as not as sensitive to skin colour as were the British Government officials who replaced them. The former were presumably responsible for the large Anglo-Indian population, but also for their privileged position above that of the Indians.

I got to know quite a few Anglo-Indians in Australia. They were not any different from my Eurasian friends in Malaya. In Australia we were all equal; because of our skin colour, we were (guess what?) ‘black.’ I did wonder whether Christian Indians and Euro-Asians in Australia had expected to be accepted as socially equal to the Anglo-Australian peoples.

While I remain averse to eating beetroot because of its colour, I do prefer Australians to become colour-blind. This does not mean officialdom claiming that we are more diverse ethnically than any other nation (not credible); that about 150 non-Aboriginal languages are spoken in the nation (only 15% of the people speak a foreign language at home); and selecting black or brown Christian refugees as humanitarian entrants – not while our rulers are ‘white bread’ in colour and texture (and stick together)!

Just as the oldest generation of the Australian people had to die before the virulent prejudice and discrimination faced by Asians in the immediate post-war years began to fade (the ignorant yobbo excepted), perhaps another generation or two of the Anglo-Celts here have to wander off into the Afterlife before their descendants become as colour-blind as are the peer groups of my children and grandchildren.

Mixed skin colours are the norm in most part of the world. Is it not time for nations like Australia to join the Family of Man? Refer my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ (ebook available at amazon kindle at $US 2.99 and $A3.99).

 

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