16 March 2016

“You don’t look Malaysian” is probably a comment that we have received one time or another... but how DOES a Malaysian look like? Raqeem Brian Mohd could be a good case study.

With a concentrated population of 3 main races in the Peninsular, plus multiple ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak, not to forget other unmentioned minority communities—shouldn’t there be a homogenous facial structure for the common Malaysian by now?

Born in Kuching, Brian (birth name Brian Vinesh)  identifies himself as ‘Chindian’, but he’d rather be known simply as a Malaysian. When asked about his racial uniqueness in his hometown, Brian addresses us with the racial reality in Kuching;  “FYI, I was born in Sarawak so there were hardly any Indians in my neighbourhood or school. I grew up learning that I had to ‘earn’ my spot in the community that I grew up in because of my uniqueness.”

In some countries, even developed ones, mixed races is still an alien concept to be digested.

Communities that live within their perimeters, be it geographically or as a mindset, frown upon the presence of an interracial family in their homogenous society. Even in the United States, interracial marriages were only legal nationwide in 1967. Even when the younger Egalitarian view on the matter is to accept the phenomenon as the country is becoming multi-ethnic, Traditionalists resented miscegenation (an old term for interracial marriage). All that racket, and the U.S have only 2 major ethnic groups. While we are blessed with so many colors so to speak; Malaysia’s acceptance on interracial marriages can be traced throughout history.

In his school years, Brian had to learn Sarawakian Malay to fit in. “Everybody was speaking it”, Brian mentioned.

When he hung out with his neighbourhood mates, he spoke in Hokkien and at home, he was more comfortable communicating in English with his parents.

His homeboys are made up from Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans and Bidayuhs; so Brian did not have trouble adjusting to the social behaviour when he moved to Kuala Lumpur for work. Turns out, there’s not much difference with how people mix over in the East and here in Semenanjung after all. “The only thing I had to prove to them was that we didn’t live on trees where I came from”, a joke probably thrown a lot amongst Sarawakians to us Peninsular people.

Jokes aside, a brief research a British genome researcher by the name of Aarathi Prasad shares on her research video that mixed races are the fastest minority group in the United Kingdom.

Although they only make up less than 2% of Britain’s population, 30% of the national football team are of mixed ethnicities. This minority group have taken music, sports and modelling by storm. Aside from athleticism, musical talent and good looks,  children of interracial marriages are said to have better immunity and mental toughness due to their heterozygous factors.

So, does this fact make Chindians better than all of us?

There have been research on The Effect of Parents’ Ethnic Socialization Practices on Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem and Psychological Adjustment of Multi Ethnic Children in Malaysia. With a study as extensive as that, it seems that mixed races suffer the same problems as anyone under the sun.  Coming from a mixed parentage does not really make one superior compared to homozygous individuals. You truly are a product of your environment, and having a strong, supportive family is a definite factor to one’s happiness.

Finally blessed with a family of his own, his marriage to Nurul Hana Che Mahazan or Nana (of Akademi Fantasia fame) has given him 2 joyous offsprings, Althea and Aqib. A common notion that people will pass if you want to marry a Malay girl would be “Sanggup potong ke?” (a slang referring to circumcision), a satirical way of saying “Are you ready to convert to Islam?” Brian nonchalantly addresses the decision of his conversion of faith.  “The only person that mattered to me when making this decision was my mum as she was the one who had supported me during the high & low points of my life. She was very calm and supportive when I revealed that I was planning to convert. Her advice to me was “You are now old enough to decide what you want for yourself. I will always support you no matter what”.

Everyone else learnt later of my decision and all of them were supportive of it.”

His personal take on mixed marriages is that he encourages it as long as the couple is prepared spiritually, physically and mentally to accept challenges and embrace change.Even with scientific research on the evidently benefits of mixed races, the reality is interracial relationships are still looked down upon in some societies, mainly by traditionalists that are adamant on the concept of ‘racial purity’ should be preserved.

Brian responds - “I understand that there are still people who do not encourage interracial relationships and I respect that as it is still a very sensitive matter for many. My motto is simple—'Do more of what makes you happy’.”

By Smek Almohdzar


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