A couple of days ago, I received a phone call from an officer at a local bank regarding my application for a banking facility.
Apart from wanting to know some basic personal and employment details, the officer enquired: “May I know your race?”
“I think that’s irrelevant,” I replied.
“But we have to fill up this form?” she persisted.
“In that case, put down ‘Malaysian’,” I said.
“Sorry, sir, the form has ‘Malay’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Indian’ and ‘Others’,” she said politely.
“Well,” I said, “that’s not my problem. It’s your bank’s.”
She didn’t pursue it any further and proceeded to some other point.
I felt a bit sorry for her afterwards. After all, she was just doing what she had been trained to do.
It’s not as if I am ashamed of my heritage or background. I could have told her, for instance, that my grandparents came to Malaysia from exactly the same part of the world as the grandfather of a former prime minister. (But then, the bank would probably classify me and the former PM differently, in any case.) I just failed to see the relevance of “race” to my application.
Ah, the wonders/challenges of being Malaysian in a “race”-obsessed country. “Race” to the bottom?
The good news is that I was told this morning that the bank had approved the facility. So the banks CAN survive/manage without knowing my “race”. Or rather, I am not sure how this particular bank classified me in the end. (See update in comments below.)
I don’t care. The only thing that really matters at the end of the day, is that we are all part of the human race, placed in this world for a reason.