We are all Africans

Fact of the matter is, we are all Africans. Scientists have announced back in 2007 that a skull analysis of 6,000 samples from modern humans show that we all originated from a single point in East Africa.

Zurairi AR, MM

The Malay Mail Online’s story on a condominium in Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya banning African tenants received mixed responses from readers.

Chief among the responses has been praise for the decision, lauding it as necessary to ensure the safety of Malaysians.

The responses included anecdotes of crimes allegedly committed by Africans — I am using the term loosely here — and accusations that they are involved in some sort of drug cartel.

However, the dominating feeling has been that of fear. Quite simply, Malaysians are afraid of having so many Africans in their midst.

They related feeling uncomfortable being in the same elevator as them. They did not like the Africans harassing their women. They were afraid of the tall, dark, muscular African men.

Almost none of those who gave such responses admitted that, by supporting a blanket ban on all Africans, it means that yes, we are racist.

It speaks volumes of us Malaysians when a clear-cut racist policy such as this was enacted and nobody even batted an eyelid.

Worse still, is when a senior member of a political party said “since the residents had voted for such a measure, it would be contradictory and ironical if Malaysians are to be accused of racial discrimination.”

This, perhaps unsurprisingly, came from the MCA which is one of the few parties left which exclusively fights for the rights of only one ethnic community above all others.

We feel so secure clinging to our ethnic identities. After nearly 50 years of Malaysia’s formation, we still pigeonhole ourselves into the various ethnic identities instead of embracing each other as Malaysians.

Just a few days ago, a friend tweeted a photo of an online form that he had to fill. One of the questions was about race.

In the drop-down menu, there must have been dozens of minute ethnic groups. Even “Melayu” was divided into another subgroup, “Melayu Sarawak” (Sarawakian Malay).

In this decade, how would this classification of citizens into races be useful?

We forget that “race” is just a social construct. Nobody was really born Malay, Chinese, Indian, or “lain-lain.”

The precious “Malay” identity is perhaps the most flexible of all.

Malay father + non-Malay mother = Malay.

Non-Malay father + Malay mother = Malay.

Non-Malay father + non-Malay mother + convert to Islam = there is a chance you’ll be recognised as “Malay” too. Just ask Ridhuan Tee, the most Malay of Chinese there is.

The Constitution even states that for a Malaysian to be Malay, you only need to speak Malay and practise Malay culture, and be Muslim.

If you leave Islam, then you are not constitutionally Malay. Ah, but how can that be if you were born a Malay?

Fact of the matter is, we are all Africans.

Scientists have announced back in 2007 that a skull analysis of 6,000 samples from modern humans show that we all originated from a single point in East Africa.

Around 150,000 to 200,000 years ago, the predecessor of Homo sapiens evolved to modern humans in Africa.

It was then after 50,000 years ago that a branch of humans started venturing out into Europe, Asia, Australia, and started evolving independently.

This branch of humans over time replaced other early human populations such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus.

After migrating to the Near East from Africa, the humans spread towards South Asia around 50,000 years ago, and to Australia around 40,000 years ago.

A group of these early humans, the Cro-Magnons, reached Europe around the same time 40,000 years ago.

Humans reached Asia some 30,000 years ago, and North America much later, between that and 13,000 years ago.

Genetic evidence shows that humans of different ethnicities are all 99.9 per cent the same underneath.

The difference in build, skin tone, hair colour and so on were products of evolution when humans tried to acclimate themselves to different environments.

Remember that all in all, they only constitute around 0.1 per cent of our genes. That is one-tenth of one per cent, if you still cannot imagine how inconsequential that is.

I leave you with this quote from Dr Spencer Wells, lead scientist of the Genographic Project:

You and I, in fact everyone all over the world,

we’re literally African under the skin;

brothers and sisters separated by a mere two thousand generations.

Old-fashioned concepts of race are not only socially divisive,

but scientifically wrong.