Before the birth of 1Malaysia, before I knew what ‘multicultural harmony’ was, I was already playing my afternoons away in the drain with cousins and neighborhood friends from different ethnicities.
Coming from a mixed heritage myself, my extended family included members from all the major ethnicities of Malaysia — Malay, Indian, Chinese and various Dayak tribes — with recent additions from the Dusun and Siamese communities. Come Hari Gawai and Christmas, one could easily hear at least five languages being spoken amidst the festive hustle and bustle as we all congregated in the kampung.
It is a scene that is not unique to my family; many a fellow Sarawakian — and Malaysians — can attest the same in various degrees. Multiculturalism is not a new concept here — it is a concept we live in, a concept we were born into, a concept we intimately understand.
Of course, it is not always smooth-sailing; different cultural and religious backgrounds will always bring with it a journey in learning to understand each other despite our differences. The key is to allow each other to learn and to continue fostering opportunities for a greater state of togetherness: friendships — and even more effectively, marriages — across ethnic lines will promote multicultural harmony much better than any fancy government slogan. Because no matter how different the shades of our traditional costumes, we all bleed the same red blood.
In the words of the comedian Russell Peters, in three hundred years everyone is gonna be beige anyway.