The recent remarks about media personnel behaving like “estate people” is truly disappointing. Is being born and raised in an estate unacceptable or not recognized? Is it a forbidden place to grow up as citizens of this wonderful nation?  

What is with these labels? History shows us that labeling people based on their race, religion or colour is detrimental to any society. Labels have been used as a means of discrimination for thousands of years. Back in the day, Americans referred to Black people with the N-word. White supremacists used the ethnic slur, Towelheads, to refer to Arabs and Sikhs. During the Holocaust, Nazis referred to Jews as rats. When someone chooses to refer to another individual, or a group of people with a particular label, he is going down a road that was taken by the worst of mankind.

A person’s race, gender, socioeconomic status or geographical origins do not define who they are or will be. And certainly, being born in a particular place doesn’t define anyone. Labels promote both blatant and unconscious prejudice. This is the type of discrimination great leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi fought against.

When I cheered for our legendary football team of the 70s and 80s, or our National Hockey Squad in the 1975 World Cup, sporting greats like Misbun Sidek and his brothers, or more recently Lee Chong Wei, I didn’t care where they were born, or where they came from. It only mattered who they were – Malaysians, just like me.

The labels we place on people will never adequately capture the complexity of the human spirit. There is only one label that applies to us all and that label supersedes all others. We are all Humans. I want to be labelled human first and a Malaysian next. Every other label falls way behind in the face of these.

You are defined by what you do, not where you come from. Let us look for what unites us and not what separates us. That would be the true spirit of Malaysia Baru.

Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran