“Mom, I can’t eat nasi lemak anymore. I’m Chinese. Wait, I’m English.”

By Justine See Lee Pin

She is a mother of two who’s trying to raise her multiracial kids Malaysian first, and the rest second.

Last year our son Ryan, who had just started Standard 1 came home one day looking very distressed.  He asked us why he could not have nasi lemak* and roti canai** anymore, which were his favorite food. We were quite puzzled by his question, and thus we probed further.

Apparently during one of the classes, the teacher was explaining about the different foods eaten by the various races in the country and the teacher told them that nasi lemak is eaten by the Malays, roti canai is eaten by Indians and noodles by the Chinese.

He took it to heart that since he was Chinese he could only eat noodles and so he was very sad as two of his most favorite foods are roti canai and nasi lemak. He told us that now he could not have them for breakfast anymore.  We had to convince him that he is a Malaysian and he can eat anything he wants and that whatever we eat does not “categorize” us.

There was another instance of this unnecessary “categorization” when we asked him “what he was?” His immediate answer was “I am English lah. I speak English so I am English.” He said the same of his friends, Azam  & E Wen too as they speak English most of the time. His Indian grand aunties are Chinese because they speak Hokkien, he said.

Children are blind to racial differences and of that we can definitely learn from them. They treat each other equally without racial bias and they accept each other’s differences because they are just different, period.

We could learn this from our children.

For once, let’s just be Malaysian.

*Nasi lemak is fat rice. It is Malaysia’s national food. And this is why Malaysians are fat. :)

**Roti canai is flatbread and is also a mamak stall (a kind of cafe) staple.

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