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The Price Of Not Tweeting Exclusively That ‘BlackLivesMatter’ – OpEd

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First, my condolences to the family of George Floyd. And may justice be served on those responsible for his death. This has been a challenging two weeks for me: the end of semester wrap-ups, novel writing continuation, and handling a Gerakbudaya author-interview cancellation issue.

But let me share what transpired the day I tweeted what I believed in, as an educator for more than three decades.

‘Cancel culture story’

I was invited to give a Zoom-talk by Gerakbudaya, my publisher of seven books, on apartheid and education in Malaysia, and in fact, I was the one who suggested the series of author-interviews, then “KABOOM!” a day before Saturday 13th, it was canceled. The reason: the editors were perhaps contacted by an academic from abroad and a human rights activist that I had tweeted and posted messages that are supposedly against BlackLivesMatter and therefore disrespectful to the movement and therefore I had to be “de-platformed” immediately.

Of course, things got out of hand and there began the controversy on how I should be behaving like a “progressive” as to how the BlackLivesMatter fanatics had wanted it to be. In short, their argument goes like this: if you are not promoting BlackLivesMatter you are a racist and a Trump supporter and a white supremacist. That’s how many Malaysians too think.

When you get the chance, you can go to the Gerakbudaya page and see my responses, including a letter of apology from the owner, I posted.

Now it seems some human rights activists in Malaysia, as well as academics, are suggesting that I continue to be “de-platformed” and my books taken off the shelves until I “revise my view” on BlackLivesMatter. I find this concerning. But this is Malaysia.

You may visit my Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/azly.rahman] and have a sense of what matters to me as an educator and why I get turned off by hegemony, social projections, and the meaning of protests when one starts saying that “Until BlackLivesMatter all lives do not yet matter” Or — “PoliceLivesDon’tMatter” or “WhiteLivesDon’tMatter”. These, to me, are violent messages hash-tagged for maximum-viral impact.

“BlackLivesMatter Too BECAUSE AllLivesMatter” was my concluding post.

I also posted that “AllLivesMatter” is perfectly in agreement with what I have always championed for in all my writings: that “AllMalaysianLivesMatter” in a world in which the promotion of Malay Supremacy is ever-present.

So, these and the violence attached to the movement turned me off and I start to protest against the world. I am a teacher essentially and to me “AlLivesMatter” resonates with me better and if I have to chant “BlackLivesMatter” all my life, I might next start hating people of all color, especially the whites. It is a crystal-clear philosophical stand I am taking. Malaysians especially don’t like this stand because Philosophy can be worse than Zoom-Fatigue.

‘Symbols destroyed’

Statues are now being brought down such as in Bristol and continuing in many parts of the world, I’d say that’s a natural progression of human action when freedom to destroy them go rampant. Lenin’s statue, Sadam Hussein’s, Leopold of Belgium’s, Columbus — all these symbols of oppression are targets. The French taught the modern world about destroying symbols, by first beheading Louis Capet and Mary Antoinette and today producing theories of deconstructionism. We moved from the physical to the intellectual.

The nature of Man perhaps to destroy as in the Shiva-Brahma-Vishnu in us (Preserver-Creator-Destroyer). But the Biblical stories too, the chosen peace messengers from Abraham to Muhammad destroyed symbols. So, it is part of the inner drive of the primordial self to destroy, I suppose.

BlackLivesMatter protests, triggered by the George Floyd event, gave the inspiration to destroy: from old paradigms of thinking to statues, to properties in the cities and businesses owned by peace-loving-law-abiding citizens. Anarchism seems to be an addiction of the youth these days. The Liberal Left bent on the ideas of change promoted by Communists – that violence is that way too – has possessed the mind of the young. Destruction is the modus operandi to feed the soul of the protester.

Yes, it’s all about inner and outer symbols: Of what one worships and destroys.

‘A symbol of violence?’

Of course, the Covid-19 lockdown fermented the anger and sped up the destruction. Today, addiction to protests continue. The only difference is the burning and looting has stopped. Except in the latest case in Atlanta.

Of course, the Covid-19 lockdown fermented the anger and sped up the destruction. Today, addiction to protests continue. The only difference is the burning and looting has stopped. Except in the latest case in Atlanta.

The irony of BlackLivesMatter is that it looked like it worked in concert with looting and burning and destruction. As if planned. Man loves to see things burn when the language of reason fails, avenues for peace closed, and the view that the world is an oyster and the land of opportunities and not to create mayhem is lost. Those who love to burn the city down are merely feeding the Fire within. Whether a meaningful symbol such as BlackLivesMatter is attached to it or not.

I want to continue to spread the message that all lives matter: not the Trumpian of White Supremacy slogan but the very basic idea that we are all humans. There is no question of “timing” here that collides with BlackLivesMatter, nor the metaphor of the two houses, one burning that we ought to save.

This is what made people angry with me — that I refused to “revise my view” and I am not “repenting”. My response has always and will always be this: I am an educator and all lives matter to me. As soon as I step into my classroom, all those in it, to me, are human beings with unique cultures and talents and levels of motivation, ready to learn. My job is to see them only as my students of all shapes, sizes, colors, gender, race, and religious affiliations for me to not only teach – but to learn from.

I have been living with this credo and ethos as an educator since I started teaching 33 years ago. I can only promote the words “AllLivesMatter” however my critics wish to interpret it. I offer no apologies even though many have said that the timing is not right. How ridiculous!? But I respect their views and will defend their rights, although mine will be demolished, in many ways as I have been reading. I stand by what the French philosopher Voltaire would say about respecting and defending other people’s views.

I have been living with this credo and ethos as an educator since I started teaching 33 years ago. I can only promote the words “AllLivesMatter” however my critics wish to interpret it. I offer no apologies even though many have said that the timing is not right. How ridiculous!? But I respect their views and will defend their rights, although mine will be demolished, in many ways as I have been reading. I stand by what the French philosopher Voltaire would say about respecting and defending other people’s views.

Besides, I am no stranger to controversies and how people have been responding to what I stand for. I believe controversies are good especially when they are handled, as the Russian thinker Mikhail Bakhtin would call “dialogically” rather than be an avenue for name-calling, even (strangely) by aging academics who ought to have acquired the status of a Merlin the Magician or a Tolstoy or a Dame Agatha Christie or even a Harriet Tubman: wise old men and women.

‘Does race matter?’

Besides the above on the nature of protestation and disagreements, first and foremost, I do not believe race is significant nor emphasizing it brings us any good. And what will violence achieve? What’s the point of chanting and screaming justice in the day and looting, burning, and threatening the lives of others at night—burning down the businesses of people whose lives depend on those.

I have been living with this credo and ethos as an educator since I started teaching 33 years ago. I can only promote the words “AllLivesMatter” however my critics wish to interpret it. I offer no apologies even though many have said that the timing is not right. How ridiculous!? But I respect their views and will defend their rights, although mine will be demolished, in many ways as I have been reading. I stand by what the French philosopher Voltaire would say about respecting and defending other people’s views.

Most of the businesses burned to the ground and looted empty are those family-owned by immigrants trying to survive in a land that is giving them hope to flourish, after escaping persecution. And each one of these people – the Italians, Irish, Armenians, Mexicans, Chinese, Jamaican, West Indian, Japanese, Jews, Turkish, Syrians, Somalians, Palestinians, Haitians, etc. — have had a long history of discrimination, persecution, and slavery too. We have not yet talked about the Native Americans! – in different context than those who lost their livelihood when businesses and neighborhoods get looted and burned to the ground!

So—to you my esteemed readers: what do you think? Which one is better: AllLivesmatter? Or BlackLivesMatter?

Or should race matter at all?

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

3 thoughts on “The Price Of Not Tweeting Exclusively That ‘BlackLivesMatter’ – OpEd

  • December 18, 2020 at 3:54 am
    Permalink

    I can’t agree with you more what you have expressed in your reply to your critics. Sure, one should sympathise with the movement Black Lives Matter just as one should also sympathise with the discrimination and suffering of other ethnic groups – the Palestinians, the Muslims in India, the non-Bumiputeras (I hate using this label as it stinks of apartheid) in Malaysia, the natives in Australia and Canada, etc. So, is one a racist if they do not subscribe exclusively to Black Lives Matter? I certainly don’t think so. In Malaysia, we see many Malaysians jumping on the BLM movement and I see it as an indirect way of criticizing the racially discriminatory policies in Malaysia. Yet, they won’t discuss the issue publicly. Well, Prof, I’m with you: BLM us important, but All Lives Matter!

    Reply
  • December 19, 2020 at 4:32 am
    Permalink

    I totally agree too! Thanks for this great insight!

    Reply

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