These past few weeks, I've been so inspired to see people across the world using their voice to speak out in support for the black lives matter movement and against racism.
& so it got me thinking how this could be relevant to us in Cambodia.
A little bit of background—Cambodia is a homogenous country—where 90% of the population is the Khmer descent. The lack of racial diversity here may make the blm movement appear irrelevant to us. However, this couldn't be further from the truth; racism is not just a western problem, it is a problem everywhere. & so I want to share how the blm movement is very much relevant to us & what we can learn from it.
✊🏾Due to our lack of racial diversity, it may be easier to recognize the issue through the lens of prejudices, rather than through racism; however this is not to say that racism against ethnic minority group (Cham) and against those from neighboring countries does not happen—because it does.
Prejudice in Cambodia is a result of #colorism <ការរើសអើងពណ៌សម្បុរ> (prejudice against people on the basis of their skin color) rather than racism <ការរើសអើងពូជសាសន៍> (prejudice against people on the basis of their race or ethnic group)
Prejudice against dark skin is prevalent in the kingdom, as evident by rows upon rows of whitening cream marketed to the public—leading to preferential treatments for lighter skinned individuals in finding a job or in being accepted by society. As a former French colony, this perceived superiority associated with lighter skin is a legacy of slavery & colonialism—a time when whiteness rules & dominates.
Such prejudices are readily adopted by the media and advertisement and has very harmful consequences. In a world where light skin dominates on magazine covers, on television screens etc—we begin to unconsciously develop a bias (implicit bias) where we associate whiteness or light skin with success, wealth, goodness etc and associate blackness or dark skin with crime, evilness, gangster etc—leading to structural racism/discrimination where the entire system already has a "preconceived" notion of who you are and how good you will be.
👀Bottom line: our skin color, our race or ethnicity does not determine our inherent nature - whether we are good or evil. I believe it’s important to be aware of one’s own prejudices, to recognize it and to dismantle it (the fact that our prejudices are often unconscious make it all the more important). And that the current Black Lives Matter movement serves as an important lesson for us all to learn from.