In light of a viral FB post, 'bananas' are speaking out about being alienated for being unable to speak Mandarin and/or Chinese dialects. <small> Cover image via SAYS </small>
Social media was abuzz in the past few days after a Facebook post about bullying in a local college went viral, shedding light on the isolation felt by a ‘banana’ in a Chinese-majority educational institution
"<strong>My friend who is studying in [a college in KL] has also revealed to me that he has been bullied by his college mates. The reason is 'cause, he can't speak Chinese.</strong> He's English educated so he's a banana. 99% of [the college's] students are hardcore Chinese-speaking. My friend also tells me that he's often alone and has no friends for group assignments and he struggles so much 'cause he can't speak Chinese and blend in with people there. He has no friends. Just imagine what about the other non-Chinese students, how they have been discriminated in the college. <strong>I notice a lot of Malaysian Chinese are getting more obsessed with Chinese and will often speak Chinese/Mandarin even though there are non-Chinese speaking people at the same table. It's just pathetic and rude,</strong>" the post read.
The screenshots were taken from the comments section of a SAYS story published on Friday, 5 May regarding a college student who committed suicide in Penang last week. Initial investigations indicate that the boy was under tremendous stress due to his studies, although it was also speculated that he was a victim of cyberbullying.
While some disagreed with the generalisation that the Chinese-speaking community tend to bully or alienate ‘bananas’ who don’t speak Mandarin and/or Chinese dialects…
… Many agreed that it is a situation widely faced by ‘bananas’, even in adulthood, as they are considered “a disgrace to the Chinese community”
Amongst the conversation surrounding the issue, one particular post written by a self-professed ‘banana’ became widely shared by those who relate to the experience of being an “outcast” in their own ethnic groups
"I don't think bananas speak out about this a lot but as a banana myself, <strong>I have found myself in situations where I've been looked down upon because I'm deemed not to be Chinese enough</strong>. I'm not saying this is done by everyone who speaks Mandarin but only those select few that happen to be a--holes as well. I have really good friends who speak Mandarin all the time and I have no problems with that because they treat me with respect and I understand it's hard to switch from language to language.
However, I think there may be a lack of understanding from those who speak Mandarin about people like me. We don’t choose to be illiterate in Mandarin. I didn’t remember coming out of my mother’s womb to tick which language I want to speak. I was raised in a household where English was the language I spoke in. I did not go to a Chinese National School and the choice at that age on whether or not to be sent to a Mandarin class was decided by my parents and not me, both of whom decided at that time to prioritise classes in other areas of study instead,” he wrote.
“I think the most common misconception about bananas is that ‘we don’t speak Mandarin because we think we are better than those who do’.”
"<strong>They might think we are arrogant in refusing to learn Mandarin or refusing to speak it when in truth for the most of us, we just grew up in a background where there really wasn't an option to do so.</strong> Even if some of us go on to learn it in later years, I think we can agree that we do face some difficulty in blending in during the time in our lives when we don't.
I have been trying to pick up Mandarin lately and while I have gotten better, I am nowhere near to being capable of holding a long conversation with it. People laughing at you when you attempt to speak doesn’t help either,” he added.
In wrapping up his musings, the Facebook user who wrote the above post called for the Chinese-speaking community to stop alienating those who don’t speak their language. ‘Banana’ or not, we are Malaysians after all.
"When it comes to the people that share the same colour as mine, <strong>I am alienated because of my inability to 'prove' my Chinese ethnicity. Don't even mention those that think I'm not supposed to be in Malaysia.</strong>
People like me are the product of colonialism and segregation, speaking the language of those that colonised Malaysia while left neither tied to the country of my ancestor nor truly belonging in this one,” he wrote.
“So don’t look at me in disgust when I am unable to speak your language. Just accept that I can’t and accept me as a Malaysian instead because I don’t have any other alternative.
Stop the bullying and be more empathetic.”
While not all ‘bananas’ are bullied and feel isolated from their peers due to their inability to speak Mandarin, they sure get a lot of flak and are made fun of for not “being Chinese enough”:
Are you a 100% ‘banana’… or just a little bit? Take this quiz to find out:
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