In the light of current political developements,the words "racial" and "racist" need to be explicated and put in the right context.
The word "racial" is a derivative adjective from the root noun "race" which has several shades of meaning according to the Oxford Dictionary.
Its meaning include:(i) "each of the major divisions of humankind,having distinct physical characteristics" and (ii) "a group of people sharing the same culture,language etc;an ethnic group."
The adjective "racist" is derived from the noun "racism" which according to the Oxford dictionary means:(i) "the belief that there are characteristics,abilities or qualities specific to each race" and (ii) "discrimination against or antagonism towards other races."
While "racial" has a neutral,non-emotive meaning, "racist" has emotive undertones.
The word "race" has become unpopular because of its associations with the now discredited 19th century theories of racial superiority exploited indiscriminately by certain quarters.
Today the term "ethnic group" is preferred to describe a community of people sharing the same physical and cultural characteristics.
While being partial to and protective of one's own ethnic group is natural and should be seen as an extension of loyalty towards kin and kind,being antagonistic and discriminatory towards people who do not share one's physical make-up and culture is not.
Speaking up for your own community is not an act of racism.It should be seen as a positive force,especially when the intention is to inspire and drive them to greater heights of achievement.
Asking the Malays to protect their own interests should be seen in this context,as it is natural for the chinese,Indians and other ethnic groups to consolidate their respective positions.
It is only when a goverment is prejudiced against particular ethnic groups and imposes discriminatory policies against them that it can be said to practice racism.It is only when you consistently accuse another ethnic group of being lazy or incapable that you can be said to be racist.
The Star. Halimah Mohd Said,Kuala Lumpur.