Many rejoiced when Senator Kamala Harris became the US Vice President-elect on Sunday (8 November) and by doing so, became the first female to hold the position. News portals across the globe covered this amazing feat as Harris became a symbol of inspiration for women everywhere overnight. Additionally, Blacks and South Asians worldwide rejoiced at the news because Harris is also the first Black and South Asian to assume the role.
A major local TV station also congratulated Harris in their afternoon news telecast, but viewers noticed a major blunder they made.
In the 1.27 minute long clip, the news anchor reports about Kamala Harris’ speech which said that her being the first female Vice President is definitely not the last and that this is a victory for little girls everywhere.
The reporter also gave a little insight into Harris’ family background which is where the unexpected blunder happened.
“Kamala, 56, made history when she became the first woman to be Vice President. She also made history for being the first Black and South Asian descent to hold the second-most important position in the country. The daughter of a Jamaican couple and an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT mother from India, she broke the stigma when she became the first black-skinned woman to serve as the attorney-general of California.”
WHAT WENT WRONG?!
Well, Kamala Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was an immigrant but NOT an illegal immigrant. A biologist who worked in breast cancer research, Gopalan arrived in the United States from Tamil Nadu, India in 1958 to pursue a masters programme in nutrition and endocrinology at the University of California.
Shaymala became a scientist for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and her research led to advancements in the knowledge pertaining to breast cancer.
Given these circumstances and the general stigma surrounding the word ‘pendatang’ in Malaysia, the station’s reporting did not sit well with Malaysians who felt that this comment was not only disrespectful to the Vice President-elect but also discredits the achievements of her mother, Shyamala Gopalan.
In an update, the news segment of the station uploaded a video today (9 November) rectifying their mistake while also apologizing for their error.
RALAT | Pembetulan Latar Belakang Kamala HarrisMerujuk kepada laporan Buletin 1.30 semalam, kami ingin memohon maaf atas kekhilafan mengenai Naib Presiden Amerika Syarikat yang baharu, Kamala Harris.#BuletinTV3 #Buletin130 #KamalaHarris
Posted by Buletin TV3 on Sunday, November 8, 2020
In the video, the reporter apologised for their error about Kamala Harris. “She’s the daughter of immigrant parents from Jamaica and India, unlike what was reported yesterday. We regret the oversight made on her background,” she said.
However, this did not sit well with Malaysians as netizens called out the channel for their insensitivity and inaccurate reporting and felt that the usage of the word “pendatang” was extremely degrading to the renowned scientist.
Even Senator S. Vell Paari commented on the issue saying that the TV station should “check Wikipedia” and questioned the love some have for the word “pendatang”.
Dear @BuletinTV3 Get your facts right. USA VP @KamalaHarris is not "anak pendatang asing tanpa izin dari India".Her late mum was born in Chennai,India & moved to USA at the age of 19 to study at University of California before she met & married dad
— S.Vell Paari (@vellpaari) November 9, 2020
Radio personality, JJ, also made a short video addressing the issue and corrected the statement made by the newscaster.
Wait what?!? … Indian people are not a pendatang by default ok..
Posted by JJ on Sunday, November 8, 2020
Mistake or just…racism?
As what the Senator said, being in Malaysia, everybody is aware of the stigma that goes behind the word pendatang asing tanpa izin (illegal immigrant) and especially its impact during the pandemic. Reducing an accomplished scientist to a mere illegal immigrant is what angered a lot of Malaysians and even felt that it was a deliberate move by the station.
You could ask, how does Kamala’s issue relate to us Malaysians? Unfortunately, despite the call of “1 Malaysia”, some Malaysians tend to freely and wrongly use the word pendatang on fellow Malaysians and this is often accompanied by “go back where you came from”. Some believe this is deep-rooted racism that has become a habit amongst Malaysians.
Some also questioned that if a major television station can make such an uncalled-for mistake, can we really blame the common Malaysians if their thinking is backward. On the other hand, there was also a small part who felt like this was an honest mistake and since they’ve apologised, bygones should be bygones.
Tell us what do you think of this in the comments section!
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