I had to post this little tidbit I found on RanoAdidas.com. (Ranoadidas.com is Brunei’s No. 1 social news site. And now you know.) Apparently, a Bruneian school decided to, as a change for this semester, separate restrooms based on ethnicity:

Rano writes:

“Racial divisions in restrooms?? Now a student whom want to remain anonymous sent me an email to share what I think it’s kinda unusual. Well, the fact that the toilets are categorised into different races do raise an eyebrow or two. Of course, unisex toilet is a definite no-no but racial division for toilets is tad too much, don’t you think? I could be wrong but since when do toilets cater to different races or positions? But this has turned out to be a good talking point.

Now the question is what if you are mixed?…Tsk tsk…I don’t even know why this was done in the first place and I’m still curious to which local school actually practised this. The labels came after a renovation was done in December before school re-opened.”

I’m as confused as Rano. What in the hell was this contractor thinking? Did the administration call for this? Racism is a problem in the sultanate, but separate restrooms? Is it at that point?

In light of the very chashuv birthday this week (and I mean Martin Luther King, not LL Cool J’s 40th), I think one would be remiss not to compare this to Jim Crow laws which mandated segregation in America up until the 60s. While this, in its specificity, is much more nuanced (and therefore more prone to problems like Rano’s biracial example or logistic problems — e.g., is a Chinese or Malaysian person who moves to Brunei not an expat?), and more reflective of Brunei’s Chinese-Malay-South Asian conflicts, it sets up the same problem faced by many colored patrons of yesteryear.

Sometimes prejudice can leave you without a pot to piss in.

About the author


A modern charedi Jew-by-choice since 2000, and igniting headphones with Torah hiphop since 2001.

Originally from Maryland and now holding it down in the shtetlach of New York, won the Jewish Music Awards for "Best Hiphop" in 2006. Vocally anti-prejudice and pro-unity.

Love me, hate me, or debate me, know you can't ignore me, though.


  • Agreed that segregation sucks…but are there Jews in northwest Borneo on the South China Sea? Imagine the logicistical problems in configuring a Mechizta?

  • I know. It’s not exactly relevant to a Jewish issue. 😀

    But it’s Jim Crow style segregation, and it’s MLK’s birthday.

  • I do wonder if the prejudices go as far as to have toilet bowls of different spaciousness, so to speak.

  • No Y-Love, the point I was trying to make was that segregation IS a Jewish issue.
    We separate and segregate on every level…the whole religion is based on separating holy from unholy; shabbat from weekday; kosher from unkosher; sephardi from ashkenazi; men from women; milk from meat…discuss…

  • Personally I think the only factor in stall design should be stance width. 🙂

    But chutzpah! WHOA! I didn’t think of that, that’s very true and some of those separations are lateral (milk v. meat) and some are hierarchical (Shabbat is on a higher spiritual level than Tuesday) — which do you think are which?

  • Chutzpah, that’s very true. The “seperationism” goes as far as that a native speaker of Yiddish will use speech patterns denoting separation even though syntax doesn’t require it as Michael Wex points out.

    Stance? Indeed, a wide stance could get one into trouble. 🙂

  • First, I would argue that very few of the separations in Judaism are lateral in a “Brown v. The Board” “separate but equal” sense. For example, separating milk from meat can be viewed as a hierarchical in that it refers to a calf and it’s mother’s milk. A mother is more advanced than children .

    I was taught a lot of beautiful rhetoric regarding the separation of men from women, jews from non-jews and even about the roles of the different tribes: Israelite, Levi and Cohen.

    It all seemed to make sense at the time in Jerusalem. Women are spiritually higher than men; Jews are the chosen people to be a light unto the nations; the Cohanim were chose to be the Priests. In theory, it still seems divinely logical.

    In reality, as practiced by Jews in the U.S.A., most separations leave me wanting to use the toilet.