A new generation — and films like Black Panther — brings hope of a brighter, not lighter, future.
By Resty Woro Yuniar. W hen two burlystern-looking police officers stopped him on the streets of Kuala Lumpur last November, Faisal Ibrahim could not stop the fear running through his mind.
The well-dressed, bespectacled expatriate had been doing nothing wrong as he strolled along the Taman Tun Dr Ismail area of the Malaysian capital, but as someone who saw himself as a guest in the country it was only natural for the doubts to creep through his mind as the two officers patted him down, rifled through his bag and demanded him to empty his pockets. Were they corrupt cops seeking a bribe, or had he perhaps done something through his work as a filmmaker to upset Black malaysian women powers that be, wondered Ibrahim, I was just walking.
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A nervous Ibrahim handed over his immigration card and plucked up the courage to ask why he had been stopped. How the officers responded transformed his view of the incident.
They told him it was a random check — something Ibrahim had experienced on numerous similar occasions since he moved to Malaysia from his native Nigeria in And then Black malaysian women true reason dawned on him — it was the dark shade of his skin.
Suddenly, his fear disappeared, to be replaced by anger, frustration and a lingering sense that many of the people in his adopted home saw him as somehow less than human. Ibrahim decided to take action. To this day, nobody from the station has contacted Ibrahim to follow up Black malaysian women complaint.
These prejudices filter through in numerous discriminatory property and job hiring policies such as Malaysian landlords barring black people or South Asians from renting their properties and job vacancies that demand Mandarin speakers, as are commonly advertised in countries like Singapore. A legacy of European colonialism means that many in this region see darker skin as being not only indicative of lower socioeconomic class, Black malaysian women also as less attractive.
The minute skit, viewed by some million people, showed a Chinese actress in blackface with a large Black malaysian women fake backside and a black actor cast as a monkey. He watched as all his colleagues entered Sabah, then boarded a plane heading back to Kuala Lumpur.
For many darker skinned people in the region, problems go beyond the workplace and into the home. American teacher Kristin Murray found her dark skin put her at odds with colleagues when she took a three-month work placement in Thailand.
I cried so much after she said that to me. Favouritism towards light-skinned people also exists in Singapore, where the ethnic Chinese majority are widely perceived to enjoy more privileges than ethnic Indian and Malay Singaporeans.
Pervasive myths in the city state are that Malays are lazier and less educated than Chinese, while darker skinned men are often seen as sexual predators. Elsewhere in the region, parents scold daughters who play in the sun for too long, fearing a tanning of their much-coveted whiteness.
But for Kezya and her contemporaries, there is hope of a brighter, if not lighter, future in which a new generation can learn to be more comfortable in their own skins.
The internet has given exposure to rising social justice activism in the West and even the notoriously pale Hollywood film industry is showing signs of listening.
A woman in Shanghai walks past an advert for skin-whitening products. Racist landlords in Malaysia to Chinese privilege in Singapore, why is Asia so hung up on skin tone?
A model in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, promotes skin whitening products. Why do whingeing white expats think anti-Chinese racism is OK? Why is racism so big in Japan?
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