Racial profiling and racist treatment towards dark-skinned individuals in Malaysia is an open secret. While the majority of Malaysians who aren’t at the receiving end of this pain will just keep quiet, most of those who are oppressed would also silence themselves for fear of retaliation or just to show that they can fit in. But we’re not living in the past anymore.
The recent uprising of protests against police brutality in the United States has sparked uncomfortable but necessary conversations all over the world including Malaysia, where some are questioning our own treatment of migrants and minorities.
Yesterday, local singer-songwriter, Brendan de Cruz decided to share his many experiences with the police and from the beginning of this story, you can already tell he has had a hard time.
He starts by stating that every time he walks or drives, whether it’s day or night, when a police patrol car appears, he will think to himself,
“Chill, relax, do not panic, just move at the same speed as you have been, and try not to look dodgy.”
In 2006, after a part-time shift at Chili’s in Mid-Valley Megamall, Brendan, who was 17 at that time, walked towards a nearby bus station to get home.
“There are two individuals walking in front of me and they get stopped by one cop who asks them for documentation. I am about ten feet back and I am thinking, I am Malaysian, I am just done with my part-time shift at Chili’s and I am about to take the bus. Why would they stop me?” he thought.
But just as he was approaching where the cops were, they “greeted” Brendan by saying, “Hello, passport mana?”
In 2010, while talking with his Chinese friend in a car at the front seat, a cop approached them. The police took a look at his friend and asked for her identification card, then shined the flashlight at Brendan and said, “You, passport tunjuk”.
While these first two incidents could have just been cases of mistaken identity as there are a lot of foreign Indian nationals working in Malaysia, the next example paints a different picture as to how Brendan is singled out.
In 2015, he drove back home from work with a European friend. Brendan stated, “In front of me is another car of friends, all Chinese (for context), and all drunk (for context). We approach a police roadblock along the way, and I am thinking, man these guys are going to get pulled over.”
Turned out, they didn’t and instead, Brendan was the one who got pulled over. He was asked to step out, present his identification card and his driving license. Meanwhile, another cop searched his car while another was talking calmly with his foreign friend.
“They do not inspect my foreign friend, nor the compartments around her, nor did they ask her to step out. She could have had a butt-load of drugs on her and would have gotten away with it,” Brendan wrote.
And he knew why the cops were always targeting him. He said,
“The reason is I am a dark Indian man, and I am often mistaken for a foreigner, and people are left embarrassed and speechless when I present them with my identification card. I am a born and bred Malaysian with all valid documents, yet I am nearly always stopped at a roadblock for what I look like on the outside.”
Brendan continued by stating that the “best” part about all of this is,
“What I have faced is NOTHING compared to what is REALLY GOING ON in our country.”
“I myself was not aware of the severe racism that happens on a much larger magnitude and upon hearing such horrible, disgusting stories, I find myself lucky. Lucky that I was not wrongfully taken in, and charged with something I did not do or left to die in certain places without a care,” and Brendan’s right.
According to Malaysiakini, Indians make up just under 7% of Malaysia’s population, yet, they comprise almost a quarter (23.4%) of official death in police custody. This figure is likely to be under-reported too.
In 2018, Lawyers for Liberty shared shocking cases regarding five Indians (A. Kugan, C. Sugumar, P. Karuna Nithi, N.Dharmendran and S. Balamurugan) who died in police custody with suspicious circumstances and cover-ups. It also exposes our broken system that continues to exonerate them despite clear evidence of torture, abuse and neglect.
As concern citizens, let’s try our best to amplify voices that are often disregarded. Like Brendan said, “The next time you see or hear someone being discriminated for their looks or race or whatever, take a stand. Show your grit.”
Click here to read Brendan’s original post.
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