Stereotyping Leads to Inadvertent Racism

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Every now and then, there will be reports about Malaysians being racist by barring people from an entire continent from staying in a condominium or rooms are only let out to those of a specific race.

A recent case happened in Cyberjaya when a Libyan lecturer was told that he is a persona non grata at a premium residential neighbourhood by his property agent because the building management had imposed a rule to bar all Africans.

When asked by reporters, several other property agents echoed the same, but this was categorically denied by the property management firm, suggesting the decision was probably made by the individual apartment owner.

The Libyan complained it was the first time he had come across such blatant racism saying, “I am shocked. You can’t just judge people from where they are from. I have been in the country for 24 years. In fact, I am more Malaysian than some other Malaysians.”

The senior college lecturer should not have jumped into conclusion, more so when he stated that it was his first time experiencing such blatant racism in the 24 years he was in our country. He certainly must have been doing a great job and wish to continue enjoying a good life here.

In Malaysia, anyone interested can easily view properties to let and tenants usually move in after signing a tenancy agreement and paying one month’s rental in advance plus security deposits. In many other countries, foreigners must find a local citizen willing to act as guarantor.

If I had been dealing with the Libyan as a real estate negotiator, I would have passed his background information and my recommendation to the apartment owner. Unfortunately, many local property agents or real estate negotiators are untrained, unlicensed, or unregistered.

Sadly, stereotyping is widespread. Firstly, anyone enlightened would have difficulty picturing a Malaysian. It would be tougher to imagine an Asian, who could be an Arab from West Asia or a Japanese in the Far East, each with his or her own distinct look and mannerism.

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Yet the most diverse continent is Africa. In fact, the world’s 20 most diverse countries are all African, a continent with extremely high linguistic diversity with an estimated 1500-2000 African languages.

Also, there are good and bad people in every nationality, race or religion. Over the past decades, many Africans of shady background had been a nuisance at where they live, especially in condominiums. Many disturbed women, frightened children, got drunk and dangerous.

Even normal Africans are afraid of such rowdies and they could easily be spotted a mile away by their bad body language. While we should never judge by skin colour, we could always pick up signals sent through visual and vocal communication, without understanding the words.

Those poor in interpersonal communication skills tend to stereotype by associating people with colour, race, religion or language. And poor culture prevalent in many pockets of our social and business communities had only made stereotyping worse, leading to inadvertent racism.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan of Petaling Jaya.