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Racism, Rental & Rights; Secure a Place Against Prejudice

If you get a ringgit for every time a potential racial minority gets turned down by a bunch of property agents just because of their racial identity, you would very well be on your way able to be owning a property yourself! These frequent, insensitive occurrences need attentive and immediate addressing if we are considering paving way for a much tolerant and united Malaysia.

According to Isweljet Singh, Sole Proprietor of Iswel Dhillon & Co., there has already been a mention of an act called the Residential Tenancy Act, which is being drafted to keep residential conflicts that are racist in nature, in check. The act is said to be proposed in the parliament sometime around the beginning of 2021.

He goes on the reinstate that everybody, regardless of their race or religion is protected by Malaysian Law, as Article 8 of the Federal Constitution clearly reads that “there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender”. However, he says that it gets a little tricky in cases of implied or casual racism where landlords list a bunch of qualified tenant requirements that give off subtle hints of discrimination.

For example, in some listings, some property agents or landlords themselves would state a specific race that they are renting out to due to language barrier. Some others would say things like “no cooking” because they are afraid of the smell that may linger around in the property. In cases like this, Isweljet says that there is no way to hold landlords accountable as landlords are free to rent out properties based on certain criteria and at their own will, just as tenants are free to rent properties that is fitting, at theirs.

“My personal view, as always, is that the best way for this to be tackled has always been and will always be through the means of education and upbringing which would have a much better impact on the long run as opposed to getting people to adhere to a specific set of law”, Isweljit concluded.

Amidst the subtle racial tension among ourselves at home, local artist Hong Yi opened a rather controversial dialogue centring racism against African tenants in the rental sector, when she called out a racist banner hung outside of a random apartment in KL sometime last year. A picture of the banner which she uploaded on Facebook unapologetically paraded a “DO NOT RENT TO AFRICAN” statement without realising the backlash that was set to come its way.

Many were enraged with disbelief and disappointment, as they stood in solidarity with people who are of the African race and descent. On one end, it was refreshing to see a bunch of Malaysians come together to collectively defend the rights of African tenants. The old traditional ways of Asian being anti-black is slowly taking a shift for the better, given everybody’s access to a wide range of information and history that is available on the internet.

However, it was extremely difficult to digest the distasteful responses of a handful of commenters who expressed their thoughts that stemmed from backward herd-mentality, as they took turns agreeing to the banner’s content by using outdated racial stereotypes to justify blatant racism.

To further encourage the preconceived notion that minorities are undeserving of even bare minimum respect is not just detrimental to the socio-economic well-being of the community, but will also, most likely, hinder the decade-long efforts that has been put in to materialise a Malaysia that thrives on unity in diversity. With proper education and empathy-cultivation from young age, we believe that Malaysia will transform into a land that sees no reason in setting one apart based on something as shallow as their race or skin colour.

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