If you’re searching for the latest national embarrassment hot on the heels of a ridiculous campaign funded by the Health Ministry to “prevent” gayness, look no further. Malaysia has got you covered with a Raya (the Malaysian term for Islam’s Eid holiday) video of such high production value and big names, that you have to wonder… how much does it cost these days to totally miss the mark AND offend practically everyone? Considering Amber Chia and Ruhaines, two of Malaysia’s biggest celebrities, don’t come cheap, we’re guessing a pretty penny.
‘how much does it cost these days to totally miss the mark AND offend practically everyone?’
The 15-minute film on Watson’s Malaysia’s Facebook page shows a nobleman holding an audition to track down a woman with an enchanting voice who has been in his dreams.
A woman appears at the audition, singing beautifully but with her face covered.
He recoils in disgust when she exposes her jet black face. “Oh my gosh! She is actually dark?” he exclaims.
She later re-emerges with fair skin, explaining she was wearing black make-up to test his sincerity.
“I am not dark. In fact, I am flawless,” she beams. The Prince breathes a sigh of relief.
The promotional video was to celebrate the upcoming Muslim religious festival Eid al Fitr, but it provoked an online backlash with many saying it was racist and sexist… are we really surprised?
Think about it. ‘Blackface’. That thing that everyone, except the Dutch at Christmas, has pretty much agreed is one of the single most offensive things you can do. In a country like Malaysia, where we have so many races, cultures and people coming together, to say that the darker ones are ugly is out of touch, wrong and so damaging to the self-esteem of every single person out there who is on the more-tan part of the spectrum; this video verges on the fringes of hate-speech.
‘this video verges on the fringes of hate-speech’
“Being dark skinned is not a badge of shame. Being stupid is,” said one Twitter user.
Another said: “I am so shocked that Watsons crossed the line with blackface. This video is so racist, I am ashamed of buying face mask at Watsons.”
The company did not go unscathed by this backlash. The video, featuring local celebrities, was taken down by the company on Wednesday. “Watsons Malaysia takes responsibility for the video and its content and is truly sorry that some elements have offended the general public,” the company said.
“It was our intention to convey concepts of inner and outer beauty; unfortunately the video instead offended many. ”
This isn’t the first time Malaysia has been blasted for racist intimations. Last year, a Malaysian TV show had to apologise over a comedy skit featuring an actor in “blackface” pretending to be US R&B star Usher.
‘This isn’t the first time Malaysia has been blasted for racist intimations’
It’s an old-age debate, but since Malaysia has been the brunt of racist faults for a while, it’s hard not to question why…
Only a month ago, it was revealed that close to 50% of Malaysian agents or homeowners rejected potential renters because they would only entertain tenants of certain races. And this was just from phone calls to get a viewing, not to meet the owners, have an interview, or make an offer.
‘close to 50% of Malaysian agents or homeowners rejected potential renters because they would only entertain tenants of certain races’
“I was rejected by a landlord because apparently Indian cooking stinks,” said one Facebook user Dhibeshiny K. Jaya Raman.
Many landlords interviewed for the project insist that it has nothing to do with race – that they are simply trying to find suitable tenants based on their personal preferences, or that they’re simply protecting their investment. Many also said they instruct agents to reject certain races to avoid conflict due to cultural differences.
“Stereotypes generally hold some weight,” said one landlord, on condition of anonymity. For example, he believes Indian nationals don’t take care of rented properties as well as other races because in India, they are used to having maids, whereas if they’re renting in Malaysia, hired help could be expensive… (Seriously?) Several others agreed, saying that they have had bad experiences with tenants of certain races, which led them to place blanket bans on those races.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim, multi–ethnic country. Accusations of racism stem from racial preferences embodied within the social and economic policy of the Malaysian government, as well as broader tensions between various ethnic groups. Supposedly, discrimination there is widespread, publicly displayed and accepted.
‘Accusations of racism stem from racial preferences embodied within the social and economic policy of the Malaysian government’
It is also rooted in the Malay supremacist mind-set which believes that Malaysian citizenship should be withdrawn or withheld from individuals who don’t act or conform to homogenous norms and expectations.
Malaysian politician Khairy Jamaluddin says “we must be willing to talk about these issues and not sweep them under the “sensitive” carpet. We must be willing to talk honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own kedai kopi circles but even with those who look different or bring a different perspective. Only then can we break this dangerous cycle.”
In the 60s, Malaysia stood proudly in the forefront of a coalition of nations which boycotted and sanctioned South Africa for their implementation of apartheid. Yet today, by keeping alive race-based policies which were meant to only be temporary and limited, it can be argued that Malaysians are heading down a gradual slippery slope towards un recognised or established racism. Videos during Raya are supposed to make you feel good about yourself, your family, your culture and your country. Watson’s Malaysia, we can think of a million ways that you could have spent the money you did to make this trash, and one of them includes “burning it for fun” and “giving it to a macaque to see what he does.” Shame on you and everyone who let this go live.