Breaking Barriers With East Malaysians

By Wild Ginger

Breaking Barriers With East Malaysians

September 17th, 2020 at 5:59 am

For the first episode of Breaking! – a series that aims to break stigmas, stereotypes, boundaries and barriers through simple conversations, we invited four East Malaysians to share the disconnect they’ve been facing in West Malaysia.

Although Sarawak and Sabah are the biggest states in Malaysia, their physical separation from the peninsular has them often overlooked and othered by their own country.

“There’s definitely a disparity to me,” says Ellysha, a student from Sarawak, “especially with the culture”. She noticed that people are more segregated in West Malaysia compared to the multicultural and multi-religious Borneo.  “I got really shocked when people were really interested in my religion or race.”

Samuel, a fresh graduate from Sabah, was also startled by the ignorance that still exists. He shares that “do you live in trees?” continues to be a common stereotype. “Yeah, we even have WiFi on the tree”, is his comeback to the off-colour joke.

Stereotypes are used to oppress minorities. Elena, a freelancer from Sabah, asks West Malaysians to recognise their privilege and use it to help East Malaysians. She worries that because of their lack of access to good education and reliable information, ” When some Sabahans don’t know better – I really hope West Malaysians won’t take advantage of that”.

How can we improve this cultural incompetence? Aniq, an actor from Sarawak, simplifies the solution to “stop talking and listen to us”. He sees media as a powerful tool and calls for more representation both in front of and behind the camera to help amplify their voices. “Redefine what Malaysia looks like to you … There’s more than just this one narrative – it’s diverse.”

Breaking Barriers With East Malaysians

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