I think most of us already know about the incident that happened in Bangsar several days ago, known as the Bangsar Village murder. Two men were attacked in Jalan Telawi, Bangsar. One came out with severe injuries and the other, unfortunately, had passed away. Now, I will try my best to speak with good intentions in order to not disrespect the victims and the victims’ families. However, I feel like there are a few issues that need to be discussed. But before we get into those issues, I’d like to extend my deepest condolences to the victim’s family.
I feel like a majority of people called this out, however, there is also a decent number of people that are still disrespectful of the victims. Yes, I am talking about internet citizens (netizens) of Malaysia and how they reacted to this incident.
Disclaimer: This is your trigger warning. There will be mentions of racism, murder and violence. Also, I will not be including any pictures or videos of the incident out of respect for the people involved.
According to news reports, the Bangsar Village murder happened on the 13th of March. The victims and the attackers had already known each other beforehand and had bad blood which prompted the attack. Nonetheless, the way netizens reacted to the whole incident that went on in Bangsar was quite out of line, and here’s why:
How Netizens Reacted
It has become somewhat okay to normalize being a bully on the internet. Now, I’m not saying that everyone on the internet is a bully. There is a difference between giving constructive commentary and being straight up spiteful, quite unnecessarily may I add. Therefore, that brings us to one of the issues that have to be addressed; how netizens reacted to the tragic incident of the Bangsar Village murder. After the incident got onto the news and people found out that the victims and attackers were of the Indian race, the term “India mabuk” was used which is a derogatory term. This term means “drunk Indian” and if you do not already see what’s wrong with the term, let me explain a little bit.
The reason why it’s an issue that people reacted with this is because it’s purely based on racial stereotyping. The people who were involved were not confirmed to be drunk or under that influence. Based on research by Dr Parameswari Krishnan and Dr J Hinduja Jayet Raman on “Toddy Business among the Indian Labour in Colonial Malaya” (2018), the origins of this term came from the 1900s when Indian immigrants were forced to live on plantations. On these plantations, a lot of activities weren’t allowed except for the existence of toddy shops. Toddy is an alcoholic drink that was widely available at the time and it was cheap as well. Due to that, the British had allocated toddy shops for each plantation.
This is where the term originated from, however, what people fail to see is that the Indian immigrants did not drink on a daily basis and they even protested to have some of the shops closed down. The term is nowhere near acceptable as that is simply a stereotype that was forced onto them. It is unreasonable to immediately subject an entire race to that term. We need to stop connecting an issue of violence with race just because both parties were of the same race. Plus, since they weren’t confirmed to be under the influence and we cannot jump to conclusions so quickly.
Also, we should empathize with the victims and their families. Imagine going through all this just to have society call you a drunk. It’s unfair for the victims as well as their families. We should be respecting them as people who have just gone through something tragic, not jump to our own conclusions.
Although there are a lot of netizens that are quite negative in how they react, a few social media accounts like @theloudasians on Instagram do a good job of trying to shed some light on the situation. A few netizens also tried to educate people on why we shouldn’t be saying “India mabuk” and why it’s derogatory.
The Bystander Effect
Speaking of respecting the victims of the Bangsar Village murder and their families, one other thing that bothered a lot of people is the fact that bystanders started to record the incident on their phones. It’s already bad enough that people were recording but then they posted those videos on social media platforms too. These videos are extremely disrespectful towards the victims and their families. Take a look at it from their perspectives. A member of the family or a friend went through a tragic incident and yet people recorded the incident and spread it online. This was a tragic and traumatizing incident. We need to empathize with them.
A few newsletter sites and social media accounts have also shared photos of the scene as well as videos of the incident, which is very insensitive.
We urge you to stop sharing the videos and if you do come across them, do not view them. Out of respect for their loss as well as to respect their privacy.
The bystander effect is basically when there is a larger number of people present, there is a slimmer chance of those people helping the ones in distress. In this case, Bangsar Village is known to be a popular spot for adults and younger adults to hang out and have a good time. So, there was a crowd of people spectating the incident. The bystander effect kicks in when people think:
“It’s alright, another person will help them.”
But the reality is when everyone thinks that way, who will do it in the end? It was reported that there was already a police officer at the scene. Brickfields’ police chief Assistant Commissioner Anuar Omar stated that the 27-year-old police officer was off-duty at the time and had no firearm due to being off-duty. It was also stated that the officer was just heading back to his car with his friend when the incident was going on. It’s understandable if the officer was being cautious due to not having any firearm on him. However, he did not stop his friend from recording and he did not contact on-duty officers when he saw what was going on. In an interview, the officer stated that he was about to report but then he saw police patrol cars arriving.
Personally, I feel like something could’ve been done earlier to not end up tragically. Netizens started defending the bystanders by saying comments like this:
This is absolutely not the best bypassers could do. It is disrespectful and insensitive to just record while someone is in distress. You would not want people to record you in times of need right? The bottom line is that even if you think that there was nothing you could do to make the situation better, do not resort to something that makes the situation worse.
The derogatory term, as mentioned, that was used a lot after the Bangsar Village murder rooted in how toddy shops were easily accessible for the Indian immigrants. It was forced onto them in a way. But how can one possibly subject a term such as “drunkard” towards one specific race? A lot of people get in trouble for being too drunk, not just this specific race. People need to stop mixing up race with something else entirely unrelated to race.
There is nothing that can justify anyone when they use a derogatory term or racial slur. It’s not okay when you do it to other races and it’s not okay to do it to your own race either. Is it not weird how a lot of Malaysians are very empathetic when racial injustice happens in a different country but somehow when it actually happens in their own country, the majority turns a blind eye. Only a little disappointing.
We need to learn how to empathize a bit more with anyone going through something traumatizing no matter what stereotype is tied to it. Even though you have the freedom to say what you want from behind a screen, does not mean you have to do so just for the sake of doing it.
Thus, we at The Cool Bears urge you to empathize with the situation a bit more. It was a tragic and traumatizing incident and we need to respect the people involved and the life that was lost.