Photo: Al Ibrahim.

Apparently there’s a condominium somewhere here in Kuala Lumpur that has a ban on African people. It’s true. There was a general meeting and the owners all agreed to stop renting out to African tenants. Really. They gave all the Africans three months to move out; there’s a memo and everything — you can Google it.

The bigger question is, how do you define “African” in that context? I mean, does the ban apply to white South Africans? What about Arab men from Egypt? Or a Mauritian Indian. A Kenyan Chinese. If we’re being completely honest, this ban, it’s just a ban on black people. Period.

I love Malaysia very dearly. I really do. I moved here when I was only 17. I mean, I grew up here for fuck’s sake. Everything I am now, I was not before moving here. Whether or not I like it, my identity and this country are forever bound, but this thing about skin colour…

I don’t know, man.

I mean, I used to say that I didn’t know I was black till I came to Malaysia, which was sort of an in-joke with my friends, but it was also very true. It’s always been true, and these days, it feels truer than ever, and getting truer every passing day.

Did I mention that just a few days ago I was chased by two cops for no other reason than because I was walking alone at night and they wanted to see my I.D?

I’ve been stopped and asked for my passport 100% of the time when I’m walking alone. One hundred percent. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, at night or in the good part of town; whenever I’m alone and there’s a policeman in sight, he always asks to see I.D.


When I’m with a local friend, the percentage is about 50-50; sometimes they stop us, sometimes they don’t, but if the friend is a woman, that percentage jumps up to 80%. And they always ask if we’re dating.

ALWAYS. 100%.

I’ve been stopped exactly ZERO times when I’m hanging out with my white friends. 0%. This one time, we were in a dark alley in a shady part of Telawi at three in the morning with a camera (shooting a film), and two cop cars came; both stopped for about a minute or so and then carried on. They didn’t even ask what we were doing.

Now of course I’m not implying that this is in anyway scientific; I didn’t record every single encounter I had with the police and I certainly did not have a control group to compare, but…


I don’t know, man. Can we just talk about Miley Cyrus instead, or some other shit grown ass men shouldn’t be talking about?

Al Ibrahim is a writer, photographer and filmmaker based in KL. He blogs regularly at Failed Imitator, where this post was first published.

Read more stories about living in KL as a foreigner in’s capsule project, Serambi.