Racial Microaggression in Multicultural Malaysia: Ethnic-specific Experience of University Students

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racial microaggression, subtle racism, multi-ethnicities microaggression, Malaysia, Southeast Asia.


Contemporary studies on racial microaggression in Southeast Asian countries, particularly those that take into account the experience of people from different ethnic groups, are limited. As such, the current study focused on racial microaggression experience amongst Malaysian university students from different ethnic groups. A sample of 40 university students was recruited through purposive and snowball sampling strategies. The participants comprised of nine ethnic Malays, 10 ethnic Chinese, 10 ethnic Indians, seven ethnic groups from East Malaysia and four of mixed-parentage. A qualitative method using semi-structured individual interviews was utilized. Responses/verbatim from the interviews were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) method. Results indicated 11 common racial microaggression themes reported by participants across most ethnic groups, including ‘In-group benefit’ and ‘The paradox of over-scrutiny/ overlook.’ Also, five ethnic-specific themes, such as ‘Pathologizing cultural values/ communication style’ and ‘Ignorant about the situation in Sabah & Sarawak.’ The findings indicate that while there can be a shared experience of racial microaggression for people of different ethnicities, the actual themes experienced by specific ethnic groups may differ. Theoretical and practical implications include recommendations on how to address the issue in Malaysia.


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Author Biographies

Mitshel Lino, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Department of Social Work

Intan Hashimah Mohd Hashim, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Department of Social Work


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How to Cite

Lino, M., & Mohd Hashim, I. H. (2019). Racial Microaggression in Multicultural Malaysia: Ethnic-specific Experience of University Students. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 6(3), 81–97. https://doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/262



Original Manuscript
Received 2019-07-01
Accepted 2019-09-20
Published 2019-12-18