Gerakbudaya, a local bookstore and publisher of 20 years, has been one of the foremost progressive voices in the country, often being the platform for thought provoking seminars, forums, workshops and discussions all in the spirit of social awareness.
One of it’s upcoming talks, titled “Malaysian Apartheid? Education & Anti Racism”, featuring Dr. Azly Rahman, an educator, academic and author of seven books was supposed to build off the ongoing discussion behind #BlackLivesMatter and touch on anti-racist education.
The talk however, was abruptly cancelled after it was discovered that Rahman tweeted that All Lives Matter, which can be rather problematic in the current climate. Why? Well, while the notion that all lives matter isn’t false, it does broadcast to others than change isn’t necessary, which makes it harder for everyone else to bring about positive change.
Pro-cop, anti-BLM protesters, and support the National Guard & military to "restore order."@GerakBudaya and @malaysiakini @premesh should reconsider the people you are platforming. pic.twitter.com/tMxW50ft6J
— OKH (@ooikokhin) June 8, 2020
All lives do matter, but the focus now is on black lives because it’s become apparent that the judicial system does not care much for the lives of black people. To the criminal justice system, black lives matter less than white lives and there is demonstrable evidence that this is true. That’s what the movement is trying to highlight.
We take full responsibility for our spectacular neglect and commit to ensuring this never happens again.
In their cancellation notice, Gerakbudaya highlighted that “All Lives Matter hijacks public attention from the vastly disproportionate injustice and violence that the black community has experienced as a result of institutional racism.”
The notice also claims that Gerakbudaya made an error and that it takes full responsibility for their neglect, which sounds great and all except that it was later brought to light that the owner of Gerakbudaya sent a private message to Dr. Azly after the statement was released, in which he pretty much tries to save face and puts the blame on his staff for the cancellation.
As you’d expect, Twitter had a field day. Check out the tweets below:
As someone who's had work published by Gerakbudaya, I'm disappointed to see its staff's anti-racism efforts undermined by company leadership.
— Soon-Tzu Speechley 孫子 (@speechleyish) June 13, 2020
Some thoughts on @GerakBudaya, anti-racist work, 'progressive spaces' and de- platforming:
Azly Rahman's tweets were/are obviously shameful and racist. Gerakbudaya was absolutely right to cancel the event. Their statement cancelling the event was thoughtful and good. 1/
— Kx (@kjorene) June 14, 2020
Pak Chong's letter to AR was painful to read. I cannot imagine the frustration/betrayal the staff of @GerakBudaya who made that decision to cancel event/notify the public are feeling. I think it takes a lot of maturity to own up to past errors,to hold ourselves to our values. 8/
— Kx (@kjorene) June 14, 2020
A quick word in.@GerakBudaya's team acted promptly to rectify their mistake of even considering platforming someone like Dr. Azly Rahman 2 discuss, of all things, racism in Malaysia against the backdrop of BLM protests worldwide
Shame their CEO doesn't have the same initiative pic.twitter.com/9dAuE1tU5Q
— Rohan Javet Beg (@RohanBeg) June 12, 2020
@GerakBudaya this is not okay. Your younger team were right to begin with: to have Azly be the only speaker in a conversation about BLM is a terrible idea and your senior staff in the email is 100% in the wrong.
Grow. A. Spine. Azlys https://t.co/TZJgIv54OT
— mikklebakk (@mikklebakk) June 12, 2020
Heartbreaking to see @GerakBudaya's owner privately messaging a problematic speaker to save face while blaming their employees for making a sound move.
— Lim Jack Kin (@JackKinLim) June 12, 2020
You might argue that Dr. Azly’s talk should never have been cancelled in the first place but for the owner of Gerakbudaya to flat out throw his team under the bus like this is hard to swallow, especially givrn how strong of a statement its cancellation notice sent about the organisations views on racial issues.