Singapore—Workers Party’s (WP) Pritam Singh weighed in on the recent controversial issue of brownface used in an advertisement, and a video released in response to it. The WP chief asserted in a Facebook post on July 31 that “progress on race and religion occur precisely because an issue surfaces.”
NETS recently released a much-criticized ad wherein a Chinese actor, Mediacorp’s Dennis Chew, played a number of personas from different races, using brownface.
Mediacorp has since apologised for the advertisement.
However, in response to the ad, YouTube personality Preetipls, along with her brother Subash Nair, released a video that contained vulgarities and offended many, since its content insulted Chinese Singaporeans.
The video has been taken down on social media sites, and the police have said that they are investigating the matter.
The WP chief wrote about how matters of race and religion are sensitive issues.
K. Muthusamy & Casual Racism_________________________________Whether in Singapore or elsewhere, racial minorities…
“Whether in Singapore or elsewhere, racial minorities intuitively note how the majority community ‘treat’ them. To understand this, just ask some of your local Malay or Indian friends or Malaysian Chinese friends about racism and their experiences.
Even so, it usually is very difficult to find the sweet spot of equanimity on matters concerning race and religion. It is for this reason a fair amount of understanding should be extended to the authorities to manage and pre-empt potentially problematic issues. After all, different people have different thresholds on free speech. But should things go awry, it is the authorities, the police and ordinary people who have to pick up the pieces, to say nothing of other unintended consequences.”
He then went on to write about “majority and minority communities – living in their own silos and own worlds. For them, far from mixing with the other races – they stick to their own, living under a veil of ignorance, perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices from one generation to another.”
However, controversies such as the ad from NETS and Preetipls’ response video, for Mr Pritam, could actually be a catalyst for progress.
He wrote, “But every so often, progress on race and religion occur precisely because an issue surfaces. The announcement of an investigation against Preeti Nair and Subhas Nair for offensive speech against the Chinese community is a case in point. The duo released a video in response to a Mediacorp advertisement which portrayed a Chinese man playing ethnic stereotypes….
Imagine having a racist or insensitive boss or being rejected from job after job because you do not speak the correct language, have to pray at certain hours, or being made fun of because you smelt different or sport a turban or a tudung etc. If one experiences racism all the time, he/she would logically respond differently and feel like a lesser citizen. And when the response comes, it is usually escalatory and cutting, like the video in the question.”
Mr Singh then posed a few questions that he invited the public to answer:
“1. What are we going to do the next time a brownface ad hits us, bearing in mind that criticism (and more importantly, awareness) against the ad appeared to became more pronounced after action was taken against the video-makers?
2. How do ordinary citizens raise issues that may be deemed racially insensitive by some for public discussion and consideration openly, but without the fear of recrimination? (please don’t say through People’s Association).
3. How do we address racism that affects minority communities that makes them feel like lesser citizens?
The answers to any of these questions are no magic bullet. Addressing racism requires constant attention and an acknowledgement that strengthening the Singapore core is a collective responsibility, with every race an important part of the conversation.” -/TISG