Singapore — In the light of the recent discussion over racism because of a NETS Pay advertisement as well a video released in reaction to it, perhaps some words were released hastily, and need to be taken back.
Two opinion pieces published last week on The Pride, a publication of the Singapore Kindness Movement, drew backlash since readers found them to be anything but kind in tone and content, leading Dr William Wan, the Secretary-General of the Singapore Kindness Movement, to issue an ‘unreserved’ apology on Monday morning, August 5.
Dear Readers of The Pride,
It is with deep sincerity that I unreservedly apologise for the two articles contributed by Edwin Yeo published in The Pride, which is owned by the Singapore Kindness Movement. Edwin’s articles – “Preetipls, it’s not because I am Chinese” and “The silent majority has a lot to apologise for, so let’s start here”- were intended to generate a conversation against racism but the way they were crafted led many to rightly call out that they were both insensitive and dismissive.
As General Secretary, I accept full responsibility for publishing these articles which have caused pain to our readers.
The Pride has been covering incidents of racism over the years by reporting about it, providing insight and analysis, and urging readers to exhibit kindness and graciousness when discussing the complex topic.
We believe that casual racism exists, and it is always wrong. We also believe that racial stereotyping is also wrong.
Both are unacceptable and we will continue to speak against them.
Racial harmony, like kindness, is precious and important to Singapore and Singaporeans. It is something that we must work hard to nurture and at SKM, we commit to do our part, for a better and more gracious Singapore.
Dr William Wan
Despite Dr Wan’s apologies, the two articles remain on the site although the article published earlier, “Preetipls, it’s not because I am Chinese”, now has an introductory disclaimer of sorts from the author, which reads, “The purpose of this article was to bring forth the attitudes and opinions of the silent majority. The writer, in his writing as an op-ed, caricatured views and attitudes he solicited. It was first published without context. The writer’s true feelings are revealed in the follow-up story here.”
The second article is actually another ‘unreserved apology’ from the author himself, which makes it surprising that Dr Wan apologised for it.
In this first article, published August 2, Mr Yeo wrote that casual racism has existed for a long time, and taking offense to it is largely a Western concept. To him, the whole saga was an over-dramatization of what is essentially a minor problem, which YouTube star Preetipls and her brother, Subhas Nair, dealt with in an immature manner.
At the end of his article, Mr Yeo suggests an interesting solution to dealing with racial problems in the country. “At the end of the day, if we really want to deal with racial problems in Singapore, then allow me to suggest and appropriate a popular American phrase (yes, I myself am not immune to Western influences).
We should all just Netflix and chill.
Which, if you think about it, would solve two problems at once.”
The next day, in response to feedback to his article, the author wrote another one called, “The silent majority has a lot to apologise for, so let’s start here.”
In it, he admitted to having been completely wrong, and said that he did not mean what was literally said in the article, and apologised for what he wrote, but added that there are “actually the kind of conversations that are going on outside public platforms.”
“I am truly sorry that a silent majority here in Singapore actually agreed with what I said. Because what I said was complete rubbish.”
He then admitted to having undergone a perspective change. “Over the past week, before I published the first article, and in observing the fallout of the Brownface vs Preetipls saga, I had come to realise how much of my own casual racism was problematic.”
Mr Yeo explained further, “The thoughts belonged to a majority who must begin to realise that their views ARE racist, and that sort of thinking cannot be normalised. Ultimately, in small but painful ways, it will affect the way we behave. And it’s not okay. To further add to that, let me clarify I don’t just mean the Chinese majority. There were Indians and Malays and Eurasians who vocalised those views to me, or on their social platform.”
Once upon a time he had agreed with such views, but no longer did.
He added why he wrote in a manner that could be construed as casual and flippant. “I had shared the attitude that the majority have, in the trust that the response to that article would shock the apathetic and the misguided into reflecting on their own arguments towards the minorities….I wanted people who had thought like my article to know how much pain we cause by thinking the way we did, even if we, on the surface, sounded learned and reasonable.
Let me be clear. Casual racism hurts those that need our protection the most.”
At the end of his post, Mr Yeo gives an impassioned plea.
“It is true that we’re all a little bit racist, but that’s really NOT okay.
We need to do better, and you need to stop thinking of this generation as being snowflakes. They are real people who will shape our future; try, at least, to understand why they got so angry. Try to also understand why our feeble defences to our thoughts, as reflected by the way I commented and defended the article, really does not hold water. It is very clear that the way the silent majority thought was wrong.
Many have said the things I am now saying, but the effect wasn’t sticking because the majority viewed those saying it as being different from them. I wanted to say it as someone who was once part of that majority, and my first article was to establish to them that I was part of them.
Today’s article, is to clearly state that we, the majority, are wrong.”/ TISG