A foreign student has apologised for making a slit-eyes gesture in a social media photo, after drawing intense backlash over the weekend.

The student, Instagram user @louisepzn, is believed to be a French national studying at the Essec Business School. She had published a photo of herself in a cheongsam, with her fingers pulling the skin around the eyes to make them look smaller. Instagram user @beforeik.o exposed the student’s post online on Friday (Dec 4).

@beforeik.o also said that this was not the first time the student has published racist posts online. The netizen posted screenshots of another Instagram post the student had made, in which she used the term “ching chong” — a racial slur about Asians.

In a post published during Chinese New Year 2020, the student wrote: “New year ching chong with my gow sure!” The post drew 135 likes, with one follower commenting: “So chong!! So coronavirus!!”

@beforeik.o reached out to the student privately, explaining that her post was racist. The student, however, claimed that the picture was taken for fun and that her pose was not racist since there are Chinese who undergo eye enlargement surgery.

Calling on @beforeik.o to be open-minded, the student said: “I am clearly not racist what is wrong, it is just a picture for fun. Chinese people make surgeries to have European eyes and this is racism !??? I don’t think so. If we are in a world where every pictures or answer is turned into racism, it is no living anymore.”

When asked to apologise if she had any respect for the Asian community, the student refused to do so.

Asserting that she did not need advice since she had a master’s degree along with a diploma from the University of Harvard about ethnicity at work, the student added that those who reacted negatively to her post were stupid and without knowledge.

Dissatisfied, @beforeik.o wrote to Essec Business School to highlight the student’s behaviour. Attaching screenshots of the student’s post, the netizen wrote in an email: “I’m extremely shocked that these acts of racism is still happening till this day, especially in your school.

“I’m sure y’all don’t condone this immature, racist and xenophobic hate crime. I expect a public apology and statement from the student responsible for this hate crime on the behalf of Singaporeans and Asians alike.”

Essec Asia Pacific’s Director of Academic Affairs, Ms Kentia Boulay, replied to the netizen and thanked her for bringing the student’s post to the attention of the school. Promising to handle the matter through the school’s discipline committee, Ms Boulay wrote:

“We agree that the student’s post is inappropriate and not in line with the multicultural spirit and values that we strongly uphold at ESSEC. The school’s discipline committee will be dealing directly with the student in the coming days.”

The netizen’s post highlighting the student’s post and responses to criticism went viral on social media, drawing tens of thousands of likes on social media. Singaporeans were outraged that the student was ignorant and defiant in the face of calls for her to apologise. Some even allegedly sent the student death threats as the backlash against her escalated.

The student has since apologised. She said in an Instagram story on Monday (7 Dec): “I am sorry and understand the gravity of my picture now. It was badly appreciated by the Asian community who felt injured and hurt.

“It wasn’t my purpose and I know [sic] realize that what I did was wrong and disrespectful, I regret it. I sincerely apologize to everyone who felt injured by my behaviour ! I didn’t intend that. A sincere sorry to all of you…”

@beforeik.o felt that the student’s apology wasn’t genuine and that she was only apologising since she was caught being racist. She wrote in her own Instagram story, “Dear Louise, you are NOT sorry you are sorry you got caught. If that was your apology, it was pretty pathetic, gramatically incorrect and insincere but an apology nonetheless.”

Calling on the student to “truly reflect [on] how ur actions have affected the Asian community,” the netizen also criticised Essec Business School for not helping the student write an official statement of apology.

In her stories, @beforeik.o also said: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if she apologises does it? The truth about racism is that it will always exist. But I’m tired of racist people refusing to be held accountable to their privilege; and for it to hit so close to home…in my own country? This is unacceptable.”

The netizen further clarified that her post was not meant to generate hate towards the student and that she only wanted an apology. Asserting that she doesn’t support nor condone any of the death threats or calls for the student to be expelled or deported from Singapore.

Urging netizens against sending pointless death threats, @beforeik.o said: “In my opinion, I don’t think Louise deserves to get expelled or deported; that’s going too far. However, she is a grown woman and should be held accountable for her posts. I hope that this has been a lesson for her ignorance.”

She added: “To the Asian community, I respect that some Asians may not feel offended by the post at all, and that is fine. But one person does NOT speak for the rest of us and the same applied to me.

“But (in my opinion), if you think it is okay for someone to come into our country and step all over our culture; yall are the part of the problem for not standing up for the culture last generations fought for so hard to preserve under colonial rule. [sic]”

Foreign student faces backlash over claim it is not racist to make slit-eyes gesture