A former Raffles Institute (RI) student has apologised after a group blackface photo that was taken in 2016 resurfaced and went viral on social media, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the US.
11 RI students were featured in the insensitive photo that was taken in 2016 – the same year that a Chinese actor wearing blackface in a local television drama sparked outrage. RI’s own in-house publication ran an article written by a student about how offensive blackface is.
One of the 11 students posted the photo on his Instagram account. Although the photo was taken down sometime later, it was found and republished on Twitter on Wednesday (3 June).
In the photo, a student who is believed to be of Sri Lankan descent can be seen squatting in front of a paper bag that bears his name and the words “whitening kit”. About ten schoolmates wearing black facial masks can be seen surrounding him, holding various items like a bottle of Nivea whitening lotion, deodorant, fake cash and a photo shopped poster of the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
The former RI student who originally posted the photo online has since apologised. He wrote on his Instagram story: “It was not a racist commentary but of course in hindsight it was insensitive as f*** because it is literally blackface, and I’m not denying that, but we posted these pictures with the full consent of our good friend.
“We consulted him and asked whether he was okay with it, and even if he was, it was still wrong on our part to perpetuate such stereotypes.”
Asserting that the photo was “stupid teenage behaviour” that took place “in good fun with the intention of bantering with [their] friend,” the student – who is currently in university – said: “I sincerely apologise for causing harm and for contributing to what is already an aggravating wound in our society. There’s no excuse and I have removed the post.”
Referring to the BLM movement, the student also said that black culture has played a big part in his life as a dancer. Asserting that he is not a racist, the student added: “Moving on, I can only hope that I no longer fuel any microaggressions toward POC unconsciously, because we can all do better.”
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