Singapore — The 10 RI students who were featured with blackened faces in a photo as part of a joke for a classmate’s birthday have apologised for their behaviour.
In the photo, a student 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 10 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.
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 (June 3).
Local playwright Alfian Sa’at shared the photo and added that he “felt such visceral revulsion and shame”.
“Maybe one thinks that a school like this would somehow be ‘less racist’ than other elite schools in Singapore, since those might have the baggage of being monoethnic (like the SAP schools) or unattractive to those of particular religions (like the mission schools). Raffles Institution was supposed to be secular and multiracial, with students consisting of some of the brightest minds in Singapore,” he continued.
The 10 students in the photo who were wearing blackface reached out to Mr Alfian Sa’at with an apology.
They said that they “wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologise” and added that “race-based banter, like what we engaged in, is not funny, and never acceptable”.
Their full note: “This is a combined message from the ten people in the photo, pictured in your post.
We wish to take responsibility and apologise for our actions. Please find the apology letter that all ten of us have penned together, at the end of this email.
We hope you can append this letter to the original post, to give readers a clearer picture of this incident.
We wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologise, to our friend and the community. What we did was wrong, and in no way justifiable. It is no excuse that we were young, immature and ignorant. It is no excuse that we had no malicious intentions. It is no excuse that we were celebrating our friend’s birthday. With our insensitive, racist, and cruel celebration, we clearly failed him instead. We are deeply sorry to our friend, and to the many others whom we have caused distress. We know that our apology cannot undo years of microaggression and casual racism, but we hope it goes a small way towards making things right.
Race-based banter, like what we engaged in, is not funny, and never acceptable. Like other forms of racism, it marginalises minorities and perpetuates discrimination. Moving forward, we commit to unlearning these behaviours and will continue to reflect on our actions. We will work harder to amplify the voices of the minorities in Singapore and educate ourselves further. Once again, we are truly sorry for what we did.”
Mr Alfian Sa’at updated his initial Facebook post with the note from the students, and his own addendum that asked his followers not to doxx the students.
“P.S. Please don’t doxx the kids because that doesn’t solve any of the issues I’ve brought up. Some of them might come forward, in public rituals of contrition, while others would prefer to do things quietly and apologise to the friend they had once made fun of,” he wrote. /TISG
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