“Brownface” controversy: tit-for-tat is not the way, say govt leaders

31 Jul 2019 3 min read

Bookmark(0)

No account yet? Register

A local comedian’s rap video that called out a racially offensive advertisement “crosses the line” and is not acceptable, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

Responding to a three-minute video by YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair, Mr Shanmugam said that the video contained vulgarities directed at Singaporean Chinese and could turn minorities against the majority community.

“When you use four-letter words, vulgar language, attack another race, put it out in public, we have to draw the line and say not acceptable,” Mr Shanmugam told the media on 30 July 2019.

Mr Shanmugam added that he takes a “zero tolerance” approach to such matters because it would get worse. “You allow one, you have to allow a hundred. What do you think will happen to our racial harmony, social fabric; how will people look at each other?” he asked.

The video was uploaded on 29 July 2019 in response to a recent advertisement by e-payments website epaysg.com.

The ad featured Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew portraying characters such as a woman in a tudung and a man with visibly darker skin.

The “brownface” advertisement and rap video, other politicians pointed out, showed that race is still a thorny and sensitive issue and that racial harmony in Singapore continues to be a work in progress.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu told the media that while the advertisement was done in “poor taste”, the “tit-for-tat video done in response to it was disrespectful, and will lead us down a dark path”.

Noting that race is an “emotive issue”, Ms Fu said that such incidents are a reminder that race relations in a society as diverse as Singapore’s “can never be taken for granted”.

In his Facebook post, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said that these incidents remind us that racial harmony continues to be a work in progress. 

“No matter our differences, no matter whether we are a minority or the majority community, we must always treat each other with mutual respect, graciousness and consideration,” he added.

In his facebook post, Chairman of racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg, Dr Janil Puthucheary, said, “As the performers suggest, two wrongs don’t make a right. They do not seem to have heeded their own advice.”

“We did not get this far in race relations, by trading one offence for another. We are better than either of these two examples. I find them both unacceptable,” Dr Janil, also Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information added.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and for Health Amrin Amin called for stern action against such offensive act.

“If we don’t stand up and condemn this offensive act now, if we keep silent, or worse, laugh and sing along, remember it could be us next time!” he warned.

Image Credit: The Strait’s Times