Singapore Kindness Movement takes down two race-related articles and issues apology amid backlash

The Singapore Kindness Movement is dealing with a bit of a mess.

The campaign, which has been promoting kindness in Singapore since 1997, issued an apology last night after two controversial race-related articles that were published on its website made the rounds online, upsetting the public.

Both stories, which have since been removed, were written by an Edwin Yeo amid online racial debates following E-Pay’s controversial “brownface” ad.

William Wan, the general secretary of the campaign, posted an apology on the website saying that both articles were intended to generate a conversation against racism.

But the way the articles were crafted had “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,” he wrote. “We believe that casual racism exists, and it is always wrong. We also believe that racial stereotyping is also wrong.”

The first article, posted last Friday, shocked readers when it said that not only had casual racism always existed in Singapore, but that it was okay.

Titled “Preetipls, it’s not because I’m Chinese”, Yeo even called out those who were debating race online for trying to explain the concept of casual racism, “brownface”, reverse racism, and micro-aggression — concepts Yeo said were mostly adapted from the US, where historical racial divides are far deeper.

Singapore “isn’t in the same place,” Yeo added, before going on to call the overall reaction against the E-Pay ad as an “over-dramatization.”

After the article went up, netizens slammed his sentiments and asked for the piece to be taken down. But instead of doing so, Yeo posted another article the very next day, this time backtracking his words in a confusing way. He clarified that the opinions he expressed were not completely his, but those he had actually gathered through conversations with people who “don’t go to Facebook to rant.”

“The thoughts belonged to a majority who must begin to realize that their views ARE racist, and that sort of thinking cannot be normalized,” Yeo wrote in the second article, which was titled “The silent majority has a lot to apologize for, so let’s start here.”

A clarification was also added to the first article to say that it was written to “bring forth the attitudes and opinions of the silent majority.”

The odd turn of events by Yeo baffled netizens, who slammed him for using the Singapore Kindness Movement as a platform to conduct a “social experiment.”

Around 1pm today, both articles could no longer be seen on the website.

In other (not quite) related news, some netizens who had criticized the E-Pay ad for being racist have linked the issue to the lack of racial diversity in the council behind the Advertising Authority of Singapore (ASAS). A screenshot taken from its website showing the list of council members has been circulating on Facebook.

According to the ASAS website, there are 28 council members, three of whom are from Mediacorp. All members have been appointed on a three-year term.

In response to Coconuts Singapore‘s queries, ASAS chairman Ang Peng Hwa said that council membership is determined by nominations from the respective associations (in the advertising and media industries) and government agencies.

The chairman gave the same answer when asked if any changes would be made to ensure racial diversity among members following the E-Pay ad.

With that said, the council still views the ad as one done in “poor taste” and has recommended that advertisers “exercise sensitivity to race and ethnicity concerns in Singapore during the creation and execution of their marketing communication.”

Regarding the use of “brownface”, in particular, Ang said that it is “not possible to give a response that would apply to all issues on ‘brownface’ that may appear.”

“In our experience, the context is very critical,” he added.

Take a look at the list of ASAS council members below:

A screenshot from the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore's website showing the list of council members.
A screenshot from the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore’s website showing the list of council members.


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‘This is legit brownface’: Ad by Singapore’s e-payment solutions initiative attracts backlash

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This article, Singapore Kindness Movement takes down two race-related articles and issues apology amid backlash, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!