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UOB ‘blackface’ dudes are racist — not

Posted on 13 February 2012

The complainers should get a life and stop being so uptight.

By Terence Lee

Like a scene from a 'B' grade Asian horror film.

Scan the headlines of our daily newspapers, and you would come away with the impression that our nation is going to the dogs.

Or filled with humorless people who lack love in their life.

I’m talking about the recent (and totally pointless) news story where several Chinese staff from UOB posted photos of themselves at a Bollywood-themed staff dinner — decked in Indian costumes.

But what got people upset was the fact that the bros were ‘blackfaced’. In other words, they painted their faces black for fun.

That’s when funny things started happening.

A Chinese reader (emphasis: CHINESE) emailed the picture to the Straits Times, and complained that it was offensive.

“It’s one thing to wear a traditional costume to a Bollywood- themed dinner, but another thing altogether to paint your face black,” the reader said, wishing to stayed anonymous. She added that they were “appropriating someone else’s ethnicity and treating it like entertainment.

I’m not surprised that she doesn’t want to be named, given how retarded the comment is.

But I’ll come to that later.

Perhaps realizing that the article needed a few token Indians to back up the first comment, the reporter quoted one P. Dinesh, a counselor.

“Painting their faces black was ‘no different from referring to someone of Indian descent as ‘black’ which is thoroughly unacceptable in any Singaporean context’,” he said.

Moving along, a Ms R. Yasotha found the act “idiotic” and “juvenile”.

Going by the nationalistic playbook, the reporter didn’t mention a single person in the article who found the act  nothing to crow about. As if the reporter was playing safe, and didn’t want to be seen as condoning the act.

UOB too, went the safe route and apologized. The bank also promised that the staff would be “counselled”.

Let me say out loud what seems to me the most obvious conclusion about this incident: There is nothing racist about what the bros did at all.

Just good, clean, harmless fun. Blown out of proportion by a bunch of uptight Singaporeans who don’t appreciate context.

Let’s examine the situation.

The photo was taken for fun at a private party, where folks let their hair down and drink a lot. It was then published on Facebook, for the whole world to see.

Some Singaporeans can’t make that obvious distinction.

It’s like recording a racist, off-color joke made between friends and putting it up on YouTube. It makes no sense that the jokers should be slammed. Sure, they’re stupid for putting the video up, but certainly the act of making a joke should not be condemned.

The Chinese reader said that appropriating someone else’s ethnicity for entertainment is inappropriate.

She’s probably doesn’t watch a lot of TV. Or YouTube videos.

Look: Entertainers appropriate another racial identity for laughter ALL THE TIME.

White actor acting black. Is that racist?

Think Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, an American white actor acting as an Australian method actor acting as a Black soldier.

Think superstar standup comedian Russell Peters, who cracks racist jokes about Arabs, Chinese, Indians, and American rednecks, invoking every stereotype imaginable.

Think our very own Kumar, who rattles off racial jokes about Malays, Chinese, and Indians and cross dresses as a woman too. Why aren’t people complaining that she’s he’s appropriating another gender for entertainment?

The fact is, context is key in such debates, and it’s quite clear that the photos were taken in a casual event for comedic value. It doesn’t mean the men involved were racist.

Next, I want to address the term ‘blackface’, which the article sloppily suggested the men were doing.

The word is firmly rooted in American culture, and later exported to England. It is a form of theatrical makeup used in variety shows in 19th Century America where performers perpetuated stereotypes about African laborers at that time.

Strip the word of its cultural context, and it loses its derogatory meaning. In Singapore, ‘blackface’ was never, as far as I know, a part of our cultural makeup (pardon the pun).

It’s as absurd as being told off by a Nigerian that giving the thumbs up is offensive, which sure sounds like a scam.

Again, context matters.

So, to the Chinese reader who sent the photo to the Straits Times, stop perpetuating the impression that we Singaporeans have a pole stuck up our asses all the time.

Lighten up, and live a little.

And since Valentine’s Day is approaching, maybe it’s time to get on the market again, get a date, and get laid.

Heed the call of our humorless government ministers to reproduce.

Some lovin’ is a sure remedy to heal any deprived sourpuss.

This post was written by:

- who has written 81 posts on New Nation.

Terence is an online media nut that is obsessed with writing and publishing on the Internet. Recently, he took up photography to expand his repertoire, and hopes to learn videography soon. He has worked in both online and print publications such as The Straits Times, Today, Mind Your Body, The Online Citizen, and Funkygrad. He is currently the assistant editor with SGEntrepreneurs, a website that covers entrepreneurship in Singapore and Asia. Terence can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Contact the author

  • Sg

    the same ppl that find this offensive are the same ppl who also find the noose offensive. i wonder where did all the letters of objection went to… hmmm..

    • Terence Lee

      wow i didn’t know people found the noose offensive.

      • Johnhurt

        Terence, as I said before you are an indian hater and a snob , probably born with a silver spoon. You are totally insensitive, man. If you were a white, I believe your concealed membership will be that of the Ku Klux Klan waiting to burn the effigies of indians and probably look for certain dumb-witted and intimidated indian( like they say ‘Uncle Tom’ for the blacks in US) to justify it. I feel sorry for you ,man…..

        • Sg

           u must be a fortune teller or a psychic or something. one article and suddenly you know Terence better than his mom…. could you read my personality as well?? issit same as terence?? or are we the same person?? hmmmm… dun rule it out. wink wink..

      • John Daniels Azhagan

        Maybe I should get all my caucasian friends to paint their face yellow and pull their eyes to make themselves look like Chinese. While they are at it, they can wear a fake Fu Manchu and fake an acceptable China accent.

        Somehow now that is racist and completely unacceptable – because it offends the majority. I promise you, if a white guy in Singapore did exactly as above, he would have been reported.

        In Singapore, the minorities get inflicted with such actions and idiots like Terence Lee can get away scott free by justifying it because – my apunehneh fren say is ok lolzzz – . Atleast the KKK comes out in the open and says that they are racist. In Singapore, Mr. Terence can say sh*t like this and add fuel to the injury by declaring that he’s not racist, and is all for racial harmony blah blah blah.

        Get off your fucking pedestal you little prick. I bet you’re probably one of those who’s never even stepped into Little India!

        • Sg

          “Maybe I should get all my caucasian friends to paint their face yellow
          and pull their eyes to make themselves look like Chinese. While they are
          at it, they can wear a fake Fu Manchu and fake an acceptable China
          accent. ”

          its already done on national tv.. – the noose. every tues, 8.30pm..

          “I promise you, if a white guy in Singapore did exactly as above, he would have been reported.”

          the last time i checked, they let them travel out of town for something way more serious than just making faces at another…

          btw, i love mustafa… best shopping centre in SG with free parking!!

          • Guest123

            No it’s not. It’s Singaporean Chinese doing a rather good PRC accent and impersonation.

            At the end of the day, when many Indians out here think this is offensive to them, I find it highly inappropriate that you and your people yould continue to tell US what is racist and what is not.

            If you have any Indian friends (I doubt any minority would associate themselves with folks of your opinion) do yourself a favour and ask them what they feel about this. Go on.

          • Sg

            u seem to casually forget the noose also does MANY other impersonations like thai, phillipines, malay, indians, koreans not just PRC… so you think just because it involves Indian it is racist..but others its ok and you can carry on enjoying the show??

            do have a more open mind.. its not all just abt the indian race now.. dun get mistaken.. btw, i have tons of indian friends..

          • Guest123

            Yes I absolutely do not know what racism is as a Singaporean Indian. Maybe you being of the majority can teach me what exactly it means huh?

            You don’t deserve to be in this country. If you cannot accept Indians and Malays in Singapore, you are free to fuck the hell back to China.

      • Sg

        now u know dude!! just ask ppl like Krishnan Iyer, Your Mama and John Daniels Azhagan etccc..

  • Your Mama

    Why don’t you survey Indians on whether they find it offensive, you asshole? You don’t get it because it’s always one way. You’ve probably never been on the receiving end of colour jokes, never known what colour discrimination is.

    This is not about not having a sense of humour. As for your own examples, the Downey junior is clearly done in the name of parody, or don’t you understand the genre? Kumar’s is also parody, and so is Richard Pryor when he does his stand up routine. There’s a fucking BIG difference between Downey and D W Griffith. Or don’t you understand film history? Would you like a lesson in film and literary genres?

    Minstrelsy is minstrelsy anywhere. Seriously, just ask Indians whether they are offended: just because we keep silent doesn’t mean we aren’t pissed off, you racist SOB. It’s the price we pay for being the minority everyone thinks they can make fun of because we aren’t important enough as a voting bloc.

    And the opinions they did quote are dismissed by you as “token indians”. How nice: they have opinions of actual Indians, and you dismiss them with one fell swoop without even considering what they feel. All you say is they should lighten up (do you recognise your own literal irony, fool?) and get a sense of humour, and just reiterate it’s not offensive.

    All I can say is I hope you come out of your cave more often.

    • Terence Lee

      tl:dr

      • Krishnan Iyer

        You probably did. You just did not have a comeback more logical than this piece of sh*t article.

        • Terence Lee

          dear Your Mama and Krishnan, stop being so uptight. Not every Indian took offense at this: http://daneshd.com/2012/02/14/happy-valentines-day-everyone-dont-wear-a-black-face/

    • Sg

      “This is not about not having a sense of humour…..”

      errr…. i think the event is a CLOSED door, dinner and DANCE?? i guess the only mistake the UOB dudes made was not leaving their sense of humour at the reception… oh well…

      how abt glenn ong painting his face black impersonating Michael jackson in class 95 retrolicious concert?? wanna pursue that as well? u shld. lest someone should call you unprincipled. and of cos mr micheal jackson himself… he was black.. wassup with turning white!?! permanent somemore! someone shld pursue that.. anger round the world man….

      “It’s the price we pay for being the minority everyone thinks they can
      make fun of because we aren’t important enough as a voting bloc.”

      i hope you have more self-confidence… we have progressed beyond that.. really….

      • Guest123

        As far as I’ve checked, there are no native African-Americans in Singapore. The bottom line is, when there are Singaporean Indians out there who would find this offensive (like you have seen by the majority of comments here), you as a Singaporean would know all too well to respect it and back the fuck off.

        These guys did not and they should accordingly be charged under the Sedition Act.

    • sgComedyLover

      Agree with Your Mama.

      The strongest defense so far seems like the Tropic Thunder one. However one really has to dissect the source of that humor.

      In Tropic Thunder the source of humor is parody and commentary:

      Haha – This actor is some crazy over zealous method actor that he is willing to do a non-PC blackface for the sake of art.

      Similarly the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” also uses blackface but also in a scene where the person is being over zealous about the role, and he is being condemned for it.

      In these 2 examples, even though they use blackface, it is clear that the humor is in the absolute wrongness of it.

      So you must ask yourself, what comes after ‘Haha’… for this UOB case.

  • Krishnan Iyer

    It’s one thing that these Chinese ridicule Indians in such a way. It’s another that Terence Lee thinks there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Looks like we Indians have become such an unimportant bloc in Singapore that we need a Chinese newspaper and young 20-something year old Chinese “parody” writer to tell us Indians whether something racially charged at us was racist or not.Maybe you guys can tell us how to celebrate Thaipusam too. Oh haha wait – that’s already being done now is it not?

    Look NewNation, you guys have been writing decent humorous articles and I’ve quite liked it in the past. Unless you absolutely know for sure where you are treading, don’t cross the racial line. You just did and failed miserably in this article.

    Malays have been taking your shit for ages. But do not expect Indians to do the same. You would have half the legal community jostling to issue you a court order.

    Good day Sir.

    • Terence Lee

      Four paragraphs and not a shred that makes sense. all you’re saying essentially is that I can’t say that there’s nothing wrong with this just because I’m chinese. Now that’s playing the race card.

      • Terence Lee

        and by the way, an indian singaporean did write about this. And no, he doesn’t find it offensive: 
        http://daneshd.com/2012/02/14/happy-valentines-day-everyone-dont-wear-a-black-face/

        • Krishnan Iyer

          Wow that’s your best arguement? An Indian said it was ok so it’s ok? Seriously that’s as good as the comments online that say that I make racist jokes because I have a few good friends who are Indian.

          I am not saying you are not qualified to write about this because you are Chinese. But are you implying that you are more qualified than an Indian to judge the effect of their actions?

          “Stop being so uptight not every Indian took offense at this”. Seriously man, your article borders on infringing the Sedition Act. I would stop right now if I were you. Go read the Statutes if you think I am BSing you (Chapter 4.1.A).

          I am Indian. I find what those UOB guys did racist. And I find your article pandering. You can either agree with me. Or disagree with me. But your article still stands open to public view so I’d take caution nonetheless Sir.

          • Krishnan Iyer

            And might I add Sir that being a contrarian with confidence did not come across – this once – as being intelligent and logical. If only it was all that simple.

          • Terence Lee

            “Wow that’s your best arguement?” All I’m saying is not everyone took offense at the incident, not even those who were perceived to have been insulted. So I hope you are not trying to “represent” the entire Indian community.


            But are you implying that you are more qualified than an Indian to judge the effect of their actions?”

            No, I’m not. But I’m entitled to my opinion nonetheless. You can disagree with me, and you have.As for the Sedition Act…. erm… given how broad the wording is, ANYONE can be sued by the govt. It’s a bullshit law, that’s what it is. What’s dismaying about Singapore is how people are resorting to legal brute force these days for any perceived slight. I need not remind you about these incidents.Well, if you’re offended, so be it. I’m not here to validate your feelings. And I guess I disagree with your views. That settles it, I guess.

          • Terence Lee

            it’s ironic how sgreans feel stifled by our laws, and yet rely on it when they feel slighted.

          • Krishnan Iyer

            I find it ironic and amusing that you have taken abovementioned link’s author Dane’s views as, “not everyone in the Indian community feels offended” while at the same time you have dismissed Mr Dinesh, Ms Yasotha, Your Mama and my views as that of “token Indians”. In fact you did not even bother replying to Your Mama’s intial commennts, only endearing him a “Too Long Did not Read” phrase. Even in this small pool of opinions from Indians, you have only chosen to hear what you want to hear: Some Indian guy on the blog saying he’s cool with it as opposed to 4 saying that it’s offensive.

            Sedition Law is here exactly to prevent articles like yours from spreading vile on to the public. I would strongly advise you yet again to criticize the law for that in itself not only again breaches said act but also infringes on Contempt of Court.

            If I take the UOB guys and your article to charge for what I perceive is sedition, that is not legal brute force. This statute would not stand if it was unreasonable. Just because we feel stifled by some laws does not mean we do away with all. This law stands for a reason: to prevent articles like yours and “blackfaces” like theirs from upsetting the peace of Singapore.

          • Sg

            “Sedition Law is here exactly to prevent articles like yours from
            spreading vile on to the public. I would strongly advise you yet again
            to criticize the law for that in itself not only again breaches said act
            but also infringes on Contempt of Court.  ”

            on the contrary, i find that terence is trying to keep the peace by asking everyone to lighten up…. but there are obviously some ppl who are fanning the flames…

          • Shihan

            Naise -Shihan

          • Sg

            “This statute would not stand if it was unreasonable.”

            technically, yes. practically, no… i think you are one who loves $10 xo chye tao kway…

          • Sg

            and your argument is ALL Indians are offended because you are offended??

            Do you even know what racism means?? go do some reading up, get some perspectives here and put the UOB guys actions in context before you open your mouth on behalf of XX million number of indians crying rape on rooftops and incite whatever you want to incite… get a life, grow a funny bone.

            (by saying that, if john daniels azhagan wants to paint his face yellow and pull his eyes sideways IN JEST and other chinese ppl are crying rape, i will also say the same…)

          • Sg

             its a fricking DnD for goodness sake.. not hong fricking lim park…

        • Sg

          gotta correct you there.. its SINGAPOREAN indian… we are singaporeans first.. then whatever race you want to call yourselves… i need to be very technical here… since everyone is so uptight…. i doubt the ppl who are offended are even singapore born, went to multiracial schools, play chepteh, catching, pepsi cola with all races, raised in this type of environment etcc like a TRUE BLUE SINGAPOREAN..

          • Guest123

            It’s exactly idiots like you “Sg” who perpetuate the stereotype that Singaporeans are dumb. So what if you played pepsi cola and chepteh (it’s chapteh btw)? If I call out racism like it is I’m suddenly against racial harmony?

            HAHAH what a joke. Now you can make racist jokes against Indians and when Indians say it’s racist, they are the ones violating the Sedition act.

            I really hope idiots like you are the minority. Because if you are not, racial harmony in Singapore is a myth.

          • Sg

            i can safely say you dont even know what is racism…  coz you dont even know what you are calling.

  • Guest123

    I find it thoroughly hilarious that when multiple Indians write that racism directed towards them is offensive, SG and Terence Lee strongly rebut it.

    It’s like saying: No guys! We can make these sorta jokes. It’s not racist cause we say it’s not.

    Get a fucking grip of yourselves idiots. You’re making a fool of yourselves.

    • Sg

      once again you dont know what is racism. and you dont even understand the gist of the argument…  think abt the context, setting, day and age… think abt that racism REALLY means then we talk.. and its not just indians.. can be chinese malay eurasian whatever race…. please grow some self-confidence…

  • The No Standard in Journalism

    If
    the New Nation had its way, civil rights advocates (or as the New Nation
    befits, ‘complainers’) like Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr Martin Luther King Jr would
    have to “shut up and sit down”. The folks who feel aggrieved at the slight
    should get a life, stop being uptight and continue to spread humor at the
    expense of others. Going by its playbook, in short, the New Nation will poke
    fun at people to entertain the hell out of their readers. And it encourages its
    legion of fans to do likewise.

     

    I
    find the images offensive and it certainly did not tickle my funny bone. The
    comment “It’s one thing to wear a traditional costume to a
    Bollywood- themed dinner, but another thing altogether to paint your face black
    appropriating someone else’s ethnicity and treating it like entertainment,”
    is not retarded and neither is the commentator. To appropriate this term on the
    commentator and comment, to refer to them as slow or limited in intellectual,
    emotional or academic process is derisory.

     

    The New Nation is duplicitous by labeling commentators as token and of
    taking the safe route. Showing racism the red card is diagrammatically opposite
    from being politically correct. I appreciate United Overseas Bank’s initiative
    to ‘counsel’ their staff and acknowledging that the photos can be construed as
    offensive. UOB has international aspirations and prides itself as a premier
    bank in the Asia-Pacific region. To not follow and acting contradictory to international
    industry workplace diversity practices will only cast aspersions on its
    ambitions.

  • Shihan

    There’s also a commonly used joke that most lawyers are Indian because they can argument for ever and all eternity.
    Carry on. :-)

    • Hari Krishna

      1.) That’s racist.
      2.) We’re lawyers because you guys cannot speak English for nuts
      3.) That’s evinced by the fact that you have shit grammer (arguement for ever….LOL wtf where did you learn English you stupid nsk?)

      • Fang Shihan

        grammar, darling

      • Terence Lee

        lol i wonder which is worse… being racist or being elitist. NSK = neighborhood school kid.

      • satumalaysia_satusingapura

        …so says the person who can’t spell. or do singaporeans spell ‘grammar’ as ‘grammer’? 

        (mildly amused and curious malaysian)

  • Venkavimar

    Terence & Sg, bear with me regarding this thread. I have been in this position long before where I felt that most Singaporean Chinese are racists, due to the actions of a few of them. Open Remarks about “Keleng Kia”, “Appunehneh”. My GP teacher once asked my Chinese Classmate to “Stop behaving like an Appunehneh” as he was singing a Tamil Song “Munerru Vaalibah”. The weird thing is that I was laughing my ass of at his rendition of this song but did a complete U-Turn when My teacher made that comment and blasted her for it. Her defence was that she thought it was proper “dialect” word. Cracks me up every time I think about it.
    It has made me realize that we have to learn to differentiate between the malicious ones and the ones that mean no harm. Laugh at the harmless ones as those guys most probably are able to take it if the tables were turned. For those who are malicious, you can either trade insults with them, laugh at their ignorance or complain to the proper authorities. I have been highly defensive before, when it comes to these so called jokes or insults. Now, I just learn to take it easy, be able to laugh at myself and never let these little things affect me. For me, and I emphasize “me”, it’s no big deal. We have to be able to measure and throw out insignificance. Aside to Sg, Indians or SINGAPOREAN Indians, we’re all Indians. That would have been a race card by itself. 😉  

    • Shihan

      I have no idea what apu-nehneh means. An entity that has its head attached to its boobs? Like Pamela Anderson with a boob job gone wrong?

  • Kate

    These idiots should get the sack! UOB is supporting racism!

  • Kate

    and terence lee deserves a sack too!

  • Veritaslux

    You can paint yourself black in USA nite or Brazil nite…etc. No one give a damn. Do you know why Indian take offence?

    Because they are the most racist people in the whole universe. The whiter Aryans came as invaders rape and subjugate the darker Dravidians. The white Indians force these black indigeneous as shit collector, road sweapers for more than 3000 years, living off their labor as parasite. They then call themselves high caste and black Indian low caste.

    So, if you paint yourself black, those racist take offence. Unfortunately, these racist now have the support of PAP. Now these worst Nazi today are trying to defame Singaporeans, the most tolerant people in the world as racist. 

    • Hari Krishna

      LOLL at Singaporeans, the most tolerant people in the world. Man have you ever stepped out of the country???

      • veritas

        Go back home you racist. Go and see the extra-judicial killings in India targeting Sino-Tibetans in Assam.

        Every month, overseas Indians are physically attack and even murdered by KKK in US, skins heads in Europe…

        They stooge and never complaint. Only in Singapore, they live peacefully but they make hell lots of noise.

  • Ahneh

    This is just an outrageous staff dinner the bank itself did not understand a hotel like fairmont is a public area, the organiser is at fault even if this photos were not leaked out on facebook, perhaps the whole dinner party could be video recorded & uploaded on internet by a foreign indian waiter who thinks it is funny to do so too…

    • Doubtful

      If the staff wanted to do silly things, they should leave the company out of it all they all look & behave like morons, is this the type of bankers people would engage for serious financial matters?

      • Jaime

        May b this is part of a cheap advertisement though up by the bank’s marketing department to save on budget, but they forgot to toss some paratas in the ait to make it more convincing?

  • deviousDiv

    I thought this writer was just an uninformed idiot- but he turned out to be a coward too! I had emailed him about the matter, in a nice- rather polite letter explaining why what he said is not okay- and well he does not seem to have anything to say in return. 

    Well– here’s the letter.

    Hi Terence,
     
    A friend of mine forwarded me your article, “UOB Blackface Dudes are Racist—NOT” to read for a lark. I’m sure they meant it in good humor, and I do see the humor. That said, there is one major inconsistency in your piece, which I do want to point out. I will be honest, when I read this 
     
    “Strip the word of its cultural context, and it loses its derogatory meaning. In Singapore, ‘blackface’ was never, as far as I know, a part of our cultural makeup (pardon the pun).”

    My first response was anger. 
     
    My dear friend, I was often called “Blackface” by teachers, and students alike, all through my school years. The usual jokes were rife, including the “spot the indian” in underexposed photographs, the “Smile in the dark so I know where you are” lines, and even “Aiyo don’t touch me later my uniform stain black”. And while you may giggle or snigger now, the malice in their tone was hard to miss then. 

    Do you know what the best part of this was? The teacher who told my parents that “Bullying Indians is quite common, nothing we can do about it. Ask your daughter to suck it up its character building”. The teacher was a Chinese woman- who often accused me of stealing because I was Indian, and was shocked to find out my father was a senior civil servant. She was expecting a jail bird.
     
    But I digress. Your tone indicates you were never picked on by racist bigots before- and that’s fantastic- because as you can see from the above, the experience is traumatic. So with that in mind I told myself to take a step back from the immediate emotional response, and examine why there was such a response in the first place.

    I think it was your assertion that there is no “cultural context” to the “Blackface” insult that really triggered the response– because that is is patently untrue.
     
    South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans etc.) have a cultural heritage of skin-colour racism that goes back thousands of years- where whiter skin is percieved as more beautiful. But it took the British to really drive the message home. Under the ‘raj’, the fairer Indians enjoyed more privileges and opportunities than those with darker skin. Right up there in the ‘social hierachy’ were the fairest, blue eyed and green eyed Indians, who were more upwardly mobile, and considered to have a more affluent status. They gained preferences in education and employment, leaving the darker skinned chaps out of the equation.
     
    While we from South Asia, do not pretend to have shared the same histories or experiences as our African brothers and sisters, in the eyes of the British, the dark skin we both had made us the same. So we were treated the same. Why do you think so many of them migrated to strange new territories like Singapore? 

    But here’s the deal, while they may have left India in the early 20th century, the hurts of their history and past are still strong, which is why calling an Indian “Blackface” is still incredible racist and rude. Additionally just because the majority of Singapore’s population did not experience this form of discrimiation in their history does not make the history itself culturally irrelevant to the Singaporean experience.
     
    I think it all boils down to Singaporean’s having little desire to confront racism. Because this country is so dominated by a single enthno-liguistic group, there really is absolutely no economic, social or cultural benefit to addressing the issue because bluntly put, the Indian minority is so small and insignificant in number compared to the ethnic majority. There is far less willingness on the part of the political elite to tap into our aspirations and earn our vote. The phrase “multi-racial society” is so often used as a gloss to pay lip service to us, with little effort made to analyse discrimination in housing, job and income situations, racist bullying, or even inappropriate racist statements and commentary.

    So every time a member of the ethnic majority calls attention to this, I stand up and applaud him or her, for giving us a voice.  As for Kumar, the poor chap is fucked two ways because he’s Indian, and he’s gay. His humor is his way of getting back, and making himself heard, and for that I applaud him too.

    And well Terrence, I don’t know what kind of values you were brought up with, but my family always taught me that making fun of someone’s physical appearance is wrong.  Painting your face “black” to depict an Indian is rather like an Indian taping clear scotch tape on his eyes to create ‘slits’ to parody the Chinese. In short, its not a nice thing to do, and poking fun of one’s physical attributes is extremely rude, and juvenile. Dismissing it out of hand as ‘good fun’ is all the more immature. 

    To wrap, I am tempted to get in touch with those UOB clowns and ask them to Google some A List bollywood stars. If one must make a joke in poor taste- please make an informed joke at the very minimum, because there are definitely no ‘Blackfaces’ in that A List. 😉

    ~DeviousDiv

    • deviousDiv

      And for the record- just doing the face painting was wrong- does not matter if you did it in your bathroom, in a closed DnD or in public.  

      • Terence Lee

        well you know i actually wanted to reply your email. but since you think me a coward, I find there’s no point replying to someone who lacks patience.

        • Hari Krishna

          Terence you should really stop at this point, looking at all these comments I think you can MORE than guage for yourself whether Indians took offence at this or not. Maybe it’s time you back the fuck off, toned your ego a notch down and genuinely empathize instead of still acting like an overprivileged spoilt brat out of touch with reality.

          I find your reluctance to accept the overwhelming majority’s opinion disgusting to say the least. And you want to pursue Journalism as a career? LOL

          When 99% of the Indians who have commented here express disapproval of your article and your friends’ actions, I find not your disagreement and vehement stand off-putting but the fact that you are arrogant to all these posters.

          Let me tell you something kid, as a 43-Year Old professional, I have met my fair share of kids like you. If you want to succeed in life, it’s high time you learned mutual respect.

          • Terence Lee

            no, we’ve not actually met. and your attempts to give ‘advice’? laughable. I’ve made my own conclusions out of this whole episode, and I’m certainly not bound to share it with you or show so-called contrition to faceless individuals like yourself. Div’s attempts to ‘reach out’ to me, faltered when, just because I didn’t reply for a few days, I’m suddenly a coward. 

        • deviousDiv

          Well- I don’t know about you but where I come from its basic email etiquette to reply in under 6 hours after sending said email.

          And the way I see it- you aren’t replying because you find there is no point, but because you have nothing to say.As for the dumb person who said Micheal Jackson bleaching his face white was racist– seriously don’t show yourself up to be so dumb. Micheal was forced to do that to break into the largely white mainstream music industry. 

          Seriously- educating people who are so stuck in their narrow definitions of what’s racism is such a sisyphean task. I don’t know why I bother.

          • deviousDiv

            And before all the trolls start saying I come from another country and FT blah blah blah… the “where I come from” refers to the corporate/email etiquette I was taught in college, university and the workplace. 

          • Terence Lee

            I’m sorry, but this 6 hours rule is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s neither realistic or pragmatic. And since you already think “I have nothing to say” or  that I find that there’s “no point”, so I guess there’s no point engaging you in further debate.

          • deviousDiv

            Well– I am still open to hear your thoughts if you think you’re up to responding. I’d like to see you actually indulge in proper intellectual debate for a change.

            As for the 6 hour rule- I’m sorry you think its dumb because its the rule in much of the corporate world. 

      • Deviousdivdumb

        By the way u forgot bleaching too, well sisn’t Michael Jackson bleach his skin white so he must be a racist too huh

  • veritas

    Hi Terrence

    Ignore these racist clowns from India who feign victim. Do not put yourself in defensive position trying to explain yourselves. You should get angry.

    These days, some of these racist FT Indians get offended by racism for everything under the sun. Go and read my blog you will have better understandings. 

    http://veritas-lux.blogspot.com/2012/02/singaporeans-under-attack-by-ft-indians.html

  • Elizabeth

    The initial issue wasn’t as offensive as the article telling us not to be “so uptight” about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703341689 Vince Viknesh Jeg Pillay

    Had a person of another race painted themselves yellow, taped their eyes into slits, somehow flattened their noses, do you think it wouldnt considered racist? Terence Lee harbours such a myopic view that I find myself compelled to conclude that his article is fuelled by ignorant nonchalance. Having grown up in an environment where almost any Indian would reluctantly confess that he or she had been subject to ridicule because of the colour of their skin, I am undeniably of the opinion that such ‘jokes’ need to be stemmed. I definitely don’t agree that jokes and a light hearted approach to race helps with to strengthen the social fabric of society. Much to the contrary it sets the stage for a row that is easily ignited, a ticking bomb waiting to explode. This article and the discussion that follow themselves highlight the very fine line between being racist and making a joke, lack of thought into what is said and done will ignite a racial row. So do we take a cautious approach or allow everything to be a joke? I say we need to be mindful and respectful about what we say, even if it means that we have to think twice before we speak about race every single time we speak or do something. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703341689 Vince Viknesh Jeg Pillay

    Had a person of another race painted themselves yellow, taped their eyes into slits, somehow flattened their noses, do you think it wouldnt considered racist? Of course it would be, and as an Indian I would think it is racist too. Terence Lee harbours such a myopic view that I find myself compelled to conclude that his article is fuelled by ignorant nonchalance. Having grown up in an environment where almost any Indian would reluctantly confess that he or she had been subject to ridicule because of the colour of their skin, I am undeniably of the opinion that such ‘jokes’ need to be stemmed. I definitely don’t agree that jokes and a light hearted approach to race helps with to strengthen the social fabric of society. Much to the contrary it sets the stage for a row that is easily ignited, a ticking bomb waiting to explode. This article and the discussion that follow themselves highlight the very fine line between being racist and making a joke, lack of thought into what is said and done will ignite a racial row. So do we take a cautious approach or allow everything to be a joke? I say we need to be mindful and respectful about what we say, even if it means that we have to think twice before we speak about race every single time we speak or do something. 

    • Racistyourself

      Vince may b u should just paint your whole body black cos you dun look black enough also & highlight your cock yellow if you have the balls to do it  & walk around In public or a private party, I am sure people would like to see how racist you can be…

      • Slim Jim

        He would have to make his cock smaller to replicate a chink

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703341689 Vince Viknesh Jeg Pillay

        Seriously what are you on about? Do you even understand yourself? geez

  • Disgusted

    Oh come on Krishnan, I tink tis is part of your political plan to create social imbalance in s’pore just think about it we had an indian president before too so does that mean Indians are racist cos our president is indian. why label the hoster of this wonderful forum a racist if you are not happy blogging. why not you take on uob perhaps you might win in court? 

    • Ass

      What if I paint my ass black & show it in public, I hope to try to get some indian attention too, maybe someone will start to notice my ass soon…

  • Singaporean Indian

    I don’t understand
    how you (Terence Lee) do not see the difference between witty, situational,
    stereotype jokes made by Russell Peter’s, Kumar, etc and the crude joke of
    painting yourself black because you are dressing up as an Indian! Even Robert
    Downing Jr was not painted completely black to portray his character in Tropic
    Thunder. Because there is a line that should not be crossed especially in a so
    called “racially harmonious” Singapore!

    IT is
    Racist and Inappropriate even if it was done at a private party. U don’t leave
    your morals behind if ur at a “private party”! Anywhere else in the world this
    story would have become a big deal! It is not that people all over the world
    are uptight it is because they enjoy a bit more wit in their jokes.

    How would
    you like if I had a private party and me and my friends painted ourselves
    yellow just because we were dressing up as Chinese. Or another example – at my
    private party I have a Malay theme and make sure everyone only gets alcohol and
    pork for dinner. Would that be ok? If it leaks out obviously people will be
    like “oh those racist bastards”.

    So
    basically 2 things:

    1.      
    1. UOB
    ‘blackface’ dudes were crude or more than crude in their joke.

    2.      
    2. It
    is only natural for people to find this disturbing and feel that the guys in
    the picture are racist.

    If you can
    write such a lengthy, articulate article on this matter I am sure you have
    enough brains to realize this was a hurtful racist gesture. There is genuinely
    no humour in this type of crudeness and those men were behaving in a very
    racist manner.

    • Singaporean Indian

       not sure why the post is so spread out! oh well hope my point gets across anyway…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649992370 Alfian Sa’at

    Of course this isn’t racist!

    And neither is this, right, Terence?

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/beijing-olympics-spains-slit-eyes-327386

  • Thiago

     That’s the “americanization”…coff…globalization.Americans tends to be very sensitive towards “blackface” and may be exporting the trend.

     In my country Brazil, in Carnival some people still paint themselves black, a tradition that was created back in slavery times where they would dress slaves as noble people and noble people would dress as slaves.Men would also dress as woman and vice versa.

     Nowadays some people still paint themselves as black and nobody gives a damn, not even black people, we (still) know how to separete things from its historical origins and have a laugh.But since we always end up copying what is worse about the US and care too much about foreign opinion (inferiority complex) I don’t doubt that if a international news channel cover blackface in brazilain canival, people who never gave a damn before will start the PC bullshit.

    • guest

      This is not PC bullshit in Singapore. The context may be different in Brazil. In Singapore, Chinese generally perceive their lighter skin color as being better than Indians and Malays and believe it to be one the indicators of racial superiority. one of the most remarks to parents of a light skinned indian child is “how so fair ah?”, and yes even the few dark skinned chinese suddenly make comments about skin colour when talking about indians. so a chinese painting a face black to depict an Indian is a slight and should not be allowed by a responsible person or company.

  • Pierre Albert

    Maybe if they wanted to look human and Indian (instead of like Aliens which they do since no one else in the world is that ugly or needs a group to think, drive a car or park), they should also have enlarged their eyes instead of those slits, put a bridge into their flat nose, narrowed that saucepan they call a face and changed their reptilian skin to like the rest of the world! GOD! We white people find you really ugly!

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