The cultural ignorance of SPH staff and other S’poreans

In Media on 15/02/2012 at 5:44 am

(Or “Another Example of Ang Moh Tua Kee?” Or “Aping the Prejudices of the West Mindlessly”)

SPH’s Jennani Durai ranted in SunTimes (FB link to story) about some UOB staff who painted their faces black for a Bollywood theme party. The FB link attracted over 300 comments, mostly negative.

 This blogger tells us:

I believe these breed of netizens do not watch televisions movies & dramas or SBC productions. Probably these are the netizens who feel local productions are crap and thus watching TV will minus their IQ points by half. I urged these netizens who slammed the offensive act to take further actions against Hong Kong comedian Stephen Chow, Taiwanese Television Channels, local cinemas and Mediacorp

Over the past 2 decades,  there were several TV & Movie productions which depicts Chinese painting their faces black.

(I will cheerfully admit that I didn’t know most of this: I knew of the Justice Pao black-face tradition which my amah told me indicated that he was non-Chinese*. But then I am Perankan, watch very little TV, and most importantly, I didn’t find the actions offensive*, and neither did I post critical comments.) 

It is sad that it seems neither Jennani Durai nor the editors responsible checked with their colleagues in the Chinese media papers of SPH on a Chinese cultural perspective . Instead, they imposed an American  perspective on the story: that it was culturally insensitive in the US to do such a dark deed, and hence it was culturally insensitive to do so here.

It is also sad that many netizens made critical comments based on the SunT story alone. I mean it’s part of the SPH media group, that many netizens love to hate. But if it confirms their prejudices or beliefs, it is halal, not haram, it seems.

Finally it is extremely sad that it seems the critical posters who were Chinese did not know of a facet of popular and traditional Chinese culture.

Another example of the culture of ang mog tua kee here? It’s not only found in the Home Team.

A final wicked tot. Would Jennani Durai and others have been so upset if the Chinks had painted themselves “wheat-coloured”? I can’t think of a single Bollywood star that has anything other than “light” skin. And Indian newspaper ads for suitable marriage partners have no qualms of requiring the other party to have “light” or “wheat-coloured” skin. I suspect, Jennani Durai  and the other critics would have applauded the Cina for their cultural sensitivity, even though the preference for “light” skin shows that Indian culture has colour undertones, juz like other cultures.

Related post:

*Her spin was that the Chinese respect anyone, even a non-Chinese, if that person has “virtue”. Her way of telling me that it’s OK not being Chinese. She also told me that the founder of Zen Buddhism and the martial arts tradition was an Indian monk.

**I posted a comment saying UOB and the staff concerned had no need to apologise.

  1. Rather amusingly, let’s quote her another Buddhist teaching – “Emptiness is form, form is emptiness”.

    It is only offensive if you perceive it as offensive. 🙂

  2. […] Disclosure – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: The cultural ignorance of SPH staff and other S’poreans – Diary of a Singapore Cabby: Bitter Pills – Everything Also Complain: No samfoos allowed in church […]

  3. Will someone tell this guy that the issue isn’t so much of blackface in Chinese culture, it is irrelevant to bring in Chinese culture as a red herring. Blackface is not facepaint alright, there’s a difference. For the ignorant, blackface means a crude caricature of African (black, hence blackface)people. The Chinese in no way come into the picture. AT ALL.

    Did the people at the party disrespect black people? No, I do not think there was ill-intent. It’s a Bollywood themed party, so they came dressed as Indians. Or South Asians. Whatever the political-lingo corps call them now.

    Was the costume design bad choice? Yes, if you can’t differentiate between someone of Africanic origin and someone of South Asianic origin, you deserve to be hitchslapped in the face.

    And besides, if I were to nitpick, if I intended to be a complete arse, I would have drawn thick red lips on my mouth. But that’s beyond the point. The point is: The entire argument is meaningless. Would you complain about me dressing up as Dr Doom at a costume party because it invokes East European memories about life under dictators? Hell no, and I’ll be dressed as Dr Doom for this year’s annual costume party.

  4. Which planet does this author live in? We live in a unipolar world that is strong western cultural influence. Everything we do locally are eventually appraised in an international context that has strong western cultural influences.

    If I were to bring in offensive Indian cultural sterotypes of Chinese in the countryside would it be offensive under the guise of “tradition”? Does depiction of an issue under the banner of “tradition” and “culture” absolves it from being offensive and to be in bad tase? I saying this because this UOB event was not organised solely for consumption by a chinese cultural lot. UOB is a melting and it is offensive. I’m sorry but you sound smart, but your opinions are bigoted. Please think again before posting such articles

    • Since when has “black faces” been a practice making fun of Indians or Malays. The reporter, an Indian, took a Western racist practice and imposed it on S’poreans.

      Now if a Black American had written the article, and said the practice was making fun of black Americans, then UOB and staffers should apologise. But an Indian should not use “black face” to cry discrimination. To do so is to trivalise what happened to black Americans.

  5. I stumbled upon this while trying to dig up this article for a class assignment. All I can say is wow. Those of you who do not find the actions of the UOB staff offensive are clearly living in your own world. I think that the writer used “blackface” because that shows that it is not fair or just to see people as a colour. If you guys are representation of the racial and religious harmony in Singapore, boy is a a blow to the nation’s progess.

    • Our media here is widely perceived as the propoganda arm of the govt, and the hacks working there as bums who don’t do original thinking on anything. Taz the context.

  6. atans1, and my context is, as part of the racial majority (or a minority that wants to be in the majority for some reason), you have no place to comment, on how what the UOB staff is not offensive. Sitting in your bubble created by being in the majority, I don’t think you can even begin to understand what is racially offensive and what is not. Seriously dude, stick to stuff you know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: