When will people understand that casual racism is still racism?
Deepavali came and went earlier this week, but instead of a sincere appreciation of the symbolic spiritual victory of good over evil, a woman professed her love for Indian cuisine. Fitting, since she was in Mumbai anyway.
Nothing wrong at all with a shout-out to biryani, tandoori chicken and keema. What this lady didn’t have to do was to assert herself as a Chinese girl who loves “ahneiii” food. But not so much other “ahneiii” elements.
Facebook user Ganesh Nadrajan saw the lady’s post on an Instagram Story and made sure to screengrab it for a post.
You can already imagine how it could be deemed offensive to Indians—here is a non-Indian Singaporean happily using a mangled version of the word “anna” (typically pronounced “ah neh”), a Tamil word for elder brother. It’s questionable when a “Chinese girl” uses the term broadly to refer to an entire culture, plus the fact that there’s a Hokkien slur for Indian people that sounds similar: “Ah pu neh neh”.
Then also there’s the part where she says that she likes Indian food, but hints that she may not like Indian people as much.
Netizens were not amused and made it pretty clear on Ganesh’s Facebook post.
This is the third of similar incidents that happened in the past few months: in August, a Nets advertisement made Dennis Chew “brownface” an Indian man, which sparked backlash and prompted Preetipls to release a video that was, in turn, seen as racist.
Influencer Sheena Phua also got into trouble in September after she seemingly made racist remarks about Sikhs while attending an F1 concert. She clarified that she was simply referring to the men’s heights, and not the turbans, that was blocking her view. She then took up the Sikh Association’s offer on finding out more about their culture and practices.
Everyone, please be aware of what constitutes racist remarks and think twice before you post anything. And if you’re not sure whether a term is racist, don’t use it.
Text: Ilyas Sholihyn / AsiaOne / October 2019
Additional text: Hidayah Idris