Racism Or Ignorance: The People’s Association Wedding Dress Saga

It all started with The People’s Association.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, The People’s Association are the guys in charge of promoting racial harmony. It’s right there on their About Us section of their website.

They’re supposed to be the guys who know everything about every race in Singapore. After all, when your mandate is to (and I quote) ‘promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore’, you really have to know your stuff.

Unfortunately, it seems that’s not the case at all.

Take a look at this.

There are a multitude of things wrong in the picture but we’ll just be focusing on the cardboard couple standee to the left.

Apparently, the PA (and their vendor) didn’t get permission from the couple they used as the standees. Even with cutting out the faces, the image is still used without permission.

That’s bad enough, but it goes even further.

The getup they’re wearing is supposed to represent Malay Hari Raya clothes…you know, the baju kurung and kebaya? As any Muslim would be able to tell you, what the couple is wearing isn’t Hari Raya clothing…it’s Muslim wedding gear.

The double whammy led to the PA getting heat from the lady used as the standee, a Miss Sarah Bagharib, who claims the standee and misuse of her image is indicative of racism, a charge the PA firmly deny.

Long story short, shots were fired from both sides…until all seemed to culminate with a proposed meeting between the wronged couple and the PA, with the PA set to apologize in person.

Unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass.

The PA put out a statement on their Facebook page basically saying “Nah, we don’t want to meet with you because you’re dragging in other unrelated stuff that’s not relevant to this issue. Peace out.”

That reignited the outcry over the issue (which was on its way out of the public eye), and is is where we’re at right now.

Netizens seem to agree on one thing; the PA messed up big time.

Malay, Chinese or other races, all seem united in saying that the PA’s dismissive attitude paints the organization in a very bad light. That’s not even taking into account the massive boo-boo they did with the standee.

Damn! When an organization that’s supposedly for the people is scorned by the very people it claims to represent, it means the group isn’t doing its job.

At least that’s the general consensus among netizens.

From their viewpoint, how can an organization that calls itself the People‘s Association be so dense about the cultures of those it represents?

Many question how such a mistake can even happen in the first place. Were there no Malays involved in the creative or approval process? Any Malay could’ve told them how Malay wedding clothes aren’t Hari Raya attire, and the whole brouhaha would’ve been easily avoided.

In fact, some are even poking at perceived issues at the PA’s official statement.

Netizens aren’t happy that the language used in the statement isn’t actually deferent or even acknowledging of the issues. In other words, it seems canned and unconvincing, like a child forced to reluctantly apologize.

All this is a nightmare for the PA. After all, while it’s not representing the government per se, it is a government run organization. There’s a case to be made that this is all due to the PAP.

While Netizens do pin the blame on the PA, some are speaking out that Ms Sarah seems to be blowing up the issue, by recklessly calling it racism.

From what they can see, it’s more of a case of a genuine mistake, no malice behind it.

Yes, it’s wrong of the PA to approve the use of the couple’s image for the standee and using it for a Hari Raya promotion, but that doesn’t mean that it’s racism.

Insensitivity definitely, but not racism.

Of course, there are others saying the opposite.

From their point of view, ignorance isn’t an excuse.

Racism is still racism, even if you’re unaware that what you’re doing is racist. Fair or unfair? That’s not my place to judge.

There’s even a third faction; one that thinks that Ms Sarah is purposely dragging things out so she can remain in the public limelight.

Which point of view is right? All of them? None of them? Some of them? I have no idea.

All I know is I agree with this dude.

You and me both man.

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