On Aug. 2, 2019, Singapore Kindness Movement published an article, "Preetipls, it’s not because I’m Chinese".
You can read the full article here.
Here are the bullet points:
- That casual racism has "always existed since our forefather’s time, and that’s okay",
- That the concepts of "Brownface", "Reverse Racism", "Micro-aggression" and "Casual Racism" are largely the result of the "westernisation" of Singapore's political identity,
- Which means that importing U.S.-style anti-racism activism into Singapore is akin to "dropping a nuclear bomb on a crime-infested district", given that race relations in Singapore are not as bad as the U.S.,
- Which also means that the entire issue has been over-dramatised, and
- That Preetipls and her brother, Subhas Nair, have been immature in handling the matter.
Yeo also stated this incredibly prescient, and retrospectively hilarious point:
"The problem here is maturity. There are times, especially on sensitive issues such as race and religion, that we need to sacrifice eyeballs for the sake of proper discourse. Otherwise, the issue gets lost."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Yeo's article triggered a massive backlash online, many of whom are -- not surprisingly -- Singaporeans, angered by what they saw as appalling ignorance, flippancy and racism displayed in his article.
Many were particularly furious with regard to his phrase "What, Munnaeru Vaalibaa was taken?"
Several of the comments also slammed SKM for running such an article.
For the record, SKM is a platform set up with the explicit purpose of highlighting acts of charity in Singapore, and dabbles in smarm, ostensibly to make Singapore a better place.
Now, it is quite commonplace for incendiary, divisive content to have a follow-up renouncing the author's earlier views, post-backlash.
The writer might have gleaned a kernel of truth following the many impassioned voices arguing against the original piece.
And on the surface, it sure appeared that way.
A day later, on Aug. 3, 2019, Yeo wrote a follow-up article, "The silent majority has a lot to apologise for, so let’s start here".
Which appeared, at least, at face value, to be a contrite walk-back of his initial article.
And while there was a sincere apology off the bat, it was not about how his views had changed, but rather, about how his first article was subterfuge all along.
"Everything I had written in the previous article, including the comments where I “defended” the article, whether publicly or privately, were not my views. At least not anymore."
Yeo went on to explain that he changed his mind about a week ago, around the start of the Preetipls saga.
Rather, the views and comments he expressed were those of people who did not express their views online -- an insight that he allegedly gained from having conversations with them.
"My hope is that by dragging a majority view into a very public eye, where those who were hurt by it would be able to say their piece, we would tear down its defences to show that the pain they suffer due to our casualness about the issue is real."
But did it though?
Unfortunately, the article didn't really "tear down" any of the aforementioned points in his first article.
There were some slight rebuttals, like pointing at how the #MeToo movement changed how people talked about sexual harassment, as an example of how western ideologies weren't all bad.
But the strongest "tear down" appeared to be going from "casual racism is ok" to "casual racism is NOT ok".
In fact, Yeo pointed to two other sources which tackled this race issue real well.
One was a Medium post by Isaac James Neo, which is honestly a good read.
And a comment by Melody Madhavan, which he urged people to, "Please, please, please go read what she said".
He didn't link it though, so here's the link so you don't have to trawl through more than 400 comments on the original post -- many of which were bashing Yeo and SKM.
So, what is the point of this two-parter of an article again, you might ask, if instead of tearing down misconceptions, he pointed to other sources that actually did what he claimed to have wanted to do?
As previously mentioned, Yeo appears to have targeted this doozy of a two-parter at those who used to think like him, perhaps intending for this to be a wake-up call of sorts for the silent majority.
But here's the thing: Tricking people into agreeing with an article, only to say that that article was just groundwork for your later, more woke article, might leave the very people you are intending to change the minds of rather embarrassed and taken aback, perhaps cementing their distrust against the person, and people like him, who "hoodwinked" them.
That much appears to be what happened to one of Yeo's friends.
Because no one likes feeling like they were tricked, including the people who Yeo turned out to actually agree with.
It turns out people don't appreciate being tricked or used as metaphorical chess pieces in unnecessarily elaborate attempts at eradicating casual racism.
If only there was a better medium of propagating the minority view rather than a two-part article version of Punk'd?
Maybe some understanding of your fellow man's plight? Or perhaps just showing some kindness even?
Now if only we had a movement behind that.
Top image screenshots from Singapore Kindness Movement