A couple working in real estate apologized today for a video of themselves dressed in traditional Indian attire and making miserable attempts at cultural dance moves in a bid to promote a property to minority group clients.
Responding to an online backlash to their now-deleted promo, real estate agents-cum-YouTubers Jasen and Shiqi told Coconuts Singapore today that they were attempting to reach the “non-Chinese,” mainly the Indian and Malay communities, about a Jalan Bukit Merah property they can only sell to such buyers under public housing ethnic ratios.
“Firstly, we would like to clarify that we have no intentions at all to mock, offend or disrespect any cultural race or minority and we sincerely apologise for sparking the unpleasant sentiments online,” their statement said. “We have taken down the said video and is in the process of coming up with a more appropriate way of bringing our property tour ahead for our viewers.”
In the video, the couple wears traditional Indian attire and makes funny faces while making half-hearted attempts at Bollywood-style dance moves to Mandarin-language song Where to Find You My Love by Taiwanese icon Teresa Teng.
“Anaivarukkum nalla matiyam, selamat datang ke Bukit Merah (Good afternoon everyone, welcome to Bukit Merah),” the PropNex Realty couple said in an introduction mixing Tamil and Malay before switching to English. “We’re very excited today to show you this rare five-room unit for sale right here in Bukit Merah.”
A portion of the offending YouTube video made its way to Twitter where it began drawing criticism for disrespecting the Indian culture.
“[M]y parents came across this ad for a house and it’s so fucking racist [I] can’t- if y’all could comment under this and tell them to take it down it would be appreciated,” wrote Twitter user @Skeletonjacket, who on Saturday was the first to call out the video.
Its intentions were also a source of dismay.
“[W]ere they trying to attract [I]ndians? [Because] it sure as hell didn’t work,” the user said in another tweet.
The couple today did not explain why their performance focused on Indian culture rather than those of other minority groups. The Ethnic Integration Policy caps ethnic groups living in public housing blocks at 87% for those of Chinese descent, 25% for Malays and 15% for those of Indian heritage.
“[I’m] waiting for people to say that we are overreacting because minorities can be the butt of jokes even racists ones and its not a big deal ffs.”
Complaints that some properties harder to sell to minority groups under the ethnic ratio policy leads to many homeowners applying for exemptions. Some political parties such as the Workers’ Party and the Singapore People’s Party have campaigned on abolishing it.
The couple said their musical act was meant to promote a house tour for a property in Jalan Bukit Merah. An Aug. 24 post shows the couple dressed in costume for the video shoot.
— kya (@skeletonjacket) September 12, 2020
They said the sole intention for their gaffe was to appeal to the non-Chinese, adding that they had the approval and consent of the property’s owner to proceed with their marketing plan.
“We have put in a considerable amount of time to search for costumes, come up with a small dance routine to our best capability, and practicing the Tamil and [Malay] phrases repeatedly to make sure we don’t mispronounce it,” the couple said.
“However, we apologise that we have not considered thoroughly on the topic of cultural appropriation and it is indeed insensitive of us to allow such an inappropriate event to happen,” they added, though most complaints were about ridicule, not misappropriation.
The couple also said that they were taking the time to reflect on their mistakes.
“We admit that we have done wrong in our approach in this matter and vow to constantly look at things critically and from all possible angles from now on to avoid such events in the future,” they said.
Since launching their YouTube channel last year, the duo has used it to share real estate advice and post house tours in places like Punggol Waterway and The Sail at Marina Bay, but none other appeared to match the tone-deaf theatrics like that in Bukit Merah.
A behind-the-scenes video titled Behind the scenes of 13 Jalan Bukit Merah Home Tour [Vlog Ep.02] is also no longer publicly available.
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