Circles.Life's IG post riding on trending racist video labelled 'tone deaf'

Circles.Life Singapore has been criticised by netizens for its "tone deaf" Instagram post which read: "This post was designed by a Filipino. Copywritten by a Malay. Approved by a Chinese." The post added: "From a Singaporean brand that is 100% for the people." Meanwhile, the caption said that "this is the right direction" and that Circles.Life is sure of it, with a winking face emoji.

The telco's trendjacking attempt came after a string of racist incidents in Singapore. They include a woman being subjected to racial slurs and assaulted last month while walking along Choa Chu Kang Drive, a woman questioning passengers about their ethnicity while filming them at the same time, and more recently a Chinese man making racist remarks towards an interracial couple.

circles life ig post

Netizens, however, were not amused and several criticised the post for being "tone deaf". One added that the telco "downplays the very distasteful incident with what is an equally distasteful ad". One comment even claimed that this brings attention to marketers needing to have their own anti-racism work and understand terms such as "wokewashing" and "tokenism".

According to the Cambridge dictionary, tokenism represents actions that result from pretending to give advantage to groups in society that are often unfairly treated, in order to portray the appearance of fairness. Meanwhile, a handful also sarcastically commented that the Chinese got it wrong for approving the ad, while one netizen also said Filipino is not a race. The Instagram post garnered 716 likes and 183 comments at the time of writing.

The same post was also shared on Circles.Life’s Facebook page, which also received mainly negative comments from netizens. Only one said this was “brilliant” while the rest said not all issues should be trendjacked. Another netizen also called this a “joke”. The post had 93 reactions, 21 comments and 31 shares at the time of writing. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Circles.Life Singapore for comment.

Prior to Circles.Life's post, a video gained traction online and showed a man, who acknowledged being a Chinese Singaporean, claiming that "Indian" individuals are preying on "Chinese girl[s]". Multiple media outlets including Channel NewsAsia reported that the man told the interracial couple to date within their own race. According to Channel NewsAsia, the man in the video is reportedly a staff member of Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and has since been suspended from his duties. Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported that the man is an engineering lecturer at the polytechnic.

An NP spokesperson confirmed the suspension to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, adding that it was aware of the video circulating on social media of "an individual making racist remarks against an interracial couple".

“We regret that the individual in question is a member of our staff. We take a very serious view of the matter as the remarks made by the individual are highly offensive, disrespectful and goes against our staff Code of Conduct and values as a community,” the spokesperson said. The polytechnic is investigating this matter internally, including considering the appropriate disciplinary action to be taken, the spokesperson said, adding that police investigations are ongoing. 

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