Malaysian fashion designer Bernard Chandran has copped flak for allegedly cashing in on the Black Lives Matter movement to sell his masks. Netizens recently discovered an Instagram post made in June by Chandran featuring a black face donning a yellow mask with the Bernard Chandran branding on it.
On top of the mask was the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Likewise, the picture was captioned #BlackLivesMatter. The price of his designer masks ranged from RM39.90 to RM55.90. Netizens on Instagram called the fashion designer out for being “tone deaf” and “racist”, with some expressing their disgust at the marketing stunt and saying it was “very poorly thought out”. One netizen even said that “profiting off the deaths of thousands of innocent African Americans is not a personality”.
Meanwhile, Chandran was also criticised for blackface, with one netizen asking him to “understand Jim Crow and the racist ideology of the blackface” before making such a post. Others also called for him to speak up about racism in Malaysia too. A+M has reached out to Chandran for comment.
Blackface is a term used to describe a form of theatrical make-up used by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person. Such a practice was mainly used by the white performers in the past to portray negative stereotypes of African Americans, such as being lazy, ignorant, criminal or cowardly.
Chandran was not the only individual recently criticised for blackface. In June, local production house Zeel Production apologised for the use of blackface during the filming of Dayang Senandung, which is based on a Malay folklore. This came shortly after a TikTok video circulating online showed actress Wani Kayrie dancing while wearing blackface make up. The actress also posted on Instagram Stories that she was filming Dayang Senandung.
In 2017, Watsons Malaysia also came under fire when its "Legenda Cun Raya" campaign for Hari Raya sparked a debate online for portraying a "blackface" lady as unattractive. The campaign featured popular personalities in Malaysia, such as Uqasha Senrose, Kamal Adli, Raja Ilya, Ruhainies, Sasha Saidin, Amber Chia, Thanuja and Alvin Chong.
On an international level, Gucci also apologised and pulled a black polo neck sweater from its online and physical stores last year, after it caused an outrage online on its racial profiling of the "blackface" imagery. Netizens pointed out the similarity of the neck sweater to a racially offensive golliwog. Golliwogs are grotesque creatures, with very dark, often jet black skin, large white-rimmed eyes, red or white clown lips, and wild, frizzy hair. The golliwog was a story book character created in 1895, that have caused a debate amongst many if it is an icon or a racist symbol.
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