S'pore Karens think it's racist to label a food as unhealthy

Feb 02, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
A Singapore Karen that goes by the Twitter handle @asyqnhrn has called out a fitness enthusiast for being a racist.

The offending post? Ayam Masak Merah (literal translation: "red-cooked chicken) or Chicken in Spicy Tomato Sauce, a Malaysian dish popular in Malay cuisine.


The fitness enthusiast known as Dino Kang (@dinokang) published a post on Instagram last Monday (31 Jan) lamenting about the "ridiculously artery-clogging, heart-stopping" dishes that people are consuming everyday.

Accompanying his post is a picture of 2 sets of Ayam Masak Merah with copious amount of oil despite ordering it without gravy.

He said: "Can you imagine, putting ALL THAT OIL & SUGAR into your body day in & day out. I cannot in good conscience do that to my body."

"...blatant racism," says Karen

While the post did not implicitly mentioned race, one Singapore Karen felt it was "blatant racism."


Another Karen (@heymysara) went further by accusing Dino of generalising the cuisine of the entire Malay community with his post despite the original caption not containing references to any particular race or culture.


Said Karen also pointed out that Ayam Masak Merah is food that is culturally connected to the Malays and criticising it is akin to criticising the relationship between Malays and their food.

Netizens disagree with the 'racism' label

Not many netizens agreed with Karen's categorisation that Dino's post is racist.

In fact, it is common knowledge that Ayam Masak Merah is indeed unhealthy but to go further and shut down a post written in the context of health as racism is a sign of an inferiority complex at play.

Or maybe all nutritionists are racist.

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This commentator thinks MCI ad should not have featured poor Malays

May 12, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
A Hari Raya advertisement by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was 'cancelled' by certain netizens online for depicting lower income Malays according to reality.

"Message for Syawal", a two-and-a-half-minute video published last month (Apr 30) captures moments in the life of a low-income Malay family living in a rental flat.


Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

The video, which is peppered with Malay proverbs, shows the family moving out of their rental flat to a new home several years later where they celebrate Hari Raya.

The father of the family works as a mover while the mother is a housewife.

Their young son, Syawal, skips school to earn extra income for his family before a teacher flags his absence from school to his parents.

The mother in the video later decides to return to work to alleviate her family’s financial difficulties while the father gets a new job.

Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

Why some netizens are outraged

The video sparked backlash online, with some viewers saying that it contained stereotypes about the Malay community.

The stereotypes:
  • The father works as a mover - commonly perceived to be a low-income job
  • The mother is jobless
  • The son plays truant
  • The family lives in a rental flat for low-income earners

Commentator implied that poor Malays shouldn't be portrayed in public to prevent stereotypes

Pictured: Screenshot from Homeground Asia video

A video commentary by The Homeground Asia went further by criticizing how the video propagates the narrative that Malays are poor and lazy, and that the ministry should have created a video that is more relatable to both the less fortunate and the more affluent Malays.

Adi Rahman, one of the interviewees in the video went further by making sweeping assumptions that the ministry lacked cultural intelligence and did not consult the community on the narrative.

Ironically, in talking about inclusivity, Adi implied that the realities of poor Malays should not be shown in public.

For example, his rationale suggested that the video contained characters (the mover, jobless mother and the son who skips school) that contribute to the problem of other races seeing the Malays in a stereotypical and reductive light.

In other words, show the good stuff but not the reality.

Adi even accused the ministry for not consulting the Malays in the vetting of the video narrative.

His accusations were without merit, however, when the Ministry said in a statement (Apr 30) that Malay-Muslim viewers - presumably a focus group - had seen the video prior to its release, and perceived the story to be heart-warming, although some expressed reservations.

Pictured: Adi Rahman - one of the commentators in Homeground Asia video

Stereotyping or masking reality?

The ministry said last month (Apr 30) the video was meant to show "a family’s journey of resilience in facing challenging circumstances and how mutual support and encouragement could nurture the process”.

Other netizens felt it was an overreaction and that low-income families shouldn't be dehumanized in a way that they are removed from the conversation. They felt that the video was a call-to-action for those from the underprivileged to strive for a better life through hard work and seeking help that's already available.

The only missed opportunity in the MCI video was perhaps the suggestion that Malays in low income families living in a rental flat could not celebrate Hari Raya unless they get a flat on their own.

But of course, like Homeground Asia, that is also a sweeping assumption.