Just weeks after a controversy over a Hong Kong school textbook, which, according to critics, goaded schoolchildren to racially stereotype their neighbors, now comes a Malaysian bank’s racist advertisement intended for its Hong Kong market that portrayed Filipina domestic helpers as clumsy and in ‘blackface.’
(Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by performers to represent a black person. It is often considered offensive because it stereotyped black people as buffoons)
The Malaysia’s Hong Leong Bank’s controversial insurance commercial showed a Chinese actor garbed in a maid’s uniform, wearing a wooly wig and dark orange make-up to make him look dark-skinned as he portrayed a bumbling Filipina maid named ‘Maria.’
Netizens were again outraged with this apparent racism and many took to social media to protest Hong Leong Bank’s domestic helper insurance advert. They flooded the bank’s social media pages with comments and calls for a boycott on the banks products and services.
A twitter user said, “@HongLeongGroup Congratulations for your beautiful racist and quite homophobic ad. Thanks. We are #NotBuyingit.”
Another posted a message urging Hong Leong Bank to withdraw the controversial commercial and demanded a public apology from the bank:
“The advertisement featuring a domestic worker in blackface is racist and deeply offensive. It is simply dehumanizing and there is no excuse for it. Your management and board ought to be ashamed.
I urge you to withdraw this advert from all forms of public display (whether on TV, online or on buses) and make a full public apology. That is the minimum needed to show you do not support discrimination and racism.
If you cannot even take those basic steps, consumers should boycott all Hong Leong products and services.”
Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, describing the ad as “very racist,” said the advertisement is making a “comedy out of someone, out of a community” and should apologize for it. She added that to Hong Kong residents, the ad is funny, but “what they don’t realize is what is funny is actually racist.”
Lestari said the bank should have hired an actor from Indonesia or the Philippines to play the maid.
Hong Leong Bank has withdrawn the commercial and said it was not intended to be discriminatory on ground of race and gender.
“We regret that our recent advertisement resulted in comments about the advertisement being racist. At no time did Hong Leong intend to offend any person or be to any extent discriminatory on grounds of race, s*x or otherwise.
Nevertheless, we have taken action to withdraw the said advertisement as we sincerely do not wish to upset any member of the public,” the bank’s spokeswoman Norlina Yunus said in a statement.
Here’s the controversial Hong Leong Bank’s domestic helper insurance commercial: