Mother and son being investigated for using racial slurs on Instagram

The 53-year-old woman and her 19-year-old son had repeatedly uttered a racial slur during an Instagram live video on June 3.
The 53-year-old woman and her 19-year-old son had repeatedly uttered a racial slur during an Instagram live video on June 3.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean woman and her son are under investigation for using racial slurs and vulgarities on Instagram with the intent to "wound the racial feelings of others", the police said on Wednesday (June 10).

The 53-year-old woman and her 19-year-old son had repeatedly uttered a racial slur during an Instagram live video on June 3, which was watched by about 60 viewers at the time.

Supposedly streamed to defend the man's use of the word in a separate video he made in 2016, the live video saw the mother and son attempting to justify themselves by saying that it was just "a figure of speech", even as viewers increasingly voiced their discontent and accused them of racism.

The police said they were prompted to investigate after members of the public filed several reports against the pair between June 3 and June 5.

"The police treat acts that can threaten racial or religious harmony in Singapore very seriously," the police said in the statement.

"Any person who makes remarks that can cause ill-will and hostility between the different races and religions will be dealt with swiftly and firmly."

Video clips of the incident were shared widely on platforms like Twitter, leading to the hosts of local podcast OKLETSGO to invite the mother and son to their programme for an "educational session".

Other guests in the three-part podcast included African-Singaporeans and a man who had recently conducted an interview with a black comedian in the United States, during the protests prompted by Mr George Floyd's death.

African American George Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, ignoring his pleas that he could not breathe. Protests against systemic racism and police brutality erupted across the United States, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets.

 
 
 

The hosts wrote on their podcast blurb: "We wanted to find out what made them feel (it's) OK to do so, what is their understanding behind the term, and if they knew why people were unhappy with the video."

The 19-year-old man said on the podcast that he had been brought up on a diet of hip-hop and rap music and so found the use of the slur natural.

The term has more recently been reclaimed by some African-Americans as a term of empowerment but has long been used as a racial slur to degrade black people. 

If found guilty, mother and son can be jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.