The Ex-Miss Universe Malaysia Racial Remarks Backlash

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Uproar over James’ tone-deaf remarks.

Consequences:

  • Pageant organiser has distanced itself
  • Makeup company has cut ties
  • In less than 24 hours, over 10,000 signed a petition calling for James’ crown to be revoked
  • Heavily criticised by celebrities and social media users
  • Loses Instagram ‘blue tick’

The beauty pageant organiser Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation (Mumo) has distanced itself from Miss Universe Malaysia 2017 winner Samantha Katie James’ remarks on the “Black Lives Matter” protests in the US.

The group expressed dismay with James and said her remarks were “inappropriate, offensive, unacceptable, and hurtful”.

It said James’ views are her own and does not represent the organisation.

“Mumo stands for a non-racial society and strongly condemns all acts of racism and prejudice anywhere in the world,” the group said in a statement.

It added that James is not contracted to Mumo and has not represented the organisation since June 2018.

Mumo national director Datin Elaine Daly expressed shock over James’ remarks, saying they were “horrendous”.

“I did not expect this especially three years down the road after she finished her reign with us for us to get this kind of backlash,” she said.

Daly, a qualified lawyer who was crowned Miss Malaysia Universe 2003 said the pageant prides itself on empowering women, giving them a platform to have a voice as well as offering access to education through scholarships.

“It’s not about putting a girl in a bikini and it’s not just having a pretty face there.

“It’s giving you a pedestal, a voice to speak out about the right things, not the wrong things like what she (James) has done.

Instagram

“She has not done the right thing at all, I’m shocked,” said Daly.

James courted controversy through her comments regarding the protests posted on her Instagram Stories.

The 25-year-old beauty queen said that she does not live in America and that the protests had nothing to do with her, but she viewed it as the “whites” had won.

“Because if you’re angry, you respond in rage and anguish. That means it has power over you… Foolish humans.

“To the black people, relax. Take it as a challenge, makes you stronger. You chose to be born as a ‘coloured’ person in America for a reason. To learn a certain lesson.

Facebook

“Accept it as it is, till now hunger and poverty exists. It is what it is. Best you can do is remain calm, protect heart, and don’t allow it to crumble. That’s your responsibility,” she said.

When people began criticising her lack of knowledge on racial discrimination because of her social privilege, she hit back and said that she had been “insulted all (her) life for being a white girl in a local Malaysian school” and that her headmistress had warned her “not to bring Western culture” to her classmates.

James is of mixed parentage and has a Malaysian-Chinese mother and a Brazilian father.

She also posted screenshots of a conversation with a netizen asking what she meant by “choosing” to be born as coloured.

Her response read: “Like our souls chose this life, this country, this race, this human form – specifically – for a reason.”

Her remarks have drawn widespread scorn from netizens, while an “edit war” broke out on her Wikipedia entry until a site administrator temporarily locked it from further editing to deter vandalism of the webpage.

Meanwhile, local makeup company Velvet Vanity has cut ties with James.

The brand issued a statement on Instagram last night to denounce James’ views while clarifying that they are no longer affiliated with the former beauty queen.

“Since the beginning of our journey, we are dedicated to cater to everyone albeit their skin colour so for us to support her (James’) wrongdoings would be contradictory to our brand name.

“Any posts featuring (James) was made way before this case and we are not affiliated with her anymore.

“As a brand, we support #blacklivesmatter and we would never associate ourselves with racist behaviours in any way,” read the statement.

James previously modelled one of Velvet Vanity’s lipsticks in a post on her Instagram feed.

Following her controversial remarks on the ongoing protests in the US, social media users began tagging Velvet Vanity en masse, with one user asking the brand to “stop sponsoring racists.”

In the meantime, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition demanding that James give up her title.

The Change.org petition titled “Strip Samantha Katie James of her Miss Universe Malaysia Crown and Title” was started by Marcus Gan and Yee Heng Zeh yesterday evening, who said that James was unfit to represent Malaysia on the global stage.

“She is a public figure with over 160,000 followers on Instagram.

“She misused her platform and social media presence to voice out her blatantly racist and ignorant remarks.

“Her ignorance and lack of self and privilege awareness do not reflect the Miss Universe Malaysia title and with this petition, we hope she will be stripped of her title,” said Gan and Yee.

Expressing solidarity with protests, actor Henry Golding said James’ remarks had “infuriated” him.

“You have zero idea what black people have to go through on a day-to-day basis. For you to be talking such racist nonsense on a platform like yours needs to be called out.

“The majority of us will never truly be able to understand what the black community go through every single day, but one thing for sure you can do is to lend a voice.

“To teach people and educate them on opening their eyes to what’s under the veil. It is hundreds of years of oppression and injustices kept in place by money and power from people such as yourself. Ignorant, selfish people,” he said on his Instagram stories early Tuesday (June 2) morning.

He also called James a “two bit celeb”, adding that he was not going to “stand idly” as she “spouts some horrible s***”.

Veteran radio announcer and actress Datuk Yasmin Yusoff urged James to take down her controversial remarks.

Yasmin, who is also former Miss Universe Malaysia 1978, advised James to publicly apologise to the world.

“I’m shocked she hasn’t taken down her posts.

“She should have removed the posts, apologise and don’t explain herself further.”

Although Yasmin was lost for words to express her views over the issue, she said she was totally puzzled by James’ remarks and couldn’t really interpret what the 25-year-old was trying to say in her series of Instagram stories last night.

“I tried to re-read her remarks multiple times, but no matter how positive I tried to spin it on her behalf, I still couldn’t get it.

“I’m surprised that she chose to comment on such a huge issue.

“If it was me, I would have just expressed my views on the violence and not about the racial issues,” she said.

Many social media users have since condemned James’ remarks.

However, comedian Harith Iskander has come to James’ defence, accusing her detractors of cyberbullying, although he also acknowledged that what she had done was “not cool”.

“What I want to call out is the response to her post from people who should know better – responses like this who refer to her as a ‘******* waste of space’.

“This borders on cyberbullying,” he said.

James has implied that those angry over her comments are hypocrites after she started receiving hate on social media.

In an Instagram Story posted yesterday afternoon, James did not apologise for her remarks and focused instead on the spiteful comments flooding her profile.

“The very same people who fight for injustice respond in such ways. Such nasty comments.

“What a shame. I see the true colours now. Says everything about a person, how they respond to such situations.

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“What a great lesson!” James wrote.

She also posted another Instagram Story criticising a childhood friend for publicly condemning her views and accused her friend of “following the masses.”

“I don’t understand this childhood friend of mine, following the masses instead of calling me up and hearing it from me.

“Shows everything about them. Thank you universe for showing me what they actually are.”

The 25-year-old added that she did not blame her friend for calling her out and claimed that the person only did so because “they don’t know any better.”

The model from Klang has stayed quiet on social media as calls for her Miss Universe Malaysia crown to be revoked grow louder.

Instagram also removed James’ blue tick verification symbol on her profile following the uproar over her tone-deaf remarks.

The verification symbol according to Instagram means that it has confirmed that the account is the “authentic presence of the public figure, celebrity or global brand it represents.”

James’ online gaffe made headlines on various online portals yesterday, including UK newspapers The Independent and the Daily Star.

Demonstrations have broken out in several US cities over the death of George Floyd in police custody, which later turned violent with widespread looting and arson.

Peaceful protesters have also gathered in cities like London and Berlin in solidary with the demonstrators in the US.

A curfew has been imposed in parts of the US, and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has advised Malaysians there to obey the curfew and avoid the protests.