Migrant X Me LLP (“MXME”), a social enterprise, has been the subject of controversy and increased public scrutiny over the past couple of days. Many on social media have expressed concern over the organisation’s tone-deaf captions, poor understanding of racial issues and promotion of poverty porn.
Rapper and Activist Subhas posted a series of images relating to the organisation on Instagram on Friday evening with the caption:-

This is @migrantxme.
They are a social enterprise that profits off of producing, marketing and selling poverty porn.
Their ‘best selling’ service includes “The Prejudice Trail” where they get paid by schools to bring kids to Farrer Park/Little India to observe migrant men.
The founder uses a hashtag ‘#banglahomies’ and identified as a migrant worker during their time overseas.
Their work seems to proselytize, and the link in their bio brings you to their gift shop.
Their 26-year old “business developer” thought migrant workers were “criminals” sent to work in Singapore as “punishment” until last year.
The savior complex is incredible.
Why are we celebrating such mediocrity and blatant profiteering?
#banglahomies ??????
Please donate directly to organizations that actually stand for something.

MXME is also one of the four organisations that make up COVID MIgrant Support Coalition (CMSC). The CMSC is a coalition of NGOs that provides support to migrant workers on the ground. The CMSC has government-approved permits to mobilise volunteers and manage large warehouse spaces. The CMSC has also developed “close partnerships with organisations and government agencies” like Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) that grants them “access to 600 unlisted factory-converted dormitories”.
Meet the Team

The founder of MXME is Isabel, who came under fire for the use of the hashtag #banglahomies to refer to migrant workers.

The business development executive of MXME is one Seah Cheng, 26. In an interview with Straits Times earlier this year, Seah shared that until he was introduced to a migrant worker at Queenstown Baptist Church in May 2019, he believed that migrant workers were “criminals“.
Further, Cheng also believed that migrant workers were sent to Singapore “to work for very low pay as punishment“.
In a separate interview with THIRST, Seah shared that helping migrant workers helped him understand God better.

 “Through my work, I’ve come to know God’s love for (the migrant workers). I’ve come to understand how God is near the lonely and the brokenhearted.
“It’s like when you look at one of those loveable kids, and the thought that comes to your head is ‘wow, their parents must really love them”.

Profiting from Poverty Porn?
One of the common threads in the anger directed towards MXME is how it has possibly promoted and profited from poverty porn. Poverty porn has been defined as “media which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for profits or other forms of gratification”.

In particular, MXME’s “prejudice trail” was lambasted. The trail, which is pitched as a “best-seller” purports to provide people with a “bird’s eye-view and an intimate lens” of a migrant worker’s experience. Many critics have likened MXME’s characterization of migrant workers to animals at a zoo.
Odette Yiu (@1.43am), a migrant rights activitst, explained why such narratives and actions are harmful:-

Why do people refuse to acknowledge that their “charity” work is harmful when:-

  1. It exploits human bodies (e.g. migrant workers) and turns them into a spectacle in order to garner “pity” for them. So, in the very act of trying to humanise them, you are, instead, dehumanising them and continuing to “other” them; and
  2. It reinforces unequal power dynamics (e.g. between migrant workers and Singaporeans) & saviourism …Migrant workers do not need our pity and they do not need to be infantilised, they don’t need people swooping in to be their “saviours” or “heros”. Instead, they need our solidarity.

Proselytizing?
Some users have also questioned whether MXME was involved in efforts to proselytize in the course of their work.

Isabelle had posted a picture with domestic workers at a Deepavali celebration on Instagram with a caption that could suggest proselytizing. TOC understands that Isabelle’s instagram account has since been made private.
Unethical collection of Donations?
Two weeks ago, MXME started raising funds for an NGO, SG Accident Help Center. The organisation put out a call for donations on its Instagram and Facebook pages.
At the time of posting, it was clear that MXME was raising funds for SG Accident Help Center only.

Celebrity Felicia Chin’s Instagram Page contains a screenshot of MXME’s post and the original caption that accompanied the same.

However, after some time, the caption got amended to include the fact that only the first $50,000 raised would be going to SG Accident Help Centre and that the remaining funds would be used to fund MXME’s own operations.
It is not known when the caption was amended to include the limit of $50,000 and the fact that the remaining funds would go to MXME itself.

MXME later revealed that the “additional funds” will go towards their “advocacy for the systemic condtions” and “long-term work in educating the public”, which presumably involves more of their best-selling prejudice trails.
Some donors have messaged MXME privately to complain about the fact that their donations were channeled from SG Accident Help Centre to MXME itself without the consent or knowledge of the donors.
However, they were told in no uncertain terms that any donations beyond the cut-off will go towards funding MXME itself.

TOC understands that this disgruntled donor complained about the lack of transparency and communication from MXME in relation to the cut off of $50,000.


Some users also noted that MXMC has failed to publicly disclose the total amount of donations that it has received.
But what about good intentions?
As the old adage goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. However, as Odette Yiu points out, it is important to note that intentions alone do not excuse or make up for questionable methods and tone-deaf remarks.

An organisation may not be deliberately malicious or sinister in intent, but intent is besides the point. The consequences are still very harmful and dangerous, and we must take care to re-examine and re-conceive advocacy and justice, in replacement of patronising forms of charity. It would do us a lot better to support and donate to organisations that are founded upon these principles and who do work in alignment with these values.

This story will continue to be updated as we receive more information.

Subscribe
Notify of
11 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

Sungei Kadut to be developed into agri-tech park, high-rise industrial facilities

A 30-year plan to redevelop Sungei Kadut is set to revitalise one…

Gov.sg scraps "circuit breaker" mascots after receiving "quite a lot of feedback of the characters"

The Singapore government has just announced that it pulled mascots, collectively known…

How many did not vote?

Leong Sze Hian Since voting is compulsory, what happens if you do…

骑电动车撞碎玻璃自动门 妇女起身走人网民炮轰

太让人傻眼了,阿姨夹着电动代步车撞破玻璃门,然后站起身给电动车熄火后,推车走人,网友都不禁问道“原来她能走的啊!”、“撞破玻璃门就能站起来?康复了?”,要求这位撞破玻璃门的阿姨赔偿。 新捷运于6月1日在脸书上载了一段取自闭路电视的视频,显示在大巴窑巴士转站发生了一宗“撞后逃”事件。视频中只见一名妇女骑着蓝色的电动代步车,撞上正在缓缓打开的玻璃自动门。其中一则的玻璃门被妇女的电动车撞碎了,而妇女才似乎刹车成功般恁了一下,站了起来。她将掉在地上的篮子捡起来后,就推车离开现场。 新捷运在有关视频上提心民众,在室内使用代步工具时要小心,并且表示庆幸此事件并没有造成任何人受伤。 该公司随后也已经报警,警方表示已经接获报案,展开调查。 质疑妇女没行动问题 此视频上载至今吸引了368个评论、482个人反应,以及1627个人转发。 网友多调侃地表示,原来类似意外所引起的惊吓,能够让人立刻站起来。 网民也质疑该名妇女是否真的需要用到电动代步工具,因为她其实能够一瞬间就站起来,类似并没有行动上的问题。 应没收电动车付维修费 网民表示,既然妇女都能行动自如,就应该为她所酿的祸负责。 网友Matthias Sim也提醒新捷运公司,务必让撞碎玻璃门的妇女负责维修费,而不是使用人民的税务来修补。他也要求充公妇女的电动代步车,“显而易见的,她尝试加速才导致玻璃门被撞碎。如果她能够毫发无伤的脱离此事,那么她将不会从事件中吸取教训。”…