“Whites Only” Party Canceled After Massive Internet Backlash

Source: Flickr/Wayan Vota

Every now and then, a story rises on the internet that’s so absurd that it almost seems like it’s a farce. There’s no way that people really think like this, or would be so thoughtless as to actually think that something was a good idea, right? In these cases, more often than not the truth is all the more disturbing.

A Story Out of South Asia

One such story has recently come out of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia, home to approximately 22 million residents. It is famous as a vacation destination for countries all around the world, and brings in a significant portion of revenue due to tourism.

Source: Wikimedia/Regunathan Umapathy

Sri Lanka has also found itself inundated recently with displaced migrants from Russia and Ukraine, following the beginning of the most recent war between the two countries. Russian and Ukrainian immigrants have sought solace in the island nation, and for the most part, Sri Lanka has welcomed them.

A “Whites Only” Party Advertised Online

Backlash has come towards one of these migrants in recent weeks, though, after an event was posted online for a “whites only” party. The advertisement of the event specified a white dress code, but also had a line saying “Face control: White.”

Source: Wikimedia/AKS.9955

This second line was largely interpreted to mean that the event was only open to white people. In a South Asian country, implying that only white people would be allowed into an event is a deep insult, and one that the internet took massive exception to.

The Party Was Cancelled

The party was meant to take place last Saturday, but was ultimately canceled after the massive amount of backlash that the organizer faced, both in person and online. Many on social media called it “disgusting” and “racist.”

Source: Wikimedia/Bernard Gagnon

The event was due to be held in the Sarayka Lounge in the southern coastal town of Unawatuna. The venue was the first to announce that the event had been canceled, releasing a statement apologizing for the insensitivity of the event.

More Thorough Background Check Needed

The staff admitted that the team “did not conduct a thorough-enough check” regarding the event, and have since “severed ties” with the event planners.

Source: Wikimedia/Saaremees

“We have never supported and will never support various racist statements or organizations,” they wrote, completing their statement. And while the statement was the right thing to do, there were some online who felt that the statement rung false, particularly in light of the fact that the organizers and the owners of the Lounge itself are thought to be Russian citizens.

“Little Moscow”

This is not unusual in the town of Unawatuna. Rupasena Koswatta, the president of a local entrepreneurs’ association, told BBC Sinhala that many Russians have moved into Galle, which is a coastal city just 5 kilometers away from Unawatuna in the past two years.

Source: Wikimedia/Shehal

This influx of immigration can be understandably traced to the war in Ukraine. The migration pattern has become so widespread that many of the tourism businesses in the area are now owned by Russians, and it is known by many locals as Sri Lanka’s “Little Moscow.”

An Apology from the Organizers

As far as the organizer of the event themselves, they immediately took to the internet to apologize for their “oversight” after the backlash forced the event to be canceled.

Source: Wikimedia/Arvindkumarn

They explained that the event was probably a “bad idea,” but that it was simply meant as an event to bring together expatriates. He said that there was “no malice or racism” in planning the party, no matter how it might appear at first glance.

The Statement Concluded

“We wanted to meet expats who have been living here for a long time and love Sri Lanka,” the statement read. “The team…supported me and a joint decision was made to quickly organize a party.”

Source: Wikimedia/Mystic at the English-language

The statement concluded, “I didn’t expect this to be such a sensitive moment for a huge number of people. I admit that it was a bad idea…and I understand that we created it ourselves out of our stupidity. I deeply apologize to everyone whose feelings were hurt.”

A Hypocritical Idea

The organizer of the event has evidently had to leave the country due to threats received in the wake of this event. While it’s never acceptable to threaten violence against a person, some of the upset from locals is understandable.

Source: Wikimedia/A.Savin, FAL

Many of the comments regarding the party have pointed out the hypocrisy of coming to a country full of brown natives, and expecting only to meet with white people. “I know not all expats are like this…but this sort of thing should be stopped fast and hard,” said one local restaurant owner in a statement.

Government Getting Involved

And while the backlash against both the restaurant and the organizers of the event was swift and final, it was not the end of the story. Not only did local organizers get involved in the debacle, but the local government did too.

Source: Wikimedia/Mystic at the English Wikipedia

As mentioned, a significant number of Ukrainian and Russian immigrants have made their way into Sri Lanka in the last several years, and immigrants to the country necessarily need visas in order to live and work in the country without being deported.

A Statement from the Russian Embassy

In the aftermath of the “whites only party” debacle, the Russian Embassy in Colombo released a statement saying it “strongly condemns all forms of racial discrimination and nationalism.”

Source: Wikimedia/Sergei Gussev

The embassy went on to encourage locals and Russian citizens alike to follow Sri Lanka’s laws, as well as respect local customs. Many commented on the statement online, implying that it was “too little, too late” for the damage that one Russian had caused, but the statement was released nonetheless.

The Sri Lankan Government Steps in Too

And beyond the statement that was released by the Russian Embassy, the Sri Lankan government announced a new development as well. The party was meant to take place on Saturday, and on Sunday, the government announced that it would be ending long-term tourist visa extensions for Russians and Ukrainians.

Source: Wikimedia/Steve Evans from Citizen of the World

This was a stunning statement, particularly in light of the sheer number of individuals that the statement would affect. More than 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have immigrated to Sri Lanka since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The President Clarifying

When asked about the new rules that were being put into place surrounding immigration of Russians and Ukrainians, though, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the president of Sri Lanka, reported that the decision was made without prior Cabinet approval.

Source: Wikimedia/Helene C. Stikkel

What this means for the immigration status of Ukrainians and Russians in Sri Lanka is uncertain, in light of this information. Long-term Visas can last for months or years depending on the circumstance, and if the change in rules ends up permanent, there’s a chance that some individuals will need to head back to their home countries starting very soon.

Ultimately, a Nightmare

What may have seemed like an innocent bit of fun has, unfortunately, turned into both a local and official nightmare. Both local government officials and the organizers of the event have found themselves in trouble for different reasons, and it will take some skilled maneuvering to determine where to go from here.

Source: Wikimedia/Adbar

It’s an excellent example of the importance of thinking things through before posting about them, especially in the wild west of the internet. While the intentions of the organizers might have been good, the execution was ultimately poor and this will be something that will, unfortunately, hang over them for a long time.

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James Cross

Written by James Cross

James Cross, an enigmatic writer from the historic city of Boston. James' writing delves into mysteries, true crime, and the unexplained, crafting compelling narratives that keep readers and viewers on the edge of their seats. His viral articles, blog posts, and documentary-style videos explore real-life enigmas and unsolved cases, inviting audiences to join the quest for answers. James' ability to turn real mysteries into shareable content has made him a sensation in the world of storytelling.

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