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This week Chris Lilley is blackface-ing again, and why won’t Donald Trump just log off Twitter?

15 Apr 2019

Courtesy of Netflix

Every news website feels a bit like The Onion, Daily Mash, or Reductress as we’re living in an age that is almost too absurd to satirise. When Donald Trump launched an unhinged attack on Ilhan Omar, it sadly didn’t come as a surprise. As Netflix dropped a new preview of Lunatics, a series from Summer Heights High’s Chris Lilley, due to his history with playing indigenous people in his other comedy shows, many took aim. Meanwhile, a white couple in the US think that they can improve Chinese food with their new restaurant that sells a “clean” remix on the “icky” meals we’re used to from other Chinese restaurants. It’s “gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, corn-free, peanut-, cashew- and pistachio-free”, but full of stereotypes about the original cuisine that some Chinese-Americans didn’t take too kindly to. Read on for more:

Trump crudely connected Ilhan Omar to 9/11 on Twitter, is this real life?

Over in the US, the smear campaign against Minnesota’s Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar continues. President Donald Trump thought it was acceptable to share a snippet of Omar’s speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, cut with footage of the 9/11 attacks which ends with the words: “We remember”.

In the speech, she describes “the discomfort of being a second-class citizen” as a Muslim in America. After the September 11 attacks, she said, advocates “recognised that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties”.

Trump has since been accused of “inciting violence” and condemned globally, prompting the hashtag #IStandwithIlhan. Rising star of US politics, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), has been slammed for making an incredibly astute point, warning of the repetition of our not so distant history. The Bronx congresswoman posted on Twitter: “@IlhanMN’s life is in danger. For our colleagues to be silent is to be complicit in the outright, dangerous targeting of a member of Congress. We must speak out,” she wrote.

‘Clean’ restaurant run by a white couple wants to fix Chinese food

Lucky Lee’s is a “clean Chinese” restaurant that recently opened in New York started by blogger Arielle Haspel for her husband Lee. After branding Chinese food as “greasy”, “icky”, and “salty” and introducing her alternative as “clean” and “healthified”, Lucky Lees received a huge backlash, particularly from South-East Asian Americans.

For many people who regularly eat authentic Chinese cuisine, Arielle’s comments played into racial food stereotypes in order to sell her restaurant.

Tiffany Weitien, a Taiwanese-American who works for an organisation that advocates for low-income Asian Americans and immigrants, told gal-dem that Haspel being white wasn’t necessarily the issue, but “more should be said about economic injustice and the lack of access to capital in communities of colour to start similar ventures”.

“The fact remains that American Chinese food, love it or hate it, ‘authentic’ or not, MSG or no MSG, is still a result of decades of labour by Chinese immigrants, who had to adapt their food in times of intense xenophobia and economic exclusion. Still today, Chinese restaurants provide many newly-arrived immigrants with their first job in the States,” explained Weitien, who grew up in the Bay Area melting pot. “So when you insult these establishments, in a way you’re also insulting the people who run them by reinforcing the same stereotypes that contributed to their exclusion in the first place.”

Being a “cultural appreciator”, Weitien said, is about respecting cultural history and labour. Food is at the crux of many cultures but is regularly borrowed and reinterpreted, with respect for its history and context erased. Not many people would condemn the sharing of different cuisine, and food exploration is a beautiful thing, but when the traditional foods of oppressed cultures are regurgitated and repackaged by white people without respect, it’s a particular kick in the teeth.

Summer Heights High creator Chris Lilley is in another blackface row

Chris Lilley is being criticised for his use of blackface following the release of his new Netflix show Lunatics.

The Australian actor has been condemned for his use of blackface before, and the introduction of his new character Jana appears to be more of the same. Jana is described as a “South African lesbian and a pet psychic”, and has an afro and thick South African accent.

Numerous people have defended the actor, saying he is making a satirical point about transracialism, inspired by the likes of Rachel Dolezal. Even if this is so, it seems askew for Netflix to give priority to a white man with a history of problematic blackface, to address this issue, instead of passing the mic to black creatives who probably have a lot to say about Rachel.


  • Take time to remember one of the bloodiest act of violent oppression in Britain’s colonial occupation that took place in Amritsar, India, 100 years ago on April 13, 1919. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre saw over 500 unarmed men, women and children, who were attending a political meeting in the infamous walled garden, gunned down with 1,650 rounds of bullets.
  • Head and Shoulders have been accused of cultural appropriation after advertising the traditional African hairstyle cornrows as an “English braid”.
  • Iconic 90s documentary capturing Harlem’s drag ball scene, Paris Is Burning, has been re-released.
  • At least five transgender candidates are standing in India’s national election, a turning point for a hugely marginalised community.
  • Who remembers, Lizzie McGuire’s best mate Miranda Sanchez? The actress who played her, Lalaine Vergara-Paras has opened up about being forced to look “as white as possible” in Hollywood, and regularly masked her Filipino heritage.
  • Sports Minister Mims Davies gave an oral statement on racism in football, vowing to review football’s current sanctioning regime, and increase the number of people from BAME backgrounds in football professions beyond playing.
  • The son of a Louisiana police deputy, Holden Matthews, has been arrested as the suspect in three fires at black churches.
  • China’s Xinjiang government has used the Christchurch terror attack to justify its mass surveillance and detention of Uyghur Muslims, saying they are protecting rather than oppressing the minority population. Sorry, what?
  • Abortion has been banned in South Korea for 66 years, but this is set to change after the court ruled it must be lifted by the end of 2020. Previously, women who had abortions in SK could face up to a year in prison and be fined over £1.5k.
  • Arts Council England has launched research into BAME representation in children’s literature, saying it does not “adequately reflect the diversity of twenty-first century Britain”.
  • Good news: your landlord can no longer throw you out of your rented accommodation on short notice for no reason

Moment of the week

Donald Glover and Rihanna’s film Guava Island is finally here and it’s amazing. What could be better than a full hour of Childish Gambino songs reworked as a serenade, scenes with a carnival atmosphere, and looks from GQ’s Mobolaji Dawodu.