The controversy: In an unearthed video from 2016, 24-year-old Koshy and her then-boyfriend David Dobrik, 23, were seen pretending to speak Japanese while trying out some Japanese candy.
TikTok user @callmesukiwi called attention to the content on June 21, saying it’s a “clear example of the normalized racism against Asians.”
“They’re trying Japanese candy and pretending to talk in Japanese as a joke. Isn’t that still… racist?” she asked.
In the video titled “Couples Trying Japanese Candy,” Dobrik can be heard saying, “It’s not racist, that’s like the sounds I hear when they talk.” To this, Koshy responded with: “No, it’s not racist as long as I keep saying ‘no.'”
A second video titled “Couple Trying Foreign Candy,” showed the two pretending to speak Japanese after eating snacks from Hawaii.
“It’s pretty ridiculous how the mocking of Asian culture is so normalized 🤦 how is this even funny??” one user commented. “Please respect our language and culture.”
“This video literally made me so angry when it came out,” another commenter wrote. “They mocked several accents.”
The apology: On Sunday, Koshy took to Instagram to apologize publicly without specifically mentioning the resurfaced videos.
Quoting author and historian Ibram X. Kendi, Koshy wrote: “You can be someone who has no intention to be racist, but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-Black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas.”
She continued that the quote has been in her heart since it was shared with her in a conversation some time ago. “While we focus on systemic anti-Black racism in the country, I’ve been hesitant to center my voice. My work has been within but now I recognize and take responsibility for the times I was not the ally I am becoming today.”
According to Koshy, to be anti-racist means to have a “personal reckoning” and that continuing to use her platform for such causes means she also has to take accountability.
“I am taking inventory, taking initiative and taking note that my impact and influence will weigh greater than my intention,” she wrote.
Koshy admitted that although she thought then that her jokes were “innocent,” she now knows they were “actually tainted with implicit bias, and what might have been intended as ‘playful’ was actually to some, incredibly painful.”
“As a woman of color and self-defined ‘little brown girl,’ I have experienced the harm of prejudices in my own life,” she said, noting her own experiences with racism. “However, this reality does not exempt me from the responsibility of acknowledging the times I’ve unknowingly perpetuated racist ideas.”
“I see now that some of my previous influences and my own past thinking, speaking and storytelling reinforced stereotypes,” Koshy said. “I am sorry to the beautiful communities I have caused hurt within.”
TikTok user @callmesukiwi appreciated Koshy’s apology, writing on a follow-up post: “Thank you @lizzza for apologizing and recognizing the impact of your actions! @daviddobrik what about you?”
As of this writing, Dobrik has yet to address the resurfaced videos.
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