Fashion blogger and journalist Susie Lau and “Crazy Rich Asians” star Gemma Chan have called out the Sunday Times for playing down the “casual racism” in its tribute article to the late Prince Philip, who died earlier this month at 99 years old.
The Sunday Times published a front page report one day after Prince Philip’s funeral on April 18, saying the British public “secretly enjoyed” the late Duke of Edinburgh’s racist comments, according to Insider.
Lau, known as @susiebubble on Instagram, posted about the catch on the social media platform while listing an extensive compilation of reasons why she is demanding “a retraction and apology for the piece,” alongside ESEA Network members Ying Suen, Anny Ma, and Ruth Lie.
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“To her subjects, Prince Philip was the longest-serving consort in British history — an often crotchety figure, offending people with gaffes about slitty eyes, even if secretly we rather enjoyed them,” the paper’s chief foreign correspondent Christina Lamb wrote.
The article caused massive outrage online. Chan, a British Chinese actress who appeared in “Raya and the Last Dragon” and will star in Chloe Zhao’s “The Eternals,” also took to social media to call out the newspaper.
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“The fact that this was written by a journalist who should know better, approved by editors and sent to print,” the 38-year-old actress wrote in her Instagram post. “To trivialize casual racism in the most widely read Sunday broadsheet at a point when the Asian diaspora is experiencing a surge of attacks is deeply irresponsible.”
Lau and Chan went on to encourage people to sign a petition asking The Sunday Times and Lamb to retract the line in the article and offer an apology.
Besea.n, a UK-based grassroots movement that promotes positive media representation of East Asian and Southeast Asian people, criticized the article and called out The Sunday Times for normalizing racism, Standard reported.
“The fact that this comment went into print shows how normalized racism is in our society towards ESEA people,” a spokesperson from the group said. “The media have the power to shape their audience’s knowledge and understanding of important topics including different cultures, and ‘secretly enjoying’ racist remarks from a prominent figure only encourages others to do it.”
Following the backlash, The Sunday Times editor Emma Tucker offered a public apology on behalf of the publication and commented on the writer’s history of reporting on discrimination.
“This so-called ‘gaffe’ made by Prince Philip was a well-known aspect of his life story. The Sunday Times did not intend to condone it,” Tucker said. “It was noted by us on Saturday night that the sentence was offensive and it was not published in digital editions.”
“Christina Lamb has spent her whole career reporting on discrimination and injustices against people in every part of the world and never intended to make light of his remark in any way,” she continued.
Prince Philip had a long history of racist and sexist remarks spanning nearly 40 years, which were brushed off as “gaffes,” Mashable reported.
The prince, who married Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, described Beijing as “ghastly” during his trip to China in 1986 where he told British students, “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”
He also reportedly made insensitive comments targeting Cantonese people and their cuisine that same year.
“If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an airplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it,” he said.
Some of his other offensive remarks include: in 1984, to a Kenyan woman, “You are a woman, aren’t you?” as she gave him a gift; in 1988, “I don’t think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing”; in 2002, he asked whether Indigenous Australians “still throw spears at each other”; and in 2013, to hospital nurses, “The Philippines must be half-empty — you’re all here running the NHS.”