New Delhi: Billie Eilish, the 19-year-old American singer-songwriter, apologised Monday after a year-old clip of her lip-syncing an anti-Asian slur went viral on social media.
The clip showed a “13 year old” Eilish lip-syncing to the song, ‘Fish’, a 2011 song by Tyler, the Creator, which mentions “ch**k”, a derogatory term for Asian people.
The exact line in the lyrics read: “Slip it in her drink and in the blink of an eye I can make a white girl look ch**k.”
“i mouthed a word from a song that at the time i didn’t know was a derogatory term used against members of the asian community. i am appalled and embarrassed,” Eilish wrote in an apology note shared to her Instagram story.
She added: “…the fact is that it was hurtful. and for that i am sorry.” Eilish said she was “13 or 14” when the video was shot.
The video, which first went viral on TikTok earlier this month, was re-shared on Twitter and garnered nearly 1 million views.
One of the clips in the video also showed Eilish “mocking” the Asian accent while another recorded Eilish’s brother, Finneas, allegedly calling her out for “talking with a blaccent”.
Many viewers deemed her acts racist and demanded a response.
A Twitter user posted: “i think she needs to clarify things because a lot of asian people are offended :/// i’m sad.”
i think she needs to clarify things because a lot of asian people are offended :/// i’m sad
— me chama de cami (@camidrawsss) June 17, 2021
the “im not asian but i forgive her” shit is so fucking stupid like how dumb can you be? https://t.co/dPZxfmQqNh
— 𝙫 𝙚 𝙣 𝙪 𝙨 🏛️ (@artfloozyyedits) June 22, 2021
A user named Jessi wrote, “billie eilish has been racist to asians on multiple occasions (saying the c slur and mocking asian languages) but no one ever talks about it.”
billie eilish has been racist to asians on multiple occasions (saying the c slur and mocking asian languages) but no one ever talks about it.
— jessi (@nomorecrackers) June 14, 2021
Eilish, however, found support too. “…I feel like some people have been wanting to drag her or try to cancel her for a long time now, so this is their opportunity to try too,” a user posted.
Exactly and I feel like some people have been wanting to drag her or try to cancel her for a long time now, so this is their opportunity to try too.
— alana (@alanafields0) June 17, 2021
‘In no way an imitation’
In her Instagram story, the singer said she was “speaking in a silly gibberish made up voice”, something she has done since childhood when talking to pets, friends and family.
The 7-time Grammy-winning artist added that it was “in NO way an imitation of anyone or any language, accent, or culture in the SLIGHTEST. anyone who knows me has seen me goofing around with voices my whole life”.
In a follow-up video, Lena, the TikTok user who first posted the video, wrote “she finally addressed this !!!”. She said she was “glad” and that it was “understandable and good she finally said something”.
With the United States seeing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, fuelled by the fact that Covid originated in China, people have started to become more conscious of casual racist remarks, with many people, online and offline, quick to highlight such incidents.
The killing of eight people of Asian origins at three massage parlours in Atlanta in March this year ignited a huge debate on the rising cases of racially motivated hate crimes in the US.
US President Joe Biden recently signed a bill to address the incidents of assault during the pandemic, with a special focus on the rise in violence against Asian Americans. The bill aims to make reporting of hate crimes more accessible at local and state levels by boosting public outreach.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.