Lebanese TV slammed over blackface comedy sketch

Lebanese TV show slammed over 'blackface' domestic worker comedy sketch

3 min read
05 December, 2019
In the sketch comedian Nady Abou Chabke put on a prejudiced depiction of a migrant domestic worker by wearing a blackface, a dreadlocks wig and a housekeeper's uniform.
Comedian Nady Abou Chabke put on a prejudiced depiction of a migrant domestic worker [Screenshot]
A blackface comedy sketch that aired live on Lebanon's MTV channel on Tuesday has been slammed as "racist" and "inappropriate", causing outrage on social media and reviving the discussion on the rights of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon

In the sketch, comedian Nady Abou Chabke depicted a migrant domestic worker by wearing a blackface, including a dreadlocks wig and a housekeeper's uniform, which was widely viewed as prejudiced.

His depiction was met with hearty laughter from the show’s host Pierre Rabbat.

A guest on the show, renowned Egyptian comedian and talk show host Bassem Youssef, appeared extremely uncomfortable at the sketch, and voiced his disapproval.

"When you have problems with [the rights of] migrant domestic workers in Lebanon […] I think you could have delivered the same idea without mocking people," he said, addressing the show host.

"If this sketch is translated and it goes out, it will appear very racist, because you are scornfully dressing a man as a black woman. […] It is a little bit insensitive given that there are problems with the kafala [system] and domestic workers [in Lebanon]," Youssef said, stressing that the same joke could have been delivered in a non-offensive manner.

"The man could have been dressed as a Lebanese domestic worker," he said.

Many took to social media to voice their outrage.

"You don't need to be fluent in Arabic to understand this garbage skit on #Lebanon's @mtvlebanon channel played into racist stereotype of domestic workers. Cheers to @Byoussef for calling out this tasteless 'comedy' under @pierrerabbat's watch," journalist Alphonso Van Marsh said on Twitter.

"Not even close to being funny. You've sinked to a whole new level of racism. There should have been a different approach perhaps. @Byoussef is totally right! I agree with him. Very disappointed," one Twitter user said.

"What a racist and disgraceful sketch by Nady Abou Chabke especially in the presence of progressive people like Ziad Njeim and Bassem Youssef. Shame," another user said.

"This is low, Dr @Byoussef is right and this is a bad image for our country. One of the thawra’s [revolution's] goals is to take action against racism and sexism," another user added.

The backlash led the show producers to withdraw the sketch from the episode archived on their site.

"It is important for us to clarify that the segment that was showed in today's episode was intended to tell a story of a Lebanese family through the eyes of the help at home," producers of Menna W Jerr said in a tweet. 

"The intentions were never to discriminate or disrespect domestic workers, who we consider part of our family," the tweet added.

To some, an apology was not enough.

"It was a very big 'faux pas', it was not funny at all! You have to be much more careful for the content of your program!" one Twitter user said in response.

"You shouldn't have allowed from the start this sketch in the show. Have it and then apologising is not a proper way," another user added.

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