Friday 19 January 2018

Ellen DeGeneres criticised for 'racist' tweet about Usain Bolt

'I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am.'

Photo: Ellen DeGeneres/ Twitter
Photo: Ellen DeGeneres/ Twitter

Feliks Garcia

Ellen DeGeneres is on the defensive following social media backlash to a tweet many say is racist.

The comedian and daytime talk show host published a tweet Monday evening featuring an image of herself on the back of Jamaican Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt as he sprinted toward the finish line during his historic 100 metre sprint.

"This is how I’m running errands from now on. #Rio2016," she said with a photo of her superimposed on Bolt's back.

Social media users quickly fired back, criticising the picture for its racist undertones.

"@TheEllenShow honestly this is offensive," said one user.

"Because you haven't been riding on black people's backs for 500yrs in America."

Another said: "So riding on his back like a mule, a horse as some form of property is fun to you..."

The issue with the image, one user explained, is that it invokes imagery reminiscent of slavery in the US, during which time black people were subjugated by whites.

The criticism was dismissed by other people on Twitter, who argue that DeGeneres was simply trying to say Bolt – a world record-holding track star – is fast.

"If Usain was white, y'all wouldn't care. We all know Ellen isn't racist & didn't mean any harm by that. Stop it," one Twitter user said.

"I am absolutely baffled by the people currently calling Ellen DeGeneres racist because she, more or less, called an Olympic sprinter fast," another added.

DeGeneres posted a defence on her page without apology.

“I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country,” she wrote. “It is the furthest thing from who I am.”

The Ellen Show has previously drawn criticism for alleged racial insensitivity.

Last October, the show was criticised for a depiction of rapper Nicki Minaj’s family in a sketch about her childhood growing up in Queens, New York. The operative joke was that every member of the family had large buttocks – a well known characteristic of the Trinidadian-American pop star.

Critics saw the sketch as “lazy” and “tasteless”, and a reduction of a prominent black woman’s talents to her body parts. Some criticised for toeing the line of minstrelsy.

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