Australian comedian Chris Lilley is being scorched on social media over a 2011 video of himself in blackface that is being blasted as insensitive in light of a high-profile manslaughter case in Australia involving the death of an indigenous boy who was run over by a car.
Lilley posted the video — taken from his 2011 series “Angry Boys” — on his Instagram account, and was immediately criticized.
In “Angry Boys”, Lilley plays numerous characters, including an indigenous high-school student who fancies himself a rapper, calling himself S.mouse. In the video, the rapper performs a song titled “Squashed N***a,” days after the man who ran over the child was sentenced to three years in prison.
The timing of posting the six-year-old video was called into question, with many taking to social media to blast the comedian.
Lilley addressed the controversy by issuing an apology, insisting the timing of the video was purely coincidental.
“It is not connected in any way to current news stories,” wrote Lilley of the video. “I apologize for any hurt caused by the misinterpretation.”
This isn’t the first time that Lilley’s S.mouse character has been at the centre of controversy. When the show was first broadcast on Australian TV (in North America, it aired on HBO), the character was slammed for being racist.
As BBC News reports, in 2011 the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a number of hip-hop stars about whether they considered the character to be offensive.
“Hell yeah, it’s offensive,” said rapper Open Mike Eagle. “Blackface is not the kind of thing that just becomes acceptable one day. I don’t give a damn how ‘meta’ this cat thinks he is, it doesn’t give him a pass to exploit the history of race relations for a cheap laugh.”