In the latest episode of "let's be racist" in Lebanon, comedian Nady Abou Chabke impersonated migrant domestic workers in a sketch that has since been taken down.
The sketch was presented during Pierre Rabbat's show Menna w Jerr this week. The not-so-funny comedian mocked the way migrant domestic workers look and speak, disregarding their mistreatment in a country overflowing with racism.
Rabbat, the host of the show, laughed in unison with the comedian. The racist and offensive sketch was preserved in recordings posted later online by several social media users who criticized the comedian, the host, and the channel for reinforcing such narratives under the guise of comedy.
"They're still making these sketches on Lebanese TV"
After the insensitive sketch was performed, Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef pointed out everything wrong with it. The 45-year-old, who was invited as a guest on the show, could not hold back his tongue. Instead, he immediately voiced his opinion and called the sketch what it is, racist.
"You could have delivered the same idea in a different way, especially since we all know the terrible conditions of migrant workers in Lebanon," the Egyptian comedian said.
"If this video were translated, it would have sparked outrage for its racist narrative," Youssef continued. However, many people online have since come out to say that there is no need for it to be translated. The racism is crystal clear to Arabic and non-Arabic speakers alike.
"You don't need to be fluent in Arabic to understand this garbage skit," one journalist tweeted.
"Tasteless 'comedy' under Pierre Rabbat's watch"
"Bassem Youssef nailed it"
"They deserve it"
Following the outrage online, MTV retracted the episode from its online platform. The show tweeted what it believed to be an "apology" wrapped in patronizing sheets.
"Our intention was not to insult the housekeeper, whom we consider a part of the family," the statement read.
Question for you, Menna w Jerr: Does your entire crew confiscate their family members' passports or is that something reserved only for migrant domestic workers? Does your entire crew have separate bedrooms and bathrooms for every single family member or are migrant domestic workers so lucky to have their own?
As much as one attempts to justify their "fair treatment" of migrant domestic workers, it simply doesn't work. And it won't work unless the kafala system, in its entirety, is abolished. It is the unjust system that has allowed for racism to flourish because "that's what the agency told us" has programmed people to think that's the way it works.
An estimated 200,000-250,000 domestic workers are employed in Lebanon. A majority of households in the country hire female migrants to help around the house. Despite their long working hours and doing things that are outside their scope of work, many Lebanese do not appreciate what's being done for them, and even worse, many treat workers like property.
The host of the show also shared an apology via Instagram Story, but the damage had been done. Mocking an entire community that's already vulnerable and subject to abuse is wrong on so many levels. It is inhumane, vile, and flat-out racist.
Such rhetoric is not uncommon in Lebanon. Last year, Lebanese singer Myriam Fares went under fire after the release of the music video of Goumi (Get up) for appropriating and misrepresenting African culture. In other words, she was criticized for donning blackface and an afro in multiple scenes.
Blackface has appeared on Arab screens on multiple occasions over the years, such as in Egyptian comedy series Azmi we Ashgan and Kuwaiti comedy series Block Ghashmara, both of which were released during Ramadan 2018.
But it's not just in comedy or pop culture; the racism appears in nearly all aspects of everyday life in Lebanon and has resulted in discriminatory policies all around. Over the summer, Beirut-based beach resort Sporting Club sparked controversy after its racist policy form was circulated online. The document - which clients are asked to sign - is titled "Helper Dress Policy," and features an image depicting what a domestic worker should be wearing to be allowed into the resort. It also states that those who breach the dress code will be asked to leave the premises without a refund.
Many incidents of this kind have been reported at Lebanese beach resorts. How did the comedian think mocking humans who endure such treatment and discrimination is OK?