- A high school musical in New York has sparked controversy after protesters claimed the show was racist against Chinese-Americans.
- The play, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which was performed at two Long Island high schools, featured white students portraying Chinese characters with broken English and exaggerated mannerisms.
- The two school superintendents said that the play will not be performed in the school districts moving forward.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
A high school musical in New York has sparked controversy after dozens of protesters claimed the play was racist against Chinese-Americans.
The play, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which was performed at two Long Island high schools, featured white students portraying Chinese characters with broken English and exaggerated mannerisms, according to Voices of NY. The musical, set in 1920s New York City and based on a 1967 film, tells the story of a small-town girl from Kansas who moves to New York City – where she discovers a slavery ring that drugs young women and ships them to Hong Kong with the help of two Chinese henchman.
Around 40 people protested outside Huntington High School in Long Island on Saturday, while a similar protest occurred at Division Avenue High School, according to Newsday. Protesters carried signs that read “Racism is not Entertainment” and “Say No to Racist Show!” The show debuted last Friday night.
“One hundred years ago, the Chinese in this country were at the bottom of society, and nobody cared that we were being made fun of,” Tianlu Lu, a Long Island parent, told Newsday. “But now, we want to stop this.”
Xuemei Ye, another parent, told Voices of NY that she grew upset after witnessing a dress rehearsal that took place last week. She said that a group of Chinese parents sent a letter to Huntington superintendent Jim Polansky asking for an apology. A Change.org petition was also created in response to the musical.
The musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie," with its offensive Asian stereotypes and racist jokes, never goes away. This time, Chinese parents are protesting against a student production in Long Island, https://t.co/RI08R3ZjE1 pic.twitter.com/yIMTARNtdL
— ???????????????????? ???????????????????????????????? ???????????????????? (@aaldef) April 11, 2019
“A female student who played the role of the boss put chopsticks in her hair. The two male students who played the employees walked like ducks. And they used ‘ching chong’ to mimic Chinese speaking,” Ye said.
In response to the protest, the Levittown Public Schools told INSIDER in a statement that the play will not be shown again in the district.
“The performance was never intended to offend any individual or group of people and the district apologizes if it did,” the statement said. “In Levittown, we celebrate our differences, promote tolerance and kindness and teach our students to be respectful of all.”
Polansky, the Huntington Superintendent, told INSIDER that the play will also not be performed in his district moving forward. Despite that, Huntington Public Schools currently includes an article on its site that describes the show as an “exceptional school musical.”
“There are obviously multiple perspectives on the theme and content of the play. Those involved obviously strived to cast and perform the roles with integrity and would never look to upset or insult any individual or group,” Polansky said. “We regret that anyone was offended by the production. All are committed to viewing this situation as an educational opportunity – one that allows for open and productive discussion on any of the issues presented.”
This isn’t the first time that the play has garnered controversy: in 2014, an elite Manhattan private school cancelled a student production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” due to concerns over the show’s portrayal of Asian stereotypes and the subplot of the white slavery ring in China. A similar incident occurred a year later at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
“This is a play whose whole history is just wrong. No matter what, it will always be an offensive musical,” two students at that Philadelphia school wrote in an op-ed. “As students we opposed Millie because there were countless other musicals that could have been chosen and that would have been more appropriate for a high school performance.”
- Read more:
- People are criticising rapper Lil Pump for using racist Chinese stereotypes in his new song
- Dolce & Gabbana cancels Shanghai show after ad campaign and founder’s Instagram DMs mocked Chinese culture
- Cory Booker says ‘racists think’ Trump is ‘racist’ as the president faces backlash over tepid response to New Zealand shooting
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.