Warning: The image used in this article could cause offence. Please proceed with caution.
A self titled ‘fashion influencer’ from the Philippines named Bryanboy – real name Bryan Yambao – has highlighted yet another case of what seems to be systemic racism against Asians brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time in Stockholm, Sweden.
“It wasn’t until we placed our order that we noticed all the huge posters on the wall — an illustrated portrait of a very yellow Xi Jinping with bat ears and the term ‘BAT MAN’,” Bryan said speaking to the British broadcaster BBC following his experience at the upscale Restaurant Riche in the Swedish capital.
Bryan was “mortified” by the experience according to post on Instagram, where the hugely popular Instagrammer has over 600,000 followers, but now lives in Sweden with his husband after growing up in Manila. He was reportedly visiting the restaurant with a friend from Hong Kong.
“Ever since Covid happened, me and pretty much a lot of the Asian people I know have gone through so much racist and xenophobic abuse on the internet,” Bryan said to the BBC. “So to see it in real life was kind of surreal” he added.
“Almost every day I get comments, just because I’m Asian, linking me with Covid. And it’s not just online – these images have real-life repercussions, because they create a hostile environment for Asians and it normalises racism and xenophobia against them.”
Since the incident the restaurant has removed the posters after several weeks in-situ, and issued a statement saying a number of people had found the images “disturbing and racist, which was of course not the intention.” The restaurant also “sincerely apologise[s] to anyone that was offended”.
The artist who produced the poster, meanwhile has apologised for the offence caused, but seemingly not for producing the image in the first place.
“I would not have done it in the first place If I did not stand behind it. I still do,” ‘Iron Art Works’ wrote to the BBC.
The apology did little to placate Bryan, however who said “It comes from a place of ignorance – that he wasn’t expecting it to be racist or considered racist… I’m all for freedom of expression by artists, but I just wish that he knew what the repercussions of his work are.”
“In these crazy times, when millions of people are affected by this disease and hundreds of thousands of people have already died, and the world is already in such a bad state, do we really need to create divisive artwork out there, that could be misconstrued by anyone?”