‘Why assume she’s the nanny?’ Hilarious viral interview sparks casual racism debate

Robert E Kelly struggled to keep composure when his kids gatecrashed an important interview.

Robert E Kelly struggled to keep composure when his kids gatecrashed an important interview.

It began as something charming and funny – a serious live TV interview gatecrashed by an expert’s two adorable children.

But while internet users have dubbed Professor Robert E Kelly’s BBC appearance “the funniest viral video of the year” and gently poked fun at his awkward response to the hilarity, a more substantial talking point has since emerged.

Professor Kelly, an international relations expert, was on the BBC trying to offer his expertise on the ongoing political crisis in South Korea when his two children stormed into the room with other ideas.

In their discussion about the video, social media users and news outlets including TIME had assumed that a woman who crawls into view halfway through the video and quickly scoops up the children was employed as the family’s nanny.

In fact, that woman is his wife, Jung-a Kim, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

What has since unfolded, particularly online, is a debate about stereotyping and casual racism.

Although some families in South Korea do hire nannies, many have claimed that the assumption Ms Kim was a domestic helper was a result of racial stereotypes about the roles of Asian women in society.

“There are stereotypes of Asian women as servile, as passive, as fulfilling some kind of service role. People were quick to make that assumption,” Phil Yu, a blogger at Angry Asian Man, told the LA Times.

Of course, others have pointed to the woman’s response – her panicked look suggested someone concerned for their job – to explain their thinking.

Mixed-raced parents have for years told of the awkward assumptions questioned, akin to those experiences – at least online – by Ms Kim.

Sa’iyda Shabazz, a black woman whose son is “super white”, wrote about how strangers regularly questioned whether the child was hers.

“Sometimes I want to tell them that I’m his babysitter just to change things up a bit,” she wrote on the website Scarymommy.

Another woman who is Mexican-American wrote on the same website about how she had been asked: “How long have you worked for the family?”

Professor Kelly, meanwhile, is yet to respond to the whole incident.

Shortly after the interview, he seemed only slightly clued in to the media storm that was about ensue, tweeting: “Is this kinda thing that goes ‘viral’ and gets weird?”

The video has since been viewed more than 30 million times on Facebook.

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