On January 25, 2021, a board member for SAG-AFTRA Philadelphia Local John Mitchell posted a highly offensive meme depicting President Biden with an exaggerated bucktoothed grin, cartoonish slit eyes, and a Fu Manchu moustache against the backdrop of a People’s Republic of China flag. The text read “Introducing Our 46th President, Sum Dum Fuk.” Racist tropes like those in Mitchell’s post are strong contributors to the recent surge of violent anti-Asian hate crimes and to
the current climate of xenophobic and anti-immigrant hate.
Local Asian American leaders like Nydia Han, Denise Nakano, and Trang Do have publicly spoken out on social media about the racist post, calling for the removal of John Mitchell from the SAG-AFTRA board. The Philadelphia Inquirer covered this story on February 17, 2021.
PAAFF Festival Director, Selena Yip and members of the PAAFF Board felt that it was important to make a statement on the matter since so many in our community are members of the SAG-AFTRA Philadelphia union and are greatly affected by this incident.
You can read the full statement here.
Although John Mitchell has been removed, and Chinese American community member Lyman Chen has been appointed as the newest member of the board, this is only a first step. We are calling for the board hold themselves accountable by hiring professionals to educate, train, and guide the organization in adopting anti-racist and decolonized practices and procedures. We are calling for the board to reexamine their vetting procedures to ensure that future board members will adequately uphold these values professionally and personally. SAG-AFTRA must use their platform to positively impact the discourse on equitable representation in the film and television industries.