“Apeish” description of indigenous Australian surfer Otis Carey causes race row

Self portrait on Carey's instagram account #otiscareycarey
Self-portrait on Otis Carey’s Instagram account; photo via Instagram #otiscareycarey

A description of Australian indigenous surfer Otis Carey as "apeish" in the Australian magazine Surfing Life has caused international outrage. Nathan Myers wrote in an article in the March issue that, "With his apeish face and cowering hair-curtains, I expect little more than Cro-Magnon grunts from his mouth. I am caught off guard by the clarity and eloquence of his speech."

That description has led to allegations of racism against both Myers and the magazine, and that 24-year-old Carey was appalled at the description. In an interview with the Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Carey's father, Chris, said, "At this stage we don't want to talk about it; our concern is Otis' well being."

Morrison Media, the publishers of the magazine, and magazine editor Wade Davis have both issued an unreserved apology and denied that there was any racism, implied or otherwise. In its statement, Surfing Life magazine said its editors initially read “apeish”as a jibe at the stereotypical surfer and “failed to see the racist connotations” of the term.

The statement went on to say Surfing Life editor Wade Davis is a person of color whose family immigrated to Australia from Africa, and that he has indigenous heritage on his paternal side. “Davis is devastated that a thoughtless misread could have allowed an insensitive and damaging term to have slipped through to publication,” it read.

The apology, however, failed to stem the tide of outrage, initially on social media and then in the mainstream press. News stories on the Huffington Post, the Daily Mail, and The Guardian meant the story gained worldwide attention. Many of the articles noted the Twitter and Facebook reaction, which included calls for Davis to be sacked. At this stage, Carey hasn't responded directly to the article.