When covering a topic as sensitive as a man’s death, there is no place for cultural insensitivity and ignorance. E! News offended on multiple levels with an article about Lee Thompson Young, in which author Rebecca Macatee linked his suicide to the Yorùbá culture (which she inaccurately refers to as a religion).

Here is an excerpt from the article, which can be read in full here:

“…those close to Young noticed things “really changed” a few years ago when he began practicing Yorùbá, an Africa-based religion which has a saying, “iku ya j’esin”, meaning “death is preferable to ignominy.” Some have questioned whether this means that suicide is an acceptable way to preserve personal or family honor in the face of public shame.”

Blogger Luvvie responded to the article with an open letter to E! News, writing:

“First of all, contrary to what Wikipedia says, Yoruba is not a religion. Let’s get that straight out of the gate. Yoruba is the name of a people; Yoruba is a language; Yoruba is culture. […] Ifá is the traditional religion that you probably meant, but assuming that a majority of Yoruba people practice it is incredibly pinhole-minded. Just like we speak different dialects of the language, our beliefs are diverse. Us Yorubas are a religious people and most of us practice Christianity or Islam. Even if Lee was practicing Ifa, he would not be encouraged to take his own life.”

Luvvie adds: “[Linking Young’s suicide to Yoruba] demonizes Yoruba people as advocates for suicide. It’s irresponsible, full of bigotry and plays into the “Africans are barbaric” trope.”

E! News has since updated the article, adding this explanation about Yorùbá:

“Sources confirmed to E! News that Young was a practitioner of the Yorùbá religion, a faith based on the ancient traditions of the Yorùbá people. It should be noted, however, that Yorùbá more commonly refers to the West African tribe which is made up of Christians, Muslims and a multitude of people from different faiths.”

For many, their update falls short as it is still inaccurate and does little to address the problematic association of suicide and the Yorùbá culture.

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