The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is apologizing after tweeting a photo of an otter it described as “thicc,” a word from black culture for a curvy woman.
Tuesday’s tweet also contained the line, “OH LAWD SHE COMIN,” an offensive parody of black dialect.
Although Abby the otter’s “thicc” pic has earned more than 7,000 retweets and 27,000 likes as of Thursday afternoon, the aquarium has also come under fire for its use of language with origins in black culture and African American vernacular English (AAVE), according to The Washington Post.
Chandra Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical physicist at the University of Washington, put the accidental racism issue front and center in a tweet she has since made private, according to the Sacramento Bee.
I’m certain that [the Monterey Bay Aquarium] didn’t realize that they were basically comparing Black women to animals by using AAVE that developed to talk about Black women’s bodies to describe an animal. But that’s pretty bad.
Another Twitter user used the problematic tweet to explain why people who aren’t African-American should avoid cultural appropriating black culture to begin with.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium released a four-part apology tweet on Wednesday.
The aquarium is also having to answer questions about the actual photo since Abby looks so obese in it.
Christine DeAngelo, the aquarium’s curator of mammals, tells the Los Angeles Times that the 11-year-old otter weighs a healthy 46 pounds.
“That’s not blubber or anything,” she said. “It’s just the angle of her hips and the way she’s rolled. She’s one of our most photogenic animals.”