Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What it's like to be an African American in Amsterdam

In an interesting story on BET Black American Dana Saxon talks about the city she now loves and about the Dutch attitude towards race and Black Pete.

“Although Saxon says she will forever have love for Amsterdam, her idyllic dream life abroad has not come without some hiccups. Issues of race, she says, have consumed much of her time in the country, and although she is a self-proclaimed “race-obsessed” person, the Dutch don’t seem to make it any easier for Dana to let down her guard.”

“This December, Saxon was most shocked by the country’s handling of race when she encountered the beloved Black Pete (known as Zwarte Piet in Dutch), a fictional blackface character that is known as a helper of Sinterklaas, a skinnier version of Santa Claus, and who is celebrated with parades and public adulation ahead of the traditional Christmas holiday.”

A great interview. Although I must admit that as a Black Dutch person I don't see Black Pete as blackface in the way Americans see it. Simply because most white and Black Dutch  people didn’t grow up with the racist US tradition of blackface, meaning the theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows in which performers create a stereotyped racist caricature of a black person. Black Pete is more linked to European/Dutch colonial racism. So yes,  Black Pete is racist, but it's not USA style blackface. 

Read the interview with Saxon on BET.
And also check out her Amsterdam City Guide on Euromight.


  1. Before I get started I want to state I love this blog and have followed for a number of years now. Yet I am appalled by the comparisons to the US by Afro Europeans, with the connotation that somehow Europe is not as racist as the US. I’d beg to differ.

    Eastern and Western Europe is steeped in blatant racism which I have seen first hand! Again, one merely has to read this blog a few times to see the racism! However, most of the Afro European commentators have an attitude of, "at least we are not as bad as America" Again, I’d beg to differ.

    While I agree the US is profoundly racist, I have not heard of a Black person being denied employment to a bank (to offend white customers in the 21st century!); we do not have holidays where whites dress up in black face (and to be clear-black face is black face, no matter what country you grow up in.) I have never gone to a basketball game where people throw bananas or make monkey noises at black players, if a coach did make a derogatory racist statement to a player he would immediately be fired, as racist as Fox News channel can be I have never heard them make the statement "It's getting dark in here" because a Black person walked on the set nor have I heard a news commentator in the US say "I will never take orders from a Black man because they are uncivilized" and I live in racist America.

    But lo and behold, this happens with frightening regularity in European nations. Yet still, most Afro Europeans have an attitude that they are some how better off in Europe than the US. As a traveler to London, Paris, Berlin, Switzerland and Italy, I have never encountered such a casual demeanor toward racism in the US, not only by the perpetrator but by the victim as well!

    Which leads me to believe that the difference between American Blacks and European Blacks is, we are keenly aware of racism and most of us fight back. I am not saying it doesn't happen, but few American whites would have the "nerve" to make the comments I heard on a regular basis on the street, in the workplace or on the NEWS(!) in European countries. Seemingly Afro Europeans, with their desire for assimilation may not be as proud of their roots as some Black Americans (this is only an opinion and I admit self hatred is rampant in the US too) and it shows. It shows when a white European says something so racist, so casually, like it’s normal. Apparently they are comfortable with their racism, which I know they would not be if the Afro Europeans didn't allow it. But apparently you do allow it and think to yourself, "at least we are not as bad as the US"

    But as a Black person from America, I would like to say that Europe is disgustingly racist. Maybe more racist than the US because it is out in the open, on your billboard ads, on the news, on the tubes, in the workplace, and out of the mouths of common people.

    The difference is you are complacent with it. Most Blacks in America want to embrace their Blackness AND still be respected as a human being.

    SO I deplore of you, when you make the comparison of racism in the States compared to Europe, please be honest with yourself. Half of the racist situations you write of here would absolutely not fly in the US without 1) a class action lawsuit 2) being reported on the news with the perpetrator being ostracized and/or 3) major cities being burned to the ground. Right or wrong, something is done and I never hear Blacks in America say, ‘“at least the US is not as racist as Europe” even though we could and it would be an honest assessment.

    1. I've noticed that too.

      It's pathetic how far they try to assimilate by a) allowing racist remarks and b) marrying whites at an unusually high rate.

      There was one African in Europe that wrote here that her daughter or son is "totally Italian." I bet you that son or daughter doesn't look "totally Italian" and won't be treated "totally Italian" either in one of the most racist countries.

      The French President (PRESIDENT) Jacques Chirac said that Africans stink. Can you imagine George Bush ever saying anything like that about a group of people in America?

      Lastly, Mocha Mango: Do you remember the story on this blog about this African actor in France taking on these racist roles? WHITE AMERICANS on Facebook were telling him to stop taking these roles because they're racist. (One of the roles he played a servant and an actor in it said he looked like President Obama when he had a suit on. Never mind that they look nothing alike.)

      How do WHITE AMERICANS know these roles are racist but an African doesn't?

      There's little to no self-respect.

  2. Mocha Mango, it's complicated. I think Europe, the US or Brazil are all racist in their own way. It's not about more or less, it's different.
    In the US race is not taboo and people talk about it, condemn it.
    It's true you couldn't imagine in the States things done and said here on a regular basis on TV and in football stadions.
    On the other hand, we don't live a segregated life. Europe percieves the US as a segregated place, blacks have their neighbourhoods, Latino's have theirs, whites have theirs, etc. Mixed couples have been common for decades in Europe, black neighbourhoods in major cities or nearly not heard of (of course you have neighbourhoods with many immigrants but they will never be the majority, not even in the UK. And 'immigrants' that's all kinds of people put together).
    Another point, while millions of blacks in the US have been there for centuries, and form a consistent portion of the nation, we are today maybe 2% of the total population, a very diverse group of people, in very diverse nations, often having a immigrants attitude (thankful to be allowed to live there). We've been around with high numbers for just 2 generations. And we've never been put in seperate ghetto's, we live literarly among the whites.
    I'm not saying Europe is better than the US. it's just very different. depending on what you look at it seems more or less racist.
    I think that many people in Europe think that the US is race obsessed and over sensitive. On the other hand Europe could do with some more sensetivity.

  3. I appreciate your comments.

    I would like to point out that I believe the difference is an emergence of embracing "blackness" ,whatever that means, in the African American community at large. Meaning, I feel because of our history in the United States, we are reclaiming our roots which we feel were stolen from us. We wear it proudly on our sleeves, and regardless if others do not like it, they will respect it.

    For example, my grandmothers father was white AND married to my black great grandmother in the rural US South (1920's-pre civil rights era). Now for the average Brazilian I have encountered and Afro European, they would consider themselves white or "colored" because of that lineage; while my grandmother and her subsequent offspring considered themselves Black and were proud of it. My other grandmother was not white, however, half of her family "passed" for white and she could have easily done the same. However, she was the proudest Black woman I have ever met. That is the difference in our collective mentalities. While here in the US the one drop rule (one drop Black blood) applies, in Europe and Latin America seemingly Black people cling to their whiteness, no matter how far down the line it is. I was watching the documentary, I found here, entitled I'm not Black, I'm bi-racial! Again, I will admit it may have a different connotation to me because of my American experience, but I really felt that most of the subjects were clinging to "bi-racial" because they would rather be anything except Black. Which is a sickness in itself, and seriously counterproductive, because when a person see's a bi-racial person no matter if they are from Europe, Canada or the US, they do not immediately think, "hey that is a bi-racial person" they KNOW "that is a black person" no matter how fair the skin, nor stringy the hair. It's a fact of life. The only people "bi-racial" makes a difference to is people of color who have to some degree an inferiority complex. Just ask our First Black President, who is bi-racial. Whom the European commentator said, they wouldn't take orders from a Black person because they are uncivilized. Again, bi-racial, and his white mother were suspiciously absent from his statement.

    Lastly, as an African American woman, I grew up in an upper middle class family my whole life. My family on both sides were upwardly mobile professors, business owners, large landowners and activists since the 1920's. I lived in predominantly white neighborhoods and the majority of my African American peers were also upper middle class with strikingly similar experiences. So while we do have neighborhoods which are predominantly one ethnicity, it is not a segregated as one may think.

    While I never took in to consideration the whole recent immigrant mentality, which is beyond my experience, I'd hope that one day Afro Europeans would realize that their ancestors who were enslaved and colonized (as recently as the 1970's!) built European nations into the nations we know today. Built with labor, cheap exports, blood, sweat, tears and disgusting underdevelopment which has affected the African continent for over 700 years at this point. I think all that free labor, natural resources, crops and forced sacrifice (some complacent) deserves more respect than to be called a monkey. It has nothing to do sensitivity and everything to do with respect as a human being.

    1. Mocha Mango, I think we had the same discussion in 2011. I promised I would write a post about this topic, which I still haven't done. So sorry for that.

      First off I don't hope you think that I meant that Europe is less racist than the US based on my comparison between blackface in the US and Black Pete in the Netherlands. It's just different as Anonymous correctly stated.

      As to your present comments. As I said a year ago, not every black person in Europe is the same. Is your background the standard background of African-Americans? Does a Nigerian-, or a Haitian-American have the same cultural make-up as an African-American? Are all African-Americans proud of being black ? Needless to say, of course not.

      As for in "Europe and Latin America seemingly Black people cling to their whiteness", that is not true. You are an intelligent woman, so I think I may expect a more nuance view of you. In Europe you are considered ethically European if you look like a person in a specific European country. For instance, A Southern European looking person is a European, but he would not be considered a ‘real’ Dutch, or a real Scandinavian white person. So how can a black European person cling on to whiteness?

      As for assimilation. Most African Americans who live in Europe are married to, or have a relationship with a white European. But in spite of that they still feel deeply connected with their black community in the US. So I don't think they came to Europe to "assimilate" with white people. An important element of black American history in France has to with meeting a white person without be arrested for it. I don’t think I have to explore this issue any further because you and I both now there are unfortunately issues involved which are a global black issues.

      To end, don’t leave out the immigrant experience! If you want to understand Afro-Europeans, first try to understand the new black immigrants in the US.

      But I will keep my promise and write a post about this issue.

    2. FYI, that "one drop" rule you speak of was outlawed in 1967 by the US Supreme Court. This was written in 2012? What, haven't you gotten the memo yet? If you treat me like "black" nowadays I have the right to sue for misperception I'm Choctaw Indian but just "dark"-skinned.

  4. Afro-Europe: please look up the numbers on miscegenation with black Americans. It's the lowest out off all blacks in countries that are mostly whites. Only like 5 to 7% of black Americans are in interracial marriages or relationships. Go to London it's the exact reverse.

    Could you please elaborate on that comment about black Americans trying to assimilate in Europe? I've never heard anything about black Americans taking racist, stereotypical roles in Europe or trying to please white people there. Even people like Tina Turner and Fredrick Douglas write back as black Americans. They don't hate to be reminded of it like Balotelli or that soccer player in England that was married to Cheryl Cole.

    The US Army had to warn American soldiers to not interact with German women. German women stay around the bases trying to get American soldiers. I know SO many black American soldiers that have kids with German women when they were stationed there in Germany and they don't know more than 5 German words. When you give it away for free, what do you expect?

    1. Truth2011, I never said that Blacks Americans are trying to assimilate in Europe. Please read what I wrote.

      What I meant was that when it comes to interracial relationships in Europe, black Americans are no different to black Europeans. Based on what read I think the number of interracial relationships among African-Americans in Europe is even higher. One of the most prominent African-Americans in the UK, Bonnie Greer, is married to, as she puts it, "a white, English, suburban ex-public schoolboy". As I mentioned in my previous comment, that doesn't mean that she or other black Americans in Europe want to racially integrate. Bonnie Greer is deeply involved in the cultural life of the Black British community. Just like David Lammy by the way.

      You mentioned that 5 to 7% of black Americans are in interracial marriages or relationships. I presume these are the percentages in the US. Based on what I read on blogs and other publication of African-Americans in Europe I think in Europe it would be 95 to 97%.

      But as I mentioned earlier you can’t compare the US to Europe. The fast majority in Europe is white and the number of black people in Europe is small compared to the US.

    2. Please don't reference Greer to black Americans. She's a very ignorant woman who loves playing the stereotype black American.

      And I know she doesn't represent black Americans especially black American women. Black American women don't marry other races. They're known for that here. So, Greer is an extreme exception.

      Lammy is extremely white oriented. It's well documented and he's African. Funny that Lammy looks up to President Obama and President Obama is half white and blacker than Lammy! Now how is that possible?

      President Obama is more aware of who he is than Lammy is. How is that possible?

    3. Being aware of who you are what does that have to do with the color of your skin? Skin color shades are genetic and why always a reference to Obama's color? The Bush's (father and son) are white and still are but no one ever talks about that, why? Living in France going 30+ years and not in Paris but in a small village of 140 in Southwest France, so how do they see Black Americans and for many the first time? Answer not racist which has helped in many situations with the Police. My question is, am I a step closer to equality when I am no longer afraid of those who are paid to protect me? True my name is not Mohammed!

  5. Racism is linked to the history between targeted ethnic group and the country residence. Skin color just makes that target easier to hit.

  6. Hey, Dana Saxon here! Thanks for the post and interesting discussion. I still hold strongly to the belief that Zwarte Piet - in his current, physical representation - stems from the roots of U.S. blackface imagery. I did some research about the history and evolution of the tradition that's led me to this. I wrote a bit about it last year, if you'd like:

    As for the dating question, I would say Black women in Europe(including, but certainly not limited to African-Americans) are much more likely than Black women in the U.S to date a man outside of their race. Interracial relationships are just stigmatized far less in Europe. Women have less reason to be self-conscious about walking down the street with a white man. And believe it or not, this also includes "conscious" black women. There are plenty of women (and men!) who are down for the cause with partners who aren't Black. I see it all the time - in history and the present. It's not easy to take through American eyes, I admit. But you get used to it ;).

    1. Dana, thanks for your comment. I read your story, very interesting! I can imagine that you hold such a strong believe. If I was an African-American I probably could not imagine that such a racist tradition of Blackface didn't went global. As a black Dutch person, I still can't connect to African-Americans on certain racial issues, simply because I lack the deeper knowledge of things.

      Back to your story. You wrote yourself that the character of Black Pete began in 1850 and you also wrote about the Moors in Spain. In every Dutch book and study about Black Pete that history is mentioned, I've never read anything about a connection to the US blackface imagery. And I am sure you haven't either. Because that's why you wrote "PERHAPS because people were curious about blackness and black people, the popularity of American blackface spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world". It's just a “PERHAPS”.

      So, I can understand you see it from a black American perspective, but I don't see from my Black Dutch perspective, which is based on what I read, and heard in discussions in the Netherlands about this topic.

      But there are important differences why Black Pete could never be rooted in the U.S. blackface imagery. Black Pete may act as a clown, but he isn’t. White children should be afraid of him because he can punish them. Was there ever a Blackface character in the US that could whip white children? You and I both know that would be impossible, even today. And the characters in the US Blackface are jolly, powerless and lazy subjects, while Black Pete is the right arm of the white man, the slave/servant working horse of Sinterklaas. And if you think that Black Pete is linked to the US, then what about Tin Tin in Congo? No, Dana I think you have to see this in a Dutch historical European context.

      Ask 10 Dutch people if they now about Blackface, you and I both know you that 10 of them would never have heard of it. Yes, American history is global, but the American racist history against blacks isn't so global as you may expect. Sure, everyone knows the images and big stories of racism in America, although I don’t even think they know it in terms of The South. But things as the racist infrastructure of Jim Crow are only just two lines in a Dutch grammar school history book. So, most Dutch people wouldn’t understand Spike lee's bamboozled if you didn't explain it to them. If Dutch people were exposed to the racist coon imagery of Blackface in the US, I think the apprehension of Dutch people to date black people would probably be the same as in US.

      It’s a long story. But again, I can see it from your African American perspective, but I think you overestimate the American influence in the Dutch Sinterklaasfeest.

  7. To paraphrase another commenter wrote, the subject of blackening up is very complicated.

    As a folklorist, I'm interested in finding information about the origins of customs & beliefs. Here's some information from wikipedia's page on Zwarte Piet:

    The first origin of Sinterklaas and his helpers can probably found in the Wild Hunt of Wodan Riding the white horse Sleipnir he flew through the air as the leader of the Wild Hunt. He was always accompanied by two black ravens, Huginn and Muninn. [2] Those helpers would listen, just like Zwarte Piet, at the chimney - which was just a hole in the roof at that time - to tell Wodan about the good and bad behaviours of the mortals.[3] During the Christianization, Pope Gregory I argued that conversions were easier if people were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditions, while claiming that the traditions were in honour of the Christian God. Saint Nicolas tradition is one of them, converting Wodan to a Christian counterpart.[4]

    According to myths dating to the beginning of the 19th century, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) operated by himself or in the companionship of a devil. Having triumphed over evil, it was said that on Saint Nicholas Eve, the devil was shackled and made his slave. A devil as a helper of the Saint can also still be found in Austrian Saint Nicholas tradition in the character of Krampus."...
    In 2008 I started a discussion thread on the Mudcat folk/blues music site about the ancient traditions pertaining to "the devil the color black". My take from the informal research that I did then was thatI believe those ancient and widespread beliefs about the devil being darkskinned or the color black are one of the main sources of the Dutch tradition of Black Pete. I also believe that those same traditions are sources of the racial prejudice against dark skinned people which existed centuries ago and still exist today.

    It is also my position that the American black faced minstrelsy significantly influenced Morris dancing in the UK and elsewhere. However, my reading has led me to conclude that prior to the introduction of Amerian minstrelsy in Europe, antipathy toward dark skinned Moors was one source of the "blackening up" customs associated with some forms of Morris dancing. The role of the Moor in the Pace Egg plays also point to this reenactment of antipathy toward the dark skinned Moor.

    In contrast to those depictions of dark skinned characters, there are old European beliefs which indicate that meeting a chimney sweep at the beginning of the new year confers good luck. But early on it wasn't the chimney sweeps' dark face (because of his dirty job) which conferred good luck but the four leaf clovers he carried. I wrote about that on a 2005 Mudcat post entitled "Padstow Darkie Days". That post includes a link to a copy of postcards that were exchanged showing dark skinned chimney sweeps holding a pot of four leaf clovers (which still are considered good luck symbols)

    All of this to say that the sources of "blackening up" customs in Europe & elsewhere and attitudes toward those customs are quite complicated. Did American black faced minstrelsy influence those customs & attitudes? Yes, I believe so. Was American black faced minstrelsy the primary source of those customs and attitudes. I believe that answer is no.

    1. Aziz, an interesting analyses as always! But isn't there a difference between 'just' "blackening up" on one side and the tradition of the theatrical US Blackface on the other side. From my limited perspective I see "blackening up" as an element of the theatrical US Blackface, the other element is the racist portrayal of black people. When Dana connected the racist Black Pete to the Blackface imagery in the US I assumed she was referring to the racist element and not only to just the practice of blackening up your face with shoe polish. So I wonder which element we are discussing here. But can you separate these two elements, or are they inseparable?

    2. Afro-Europe, here are my abbreviated (given without examples, though numerous examples could be given] responses to your statement that "[you] see "blackening up" as an element of the theatrical US Blackface, the other element is the racist portrayal of black people":

      1. Blackfaced minstrelsy [what you refer to as "theatrical" Blackface"] originated in the USA also spread to, and greatly influenced theatre & customs & music in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. So the divide between "blackening up" outside of the USA and "theatrical US Blackface" isn't as wide as you seem to think.

      2. That which is done without malice can -and often is- still offensive.

      Given the old, insidious nature of White priviledge, White racism, and racism against dark skinned people, can blackening up particularly in the 21st century ever be separated from the erroneous belief that the White race is superior to dark skinned races? And (although I said I wouldn't cite any examples), can the concept and custom of Black Pete be separated from the also erroneous belief that the natural order of things is that Black and other dark skinned people should be the servants of White people? I don't think so.

      Specifically with regard to the Dutch character Black Pete, recall the history of that character or characters "...Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) operated by himself or in the companionship of a devil. Having triumphed over evil, it was said that on Saint Nicholas Eve, the devil was shackled and made his slave."

      Since at least the late 20th century, during the Christmas season in parts of the USA where there are African Americans (and possibly elsewhere around the world where there are Black people), one can sometimes see Black men dressing up as Santa Claus - not as Santa Claus' helper or Santa Claus's friend but the actual Santa Claus character with the red suit, the fat belly, the white beard, and the "ho ho ho!" laughter - and without whiteface. The first time I saw this was in the 1970s, and I admit to being surprised at the idea of a Black Santa. But, given that Santa Claus is for the most part, a fictional character, why can't he be of any race? Black men putting on Santa Claus costumes and giving out presents during events, or being Santa Claus in stores is now somewhat common place, again particularly in big USA cities with a sizable population of Black people.

      I wonder if a non-White person in Dutch cultures >i>ever>/i> dresses up as Saint Nicholas [without white face] and how acceptable that would be. I also wonder if any White people ever dressed up as the helper or slave "Pete", and how people would react to that depiction.

      If there were "White Petes" or "Helper Petes" pr "Slave Petes" who didn't blacken up, then I'd more readily believe that the Black Pete tradition wasn't tied to race. I suspect that the Dutch people - including some Afro-Dutch people- aren't ready for those changes yet. But that is not to say that such depictions might not happen at some point in the not too distant future.

    3. I meant to write
      "I also wonder if any White people ever dressed up as the helper or slave "Pete" without blackening up, and how people would react to that depiction.

    4. Azizi, I agree with you that "blackening up" and Black Minstrelsy are inseparable, especially if you look at it from the racist historical perspective you mentioned. But is it possible to see it separately if the intention of "blackening up" is not meant to be racist, but is only used to play or portray a black person. Look at white actors blackening up to play Shakespeare’s Othello the moor, or Billy Crystal's impersonation of Sammy Davis Jr., or Dan Aykroyd playing the Jamaican exchange student in Trading Places. Do you consider these examples Blackface and thus racist? I don’t mean to be argumentative in the sense that I am setting up an-exception-to-the-rule-type of argument, I am just interested in your point of view on these examples.

      I know that African-Americans found Billy Crystal’s performance at the Oscars offensive because it referred to the Black Face imagery of 1920s. But again, is it really Blackface?

      Let me be clear that I find Black Pete racist, simply because it’s clear that Black Pete is the servant (on foot) of the White boss (on his horse).

    5. Afro-Europe, my response to your question about my opinion of those acting examples is the same as my first statement for my #2 point above:

      "That which is done without malice can -and often is- still offensive."

      By "offensive" here I mean "racially offensive".

      With regard to actors/actresses and models blackening up (or browning up or putting on yellow face), to use a currently popular African American vernacular statement, my position is "Don't even go there".

      Furthermore, mu question is "Why not hire someone from that racial/ethnic group instead of putting on black coloring, or brown coloring, or yellow coloring?

      Since little is usually known about "yellow face", here's information about that topic from :

      "Yellowface is another example of the racism prevalent in American culture. Yellowface means more than a white person wearing make-up to look Asian. It also describes the systematic bias against hiring real Asians to play Asian roles shown by white producers, directors, and others who control the depiction of Asians in popular culture through casting decisions and the propagation of racist Asian stereotypes and caricatures."


      And Afro-Europe, thanks for your willingness to engage in this discussion with me. I appreciated the experience of talking with someone across the ocean and across cultures.

    6. Azizi, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Your position is now clear to me.

  8. Afro-Europe,

    I know very little about the Dutch tradition of Black Pete. But it seems likely that that blackening up tradition was at least somewhat influenced in the 19th century by the popularity in the UK of blackfaced ministrelsy.

    Historically, there's LOTS of documentation about the performance of American originated black minstrelsy in Europe, particularly in the UK and also in Australia and South Africa. There's no doubt that blackfaced minstrelsy significantly influenced music & dramatic traditions in all of those nations.

    Here's a long quote from a book review on this subject:
    Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain

    Michael Pickering, Loughborough University, UK

    "The historical study and cultural analysis of minstrelsy is important because of the significant role it played in Britain as a form of song, music and theatrical entertainment. Minstrelsy had a marked impact on popular music, dance and other aspects of popular culture, both in Britain and the United States. Its impact in the United States fed into significant song and music genres that were assimilated in Britain, from ragtime and jazz onwards, but prior to these influences, minstrelsy in Britain developed many distinct features and was adapted to operate within various conventions, themes and traditions in British popular culture.

    Pickering provides a convincing counter-argument to the assumption among writers in the United States that blackface was exclusively American and its British counterpart purely imitative.

    Minstrelsy was not confined to its value as song, music and dance. Jokes at the expense of black people along with demeaning racial stereotypes were integral to minstrel shows. As a form of popular entertainment, British minstrelsy created a cultural low-Other that offered confirmation of white racial ascendancy and imperial dominion around the world. The book attends closely to how this influence on colonialism and imperialism operated and proved ideologically so effective. At the same time British minstrelsy cannot be reduced to its racist and imperialist connections. Enormously important as those connections are, Pickering demonstrates the complexity of the subject by insisting that the minstrel show and minstrel performers are understood also in terms of their own theatrical dynamics, talent and appeal."

    [The bold font was added by me to highlight those sentences.]

    1. Azizi, thanks for the extra information!

    2. In Britain sure. In continental Europe? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Although I would rather see the UK as a part of Europe, the UK is in fact the most American of all European nations.

  9. Racism exists everywhere, but its more lethal in US because they are very subtle about it and they know how to go undetected. Its obvious to many that Mike Tyson was sentenced for being a black male. But its very hard to prove. Check out some more of my opinions at

    Id like to know what you think.

  10. Europe can't be that bad if so many millions of blacks stream there all the time to escape their own countries. Obviously whatever they find is better than what they left behind - with their fellow blacks - or they would return home?

    1. This thread was about black American tourists, not Africans! Reread the title.

      And Europe supports dictators in Africa. So this whole "better than what they left behind" angle is nonsense.

  11. This is a fascinating discussion. Mocha Mango, your familial and travel experiences mirror mine (eerily); those experiences are what led me to write my thesis about the deeply entrenched and normalized racism that belies Europe's progressive mythology about itself. A critical factor in this new normal is that non-white Europeans and non-white immigrants to Europe do not in large numbers protest the social undercurrent that insists that European cultures and people are superior to everyone else. It's as if Europeans of all stripes have agreed that as long as racism isn't violent, it's okay to subjectify and otherize non-white people.

    The effect is that, yes, Europe may be less deadly for non-white people, but it also renders them powerless economically and politically. And because they lack these powers and because they have agreed to be silent about non-violent racism, there is no social space for them to say, "Wait a minute. Why is it so much harder for non-white people to get housing even when they can afford it? Why are there no black people leading major European corporations? Why are there almost no non-white students in our most elite educational institutions? Where are our black public intellectuals outside of the music industry? Why is it now possible that white Americans are more versed in racial issues than Europeans are? How did we come to such a pass?"

  12. Before I start, I need to say straight out - I am not Black, or American, or European. Much of this is something I don't have first hand experience of. I do want to ask some questions, though, and share a few thoughts.

    Regarding racism in Europe, and specifically comments about it being better/worse in the US. It depends on the place. Eastern Europe - pretty bad to be Black there, especially if you are walking by yourself at night. Probably worse than in the US.

    Now, I do not like the statism being made in the comments by other people. As in, asserting Africans have no political power. Where I live, the African community is not facing the same situation an African American is facing. Yes, they are also discriminated against, but a lot of the time, other groups are discriminated against more. Blacks, in most of Western Europe, are not public enemy #1. Also, in Eastern Europe, it has less to do with one being Black, and more to do with one not being White.

    truth, I need to question your statements, where you imply a dislike at Blacks assimilating into Europe. I also don't agree with the assertion that they let racism occur. Are you saying that assimilation is bad, or that Europe is inherently White? Do you think that the racism you see is inherent to White Europeans? What is so bad about Whites and Blacks being married to each other? Many arguments against immigration are along the lines of, "They aren't assimilating," and isolationist mentalities don't help this. I would think that problems are caused when separate communities exist, where "us versus them" would be inherent. It is also easier then for the type of discrimination you talk about to be perpetuated. Also, I wonder why you don't like a comparison being made between an actor wearing a suit, and what must be one of the most powerful individuals in the world: Barack Obama. Is this a bad comparison because they are both Black, or because people outside of Europe aren't familiar with a Black person wearing a suit, who isn't Obama?

    "I'd hope that one day Afro Europeans would realize that their ancestors who were enslaved and colonized (as recently as the 1970's!) built European nations into the nations we know today. Built with labor, cheap exports, blood, sweat, tears and disgusting underdevelopment which has affected the African continent for over 700 years at this point. I think all that free labor, natural resources, crops and forced sacrifice (some complacent) deserves more respect than to be called a monkey." This is good, and bad. It's not simply that Europe raped Africa and Africans for hundred of years. This is also sad, that you hope someone would be respected for something they didn't do (be exploited by colonial Europe). It would be equally absurd to teach young Germans to feel guilty for something someone in their family may have done under Hitler (which many young people are no longer willing to feel guilty for) - especially if someone in their family resisted Hitler. The fact is, Europe also put into their colonies (sometimes, depending on where and at at what time). You are also teaching a people to identify with the slave and at the same time demanding nobody identify you as a slave, which is somewhat paradoxical. I am also reminded of something a Black person told me - that, without the colonisers, they wouldn't have the education, they wouldn't have the infrastructure, and that, as much as his people have suffered, they have benefitted. Which is fvcked up, like Stockholm syndrome.

    We can't ask to be treated as individuals when we adopt group mentalities. Yes, it's fvcked up sometimes.


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