A friend linked me to a Time / Yahoo News report about a proposed ban on Tintin for racism. The example cited in the article is hair-raising enough. The author tells of a panel in which ‘a black woman bows before Tintin exclaiming, “White man very great. White mister is big juju man!”‘
We may well bemoan those times in our all-too-recent history when people followed simplistic judgments about human value, pursuing them to brutal conclusions. Colonialism in Africa was almost uniformly horrific, for all the improvements made to infrastructure and the gains made for the Christian gospel in Africa. South Africa will be paying for the consequences of white rule for generations still. The article provides an example from the Belgian Congo, saying,
Leopold’s agents pioneered a ruthless forced-labor system for gathering wild rubber: villages that failed to meet the rubber-collection quotas were required to pay the remaining amount in amputated hands. Some estimates say Congo’s population fell by 10 million during that time.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, and with all of the evidence available to us, it’s easy to agree that racism has been appallingly destructive of Africa, and that it has no place in our society. Well, that was an obvious conclusion I thought, except when I was directed to all the readers’ comments below the article. Here are some of the choice ones, just from the first page (there were seven pages more, but I couldn’t bear to read on):
- In response to the idea that Tintin renders Africans as childlike (or even simian) and that Europeans are great, ‘Richard’ says: “Show the world some evidence that Tintin was wrong.”
- Anonymous says, “Tintin was right, 100 percent. They are still not out of the trees,” and again, “A rich continent populated by vicious tribal thugs. Africa will has gone downhill steadily since the blacks took over, country by country destroyed by poverty and violence.”
- Paladin says (among much else), “The people of Africa deserve Independence; however, the European colonial powers should have governed those lands until they were capable of self government!”
- Petrus is worth quoting in full: “If anything, Belgium should re-colonize the “Democratic Republic” of Congo. Rather let that area be productive than let it go to waste in the hands of a people who can’t be bothered to stop lazing around. The only “work” those people do is kill each other and their environment, which is a shame because Africa is such a beautiful continent. They need to be told what to do and how to behave because it is clear that they have no idea how to function on their own. They’re just like children. But, naturally, it’s right to blame the “racist whites” for trying to salvage land & precious resources from savages.” It’s not pillaging and theft if you think a resource is being wasted. It’s called salvage. Brilliant! I think we should be allowed to ‘salvage’ all the money that Americans spend on snacks and liposuction too. Oh, and you’re about to buy a Hummer? Sorry, that money is mine now. Give over.
I made a couple of rebuttals, including that whiteness and blackness are hardly criteria that are relevant in this discussion, seeing as ‘white’ technological superiority is founded on gains made by ‘non-white’ civilisations, including those of Egypt, Persia and Turkey. But what’s the point? If, with all the gains made in anthropology, for instance, and with all the benefits of more balanced evaluations of colonialism, people are still unable to see others outside of superficial categories such as skin colour, what good will arguing do?
The website also allows people to show their approval of comments with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. It disheartened me even further to notice that the openly racist comments were usually opposed by only a small majority. Somewhere between a third and a half of the interested readers still remain happy with the suggestion that black people are closer to monkeys than they are to white people. Besides making a tacit argument for their own under-evolvedness, one wonders what benefit such people derive from hating someone’s skin?