“Reasonable” Racism.

6 Jan

So, now, to clear this up once and for all (no, your racist responses won’t be published, give up already), since I’ve been accused of arguing “poorly”/”unreasonably”/”totally exaggerated” in the previous explicit rant (…) again and again.

[No, that's not racism, of course not - it's the clever disclosure of natural brown oversensitivity and overemotionality...  And that people of colour are asked to show their argumentative or intellectual credentials at every turn by some dim-witted white people and are expected, by skin colour default, to be a mobile education device for racists, no matter how many times they repeat the same racist BS towards them - cf. the clusterfuck around Noah Sow, for example... - is not racism either].

Nonetheless, as a brown-skinned public service, I’ll let the Fuck You go for a while and tell you about that racism thing. Again.

Here’s the problem with the Blackface in your staging of “I’m Not Rappaport” (“Ich bin nicht Rappaport”), Schlosspark Theater (not that it has not been said before, but, apparently, you cannot be bothered to actually read some of the criticism, let alone answer it properly):

1. Even if you do not share the clearly articulated and elaborately explained critique of Blackface, your solely polemical, ridiculing and ignorant behaviour towards your critics (…all of whom would be potential theater visitors, by the way) is reason enough to boycott your institution.

2. The fact (which you often repeat, that does not make it right, though) that other theaters have worked with Blackface and haven’t faced any protests, is completely irrelevant. On the one hand, protests could just have been ignored (like you tried to do at first), and even if there were none, that would only show people’s lack of awareness of their own racist practices in white german cultural productions and white german society.

3. No, it is not relevant that people who have criticized your employment of Blackface have not actually seen your premiere but only your advertising pictures and posters of the Blackfaced actor (…many thanks for posting those again and again as response to the criticism on your FB page, by the way – your argumentative force really is unmatched!). No, it is not about the actual play. No, it is not about the actors as people and their anti-racist credentials (even though that question is another one arising). It is about your expressed decision to cast a white person to play an explicitly African-American characterand then paint him black in the best minstrel show tradition, and defending this by saying there simply was no other choice (neither to cast a Black actor – a description you have put in inverted commas in your only response, since they apparently do not exist – nor to then not put black paint that resembles shoe polish on this actor, in an effort to make him look like what you and generations of racists have defined/imagined as Black).

4. Your ‘argument’ that everyone else “is wrong” and that your staging of Blackface is “just not racist” does not work – it is a very unsubtle expression of the cognitive dissonance you seem to be experiencing as an expressly white theater ensemble that is confronted with the critique of hundreds of people of colour. That the Schlosspark Theater does not recognize the problem with Blackface and the refusal to cast Black actors and actresses, and thinks it knows more about racism than people who have to deal with it every single day of their lives, is part of the problem and pure white privilege.

5. Blackface stands in an explicitly and blatantly racist tradition of stereotypical “parody” and defamation of Black people, and is, furthermore, directly linked to racist apartheid regimes like the US Jim Crow South. That you are denying this link is simply pathetic. Blackface is not only insulting, but has had and still has very real, physically harmful and violent consequences for Black people. The racism of Blackface is so very unsubtle that it is a very bad and completely ridiculous excuse to think you can get away with a “well, we don’t think it’s racist…” Even if you didn’t know of any of that out of sheer ignorance and a new height of naivety: educate your damned selves. A large number of people has offered explanations and provided links to information material (cf. the links in the comment section of the previous post, for example). Yet, you say that the play’s author, Herb Gardner, has insisted on Blackface for this 2012 staging  (…he died in 2003…). Maybe he did (in his last will, in instructions to theater companies, wherever…?). He is also a white person. That should have told you something; if only that a writer’s instructions do not make racism magically vanish, and to believe that authors are somehow inherently anti-racist or deserve to be canonised, no matter what they say or do, is absurd. Moreover, if you decide to be an accomplice to racist practices, it is your responsibility and you should be able to deal with the consequences this entails.

6. Your ensuing statement that – naturally! – neither you nor other theater companies in german-speaking countries have Black ensemble members, since theater’s universal lack of explicitly Black characters could not “justify” a steady employment, clearly shows your underlying racist attitude: white actors and actresses are the universal standard of acting, and white actors and actresses can play every role – characters that are not explicitly defined as Black could not possibly be played by Black actors. As mentioned in the previous post: according to this reasoning, only white people have individuality, agency and skills which can be transferred to everything; Black people are simply Black and can be reduced to their skin colour. But Black people don’t even do that right, because white people are not only able to adequately portray Black people, but actually the better choice if you put some black paint on them. Defenders of your Blackface practice keep talking about the fact that Joachim Bliese must have been the best one at auditions. Of course, who else would be better suited to play an African-American than a shoepolished white german – or why even bother inviting any Black actors to auditions…?

To conclude: The fact that there is not a single person included in your group (…you call it “ensemble” at one point, then you refrain from that term since you are “not a steady ensemble”; either way: it does not matter, you have explicitly stated that you and other at least partially publically funded theater companies pursue discriminatory emplyoment policies and do not hire people of colour more permanently…) and the fact that you think that this is completely normal in 2012, is a testimony of openly celebrated white privilege and openly conducted racism. This becomes even more obvious in your vicarious-embarrassment inducing justification of this practice. The critics who have argued against Blackface and the universalization of whiteness over and over again have done so very elaborately and clearly – you are simply unwilling to admit or even understand the problem, because racism is the easy and much closer way out.

So: who is unable to argue reasonably? Who is offensive? Who is totally deserving of being told they’re dumbass cactusfuckers (yes, I am keeping that up)? No, my dears, those were rhetorical questions – the answer is quite clear.

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8 Responses to ““Reasonable” Racism.”

  1. Kitoko January 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Hey, just want to say about: “confronted with the critique of hundreds of people of colour”. You don´t have to be POC to criticize this racist behaviour – a lot of white people (including me) are behind and in this protest aswell. This is not just a POC-problem. It´s actually the white supremacy´s problem: “WE” have to stand up against this and some of “us” actually do. That´s just what I wanted to add.

    • zweisatz January 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      *pat* I know you mean well and, finally, white people are joining, but it seems a bit derailing in this context. “Not all white people are bad – look at me!”

      That hundreds of BLACK people are protesting is in my opinion especially important (and therefore not necessary to mention white people) because they are the ones being discriminated against and it is especially infuriating that the ensemble/whatever does not react appropriately to the criticism of people who are directly affected by the racism they are enforcing.

      Just sayin’.

      • marcelvandergrijn April 11, 2012 at 4:36 am #

        Not to totally derail this discussion – I fully agree with your post – but being white I AM actually ‘directly affected’ by this bull crap – be it in a somewhat different sense. If it’s not necessary to hear white people in this sense, that puts me in a weird position. I am a white heterosexual western european highly educated male (everything I supposedly ‘am’ gives me the so called right to smooth sailing through the white phallogocentric world), so the idea is I already have my agency and so should just shut the >> up. But that means that my agency is just redirected toward the racist position, or at least toward the ‘white’ position, while being ‘white’ is the last f-ing thing on my mind. Not just that, when it’s women, or homosexuals, or other social positions, its the same thing. Basically I am just a racist, sexist, etc., until proven otherwise – and even then I should be careful of what I say and do. If that’s not being directly affected, than I don’t know. Sure, this doesn’t interfere in my life in the same way it does in black people, women, homosexuals, etc – I am not discriminated against in the workplace, in public life – but it does interfere in my relations with other sociosomatic positions. I am unwillingly placed in that weird authoritarian, phallogocentric identity-position and there is not one freakin thing that I can do about it. Even mentioning it is usually conceived of as being ignorant, or racist, or sexist, or whatever – and the weird thing is that sometimes it even is. So, don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing apples and pears here, but even If there were no protest at all, and I would be sitting in the theatre, watching that racist BS, surrounded by all white men, some of whom are laughing at that crap, even then I would be affected. Directly. And even though it’s quite something else than what black people, or maghreb people, or whatever, have to put up with, it’s not ‘nothing’, it’s something, and in the end this happening to me affects you as well, because it keeps things the way they are.

        • accalmie April 12, 2012 at 8:25 am #

          Yes, there is something you can do about it. For starters: Stop whining about your privilege (even after you’ve put in the obligatory token “i agree that racism is wrong” sentence). Stop making a post about the discrimination of People of Colour all about you. Not even a post about Blackface is safe from white people talking about how hard it is to be white… Stop comparing the privileged position you are in and your personal hardships to the systematic discrimination very specific groups of people face on a daily basis and pretend those experiences are even nearly compatible, because you personally feel that you are wrongly accused of being racist/sexist/whatever.

          This is about a discriminatory social structure that is not overcome by a personal decision and whatever well-meaning intent to not discriminate anymore. This is about a discriminatory social structure that you perpetuate when you co-opt terms like “agency” from “the homosexuals” (…) and other marginalized people to make the point that you feel tossed into the same mess with people who are far more racist/sexist than you are.

          This is about the fact that you are showing why sometimes the best strategy for white, male, heterosexual cis men is to shut up and listen and think things through more thoroughly, instead of trying to come up with a weak-ass, defensive “but look, even if it’s not as bad as your thingy, i’m totes discriminated too…”, the-center-of-the-universe-has-spoken.

          We’ve heard that before, constantly, and that’s why there’s no patience here for it, because your point of view and your plight is already represented everywhere else. THIS is what keeps things the way they are, THIS is what affects me. It’s “For Never Was A Story Of More Woe” all over again.

  2. Bridget January 9, 2012 at 4:11 am #

    Your point #6 is so true. It’s ridiculous and horrible that they’d rather put a white person in blackface than hire a black actor and *gasp* let them play roles that may not specify that they were written for black actors.

    • zweisatz January 9, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Well, this works just fine if you think people of color are only defined by their skin and not, say, by their actual personality traits. At least you know for sure this theater crew is racist *eyeroll*

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