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Blackface in Berlin play just 'tradition'

Jessica Ware · 6 Jan 2012, 17:58

Published: 06 Jan 2012 17:58 GMT+01:00

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“Many older black actors come from the music industry, and that wasn’t a fit for the play as it isn’t a musical,” Thomas Schendel, the director of "I'm Not Rappaport" told The Local. “When we couldn’t find an elderly black actor who fit the role and could speak with a perfect German accent, we opted for blackface make-up.”

But the decision to cast 76-year-old Joachim Bliese as the feisty character “Midge,” – an African-American who discusses racism and growing old with an elderly Jewish friend – has prompted a firestorm of criticism from those who have likened the play at the Schlosspark Theater to a minstrel show.

Tahir Della, a spokesman for the Initiative for Black Germans (ISD), which represents the black community in Germany, called Schendel’s explanation “idiotic.”

“There are more than enough black actors in Germany, especially in Berlin. Schendel is making excuses,” he told The Local.

And visitors to the theatre’s official Facebook page have flooded it with angry comments, calling the decision “racist” and “ignorant.”

Blackface or "blacking up" – painting a light-skinned person’s skin to appear black – was once commonplace. But in recent decades it has become associated with racist American theatre from the 19th and early 20th centuries that aimed to mock African-Americans.

Germans have come under particular criticism in recent years for being insensitive about the much-maligned tradition. Last year, for instance, a popular comedian sparked outrage when he posed as Barack Obama on a Berlin billboard while wearing blackface.

But theatre officials said they were shocked by the vitriol online, pointing out there had been a previous production of "I'm not Rappaport” at a different Berlin theatre with a white actor playing the part of Midge.

"(It) wasn’t met with a reaction like the one we’re facing now,” a Schlosspark Theater spokesman told The Local.

Story continues below…

Schendel said he found the negative response to the play “saddening.” In an open letter on Facebook, he invited the play’s critics to attend its premiere on Saturday – nobody responded.

“In Germany blackface is part of a theatre tradition that was never intended to be racist,” Schendel told The Local. “I tried to make a play about racism and ended up being called a racist,” he lamented.

The play, said Schendel, will go on as scheduled.

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Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:22 January 6, 2012 by bugger
Using white actors with blackened faces for roles of dark pigmented humans is a tradition in German theaters since centuries as there were no black slaves available in Germany. In the Japanese Kabuki theater, roles of females are traditionally played by males, because it is a tradition even though there were Japanese women in Japan. Kabuki is UNESCO world heritage since 2005. The politically correct blackface discussion is an American topic solely and should be solved in America.
19:54 January 6, 2012 by Aelfgifu1
@bugger: Racism isn't a solely American phenomenon as this situation unfortunately points out. The fact that these racists are trying to weasel their way out of their ignorance once it was pointed out to them is proof of that fact.

Germans are fundamentally naive about racism and racist attitudes in their country. It's imperative that we keep making issues out of it until they finally get the clue.

The only black actors are in the music industry? What kind of a pathetic excuse is that? As if there aren't actors that move between genres all the time. Furthermore, the fact that these racists encouraged those who were rightly offended by their behaviour to pay money to come see the play demonstrates that they intentionally committed a hateful act in order to profit off of the controversy they knew it would bring. They are despicable people.
20:43 January 6, 2012 by crm114
risible it may be, racist it is not.
20:46 January 6, 2012 by Oblomov
Does this also mean that we don't have to tolerate black actors playing roles written for white people or is this the usual one way street?

The racist legacy of American minstrel shows isn't Germany's problem. This is as nonsensical as the American outrage about an Australian ad for fried chicken, just because allusions to watermelons and chicken is an anti-black stereotype in the US.
22:23 January 6, 2012 by maxbrando
Hey, all you racists: Get over it. Stop trying to black out history. And I remind you all, racism is not a crime. One does not have to like anyone (blacks included), one only has to obey the law. Only in Russia, China, Vietnam, Iran and other such Communist places do you have to "like" everyone, or get sent to "reeducation" camps.
23:15 January 6, 2012 by trevzns
@ Oblomov

@ crm114

@ Oblomov

@ bugger

The politically correct blackface discussion is an American topic solely and should be solved in America.

Nonsense…German theaters since centuries as there were no black slaves available in Germany.

The phenomenon here is denial and excuses, Africans and people of African descendants have been living in Germany as early as the 10th century.

The politically correct blackface discussion is a German and European topic solely and should be solved by Europeans, regardless where Europeans and their descants have immigrated and now call home.

Blackface is a tradition in German theaters…ok and respecting and paying tribute to black people in Germany was a dignified German tradition. Emperor Otto I devoted a lot of the German peoples money and labor for an African blackface to be honored in Germany.

However, that was then, this is 2012. And, throughout recent modern German history, there have been many German leaders, Scholars, scientists and intellectuals at the root of Germanys and Europes superiority complex and racism towards African culture.

Long before there was a United States of America, in 1526 what is now Venezuela, Germans, were the tyrants and slave traders to commit genocide to the American Indians…34 years after Columbus arrived in the Bahamas.

Germany was one of the first Europeans countries to build a slave-trading post, Fort Großfriedrichsburg in 1683, West Africa now Ghana.

The Indians and Africans in America had the same or value as cattle and were traded and treated as such. There were no United States Americans available for the leading parts in that German diabolical production, Indiana Blackface a German tradition.

The politically correct blackface discussion should start in Germany, Holland, the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden…etc and end with the North Americans.
00:43 January 7, 2012 by Oblomov

Grasping at straws, eh? The relevance of the private enterprise of an Augsburg family in the New World for the display of blacks in US minstrel shows and for German theater of today = nil.
01:56 January 7, 2012 by trevzns
@ Oblomov

Where do white Americans come from?

Stop with the US minstrel shows nonsense. I think we get it…blame the Americans.

Shifting attention and the American blame game, is like most of Europes and Germanys history.

Illusions, theater, myths and fairy-tales, written as religion and history for peoples, still hungry and envious of other peoples things.
02:17 January 7, 2012 by Larry Thrash
Caucasians are the no more racist than blacks or any other racial group. Screams of racism has been use for getting ones way or extorting money from "white guilt" societies.
02:58 January 7, 2012 by trevzns
@ Larry Thrash

Not sure I understand here?

A white society, which includes the Catholic Church, will apologize for their crimes and genocides of the Indians in America and Africans in American.

Other European countries will quickly point out, the Ad after Independence from colonial rule and plunder of resources, rapes and murders have been paid in full.

European and US governments, do not offer white guilt payments to Africans, the indigenous Indians of America, who do not exist or African Americans.

The extorting of money and the screamers is a European issue, for crimes committed by Europeans on Europeans. The white guilt racism payment issue is not an African, American Indian or Caribbean issue.
09:29 January 7, 2012 by The-ex-pat
I agree with "crm114", risible, but not racist.

Racism seems to be a one way street nowadays. If we had the Music of White Origin Awards (Shudder.......formation singing boy bands....) there would be an outcry, if we had white student unions, legal action would fly. Yet just look at black culture, music and in films and the "N" word is used by blacks against blacks quite freely. There seems to be a lot of double standards.

Personally I don't care what colour a persons skin is but I am getting rather fed up with the get out of bed, stretch yawn and try and find something to be offended by attitude we seem to have today.
09:42 January 7, 2012 by lucksi
There is all of one black person in Bavaria. We call him Bob.
14:20 January 7, 2012 by n230099
Only white American males can be racist. Well, that's what they teach here anyway.
16:07 January 7, 2012 by Illogicbuster
So, do low IQ PC people ALSO think that it is racist for a Black to play the part of a white person?

Well, let's hear from you Low IQ PC types on that question.
16:20 January 7, 2012 by Aelfgifu1
@the-ex-pat: "Racism seems to be a one way street nowadays. If we had the Music of White Origin Awards (Shudder.......formation singing boy bands....) there would be an outcry, if we had white student unions, legal action would fly. Yet just look at black culture, music and in films and the "N" word is used by blacks against blacks quite freely. There seems to be a lot of double standards."

Yeah, this statement is also racist. And before you have an "I'm not a racist" hissy fit, you should know that this is exactly what white supremacist groups have been arguing for YEARS. Why is it racist? Because all of those white institutions you pretend don't exist actually DO exist. It's called "regular, everyday life." And good ol' racists like to complain when minorities try to get little bit of that life for themselves. Be mature about this and really stop to think about what you are saying.
16:45 January 7, 2012 by libsarescum
Geezzzz! Are German libs turning as ridiculous and stupid as Americans?
17:13 January 7, 2012 by Englishted
How do countries in Africa go about having actors play white parts ?.

This is not a racist comment it is just I must admit to having not thought about it before.

Maybe there could be a report somewhere ?.
18:12 January 7, 2012 by ChrisRea
Is it so difficult to grasp that painting a face in black is not necessarily racism? It becomes racism only when the respective person is made fun of in the play. That's what made the mentioned US theater plays racist (they aimed to mock African-Americans).

So is there anybody saying that the personage in "I'm Not Rappaport" is made fun of?
19:54 January 7, 2012 by JAMessersmith
Funny, because a new Blackface TV show just aired in America last week on HBO, called "Angry Boys". Google "S.Mouse", and you'll see what I'm talking about (white guy puts on black makeup and acts like a buffoon). And as far as "outrage" in America, there hasn't been any, from what I can tell.
20:00 January 7, 2012 by sjjwyatt
I have read some of the comments and as a black American living in Berlin for 4 years, I am beyond shock and amazed. So white people can do whatever they want and it¦#39;s ok. The same ones who say they can¦#39;t find black actors in Berlin are straight out lying. And it is really offensive to suggest it¦#39;s an American problem.

Germany has a history of racism, of ¦#39;cooking¦#39; black people in the gas chambers of Namibia; a technique that was perfected there and rolled out in mass on Jews. I wonder if something as offensive was about Jews was cast in a theatre would there be an excuse for that too?

Racism has as much to do with the intent as the act itself. Black face isn¦#39;t about not finding enough black actors, it¦#39;s about white people trying to elevate themselves over everyone else, especially while making fun and belittling black people.

You gotta love this comment; ¦quot;Using white actors with blackened faces for roles of dark pigmented humans is a tradition in German theaters since centuries as there were no black slaves available in Germany.¦quot;

So the only black person worthy of playing another black person in the theater is a black slave, as oppose to non-slave black people? And most of you don¦#39;t see racist tones there?

For the most part racism is one way; usually flowing from whites to blacks. We black people never transplanted whites from their land and enslaved them elsewhere. We never invaded a white country and took all its natural resource or committed genocide against whites / Europeans.

The country who tried to elevate itself above every other country with Arian supremacy, who killed thousands of African in gas chambers in Namibia, then millions of Jews across Europe and perhaps responsible for skin head racist in America has no credibility to deny it is RACISM.

It is in your blood because you know you are perhaps inferior.

Pathetic little people... Did you learn anything from World War II?
20:48 January 7, 2012 by JAMessersmith

Africans never invaded Europe? Oh? I guess the Moors were never in Iberia then...

As for Sub-Saharan Africans, there was a reason they didn't attack Europe (two reasons, actually, and it wasn't out of benevolence). 1) Because mass food production was never attempted in Africa, meaning, African tribes never got a chance to specialize their professions (i.e. people couldn't make weapons or build ships, because they had to spend most of their time hunting food or tending their livestock), and 2) the Sahara desert created a massive boundary that blocked the spread of information and ideas. Africans didn't learn about Chinese gunpowder like the Europeans did, because word never traveled past the Sahara.

But all human beings have the same aggressive tendencies. If Africans had been the first to industrialize, and develop guns, there's no reason to think they wouldn't have pressed their advantage and enriched themselves at the expense of others.

And, if you truly think most racism flows from white to black, have another look at what you yourself wrote (i.e. "you know you are perhaps inferior"). In America, I see "reverse racism" everyday. And if anything, it hurts black communities more than it hurts white communities, because things such as "success" and "intellectualism" are branded "white", and are therefore rejected as "bad". So, yes, blacks can very well be racist toward whites, but it has nowhere near the same impact on white communities as white power has had on black communities.

But, in African countries, where there are very few whites, blacks are racist against other blacks (and this has been going on for centuries, long before the white man ever set foot on African soil). Ancient caste systems exist all over Africa. In fact, when white settlers first arrived in Africa, they utilized these divisions to their advantage (i.e. pitted Tutsi against Hutu, and the like).

And, genocide is not a foreign concept amongst African tribes, either. Black tribes have been fighting black tribes for much longer than white tribes have been fighting white tribes (because humans have existed in Africa for much longer). Blacks historically took other blacks as slaves, and even sold their fellow blacks to alien European and Arab slave-traders. Why would they have done that? The same reason Vikings sold Irish slaves to Arabs and Mongols. Europeans have been fighting each other forever; tribalism; white vs. white. Both the Germans and the French might be white people, but they have traditionally viewed each other as rivals, rather than brothers. The Hutus and the Tutsis are both black people, but there is little brotherly love between the two. They are centuries-old rivals, just like the English and the Irish, or the Russians and the Ukrainians, or the Chinese and the Japanese, etc.. So really, we're not so different after all.
21:06 January 7, 2012 by sjjwyatt
Yes, I'm sure you are a victim of reverse racism every day. And I stand by my words above. you can always justify your actions; you meaning white people. Killing the Indians, World Bank, IMF and other organizations use reverse racism against white people every day. KKK used reverse racism too, right? I can go on and on and on...

I don't give a crap what white do against whites; I'm sick and tired of the crap you people do in the name of God and every thing else, only to excuse, lie, cheat, rape and everything else you do out of greed.

If blacks had been the first industrial nations... Eastern cultures were more advance than white cultures for centuries, and what happened?

We can go through a history lesson to again justify white actions, but the bottom line, White men....
21:16 January 7, 2012 by anaverageguy
Some I suspect that George Bush is responsible for ALL of this.

There are no black actors? Of course there are. So what? The director had someone else who's work he was familiar with that he wanted. With this argument..... that it "must" be racial.... are we saying that directors can no longer use younger actors to portray the aged. No white to portray ANY other ethnicity. (David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine in the TV show Kung Fu). No tall can play short. No one who is unable to play the piano may dare to impersonate someone who can. I guess that would have made it impossible to cast the part of Motzart. No Yul Brenner as the King of Siam?

Get over it folks. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".
21:24 January 7, 2012 by sjjwyatt
@ JAMessersmith

If you want to refer to history, first learn it.

It would not be inaccurate to say that the Moors helped reintroduce Europe to civilization.

That does not sound like racism to me, instead sound like another group of black people lifted up white people, just like black people build America.


Black soldiers, specifically identified as Moors, were actively recruited by Rome, and served in Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. St. Maurice, patron saint of medieval Europe, was only one of many Black soldiers and officers under the employ of the Roman Empire.

Getting back on topic, I've never read were the Moors raped, had their way or otherwise did the things white racist do today.

bottom line, seems again to flow one way...
21:37 January 7, 2012 by Loth
I gave up trying to understand what blacks like or want as far as what to call them or how they should get treated. It changes about every 10 years or so. Call them by the wrong name and some threaten to kill you. As a white person I have been called many names but I have never threatened to murder anyone for it.
23:40 January 7, 2012 by ChrisRea
So from sjjwyatt's comments we can clearly say that there is not only white racism, but also black racism as well. Call me a dreamer, I still hope that there will be a day when there will be no more "You white people", "You black people" and so on.

Getting back to the subject, there is still no-one to claim that the personage using black face in the mentioned musical was/is belittled in any way. Until this happens, all this discussion about racism in this case is only hot air.
03:46 January 8, 2012 by Pille17
...and I feel very discriminated by the movie "white chicks" ;-)
05:29 January 8, 2012 by Runnerguy45
No big dea l, more important issues out there. Leave them alone.
06:27 January 8, 2012 by Aelfgifu1
@ChrisRea: sjjwyatt is not being racist. sjjwyatt is making valid point upon valid point and schooling all the racists in this thread who think actually aren't racist.

I don't understand why people who make racist comments just can't apologize and move on. Learn from it and become better people. Instead, they're filling this thread with even more hate and vitriol. There's no need to be so stubborn.
06:39 January 8, 2012 by Runnerguy45
Some people need to lighten up. I am watching Saturday Night Live here in the States and Charles Barkley is doing a skit called "white peoples problems" where blacks make fun of whites and its as rascist as it gets. Its ok to make fun of whites on a national tv show but if anyone jokes about favored races by the PC police you are doomed. Blacks need to stop acting like vicitms and better themselves.
07:18 January 8, 2012 by Johnne
I don´t know why some white people like to deny racism. I think it only makes matters worse...we all know that greed played a major role in african slavery and colonization and we are paying for that huge mistake till today. How can some "intelligent" people defend painting your face in black to potray yourself as a black person?? some people should think before they write. And if you´re down with denying racism, you´re just putting more petrol into the fire.
10:39 January 8, 2012 by crm114
i have not seen this play or the film or the previous stage versions but a little research shows that this play has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with ageism. The fact fact that one of the principle characters is a negro is coincidental, his race is irrelevant to the plot. It is reported that Mr Schendel "tried to make a play about racism.." As no commentators appear to have seen the play we are consequently unable to ascertain if schendel did indeed put a racist slant on his version, then the only thing up for discussion is the,admittedly laughable, use of greasepaint. The negro character is far from being a victim he is not oppressed or treated with prejudice based on the colour of his skin indeed he is originally portrayed as a clever, articulate member of society an all round good egg indeed. The increasingly frequent, inappropriate use of the racist epithet does a great disservice to the cause of anti racists. Think before you type.
18:55 January 8, 2012 by Nina Williams
Who are the ones most in an uproar over this play? Black Americans perhaps tend to be the most vocal about these issues, but are the Africans who reside here the ones most upset about this? People tend to dismiss any discussion about racism as strictly a Black American issue, quite forgetting that there are black people from Africa, the Caribbean and other parts of the world who now reside in Germany. It would be nice to hear if in their opinion this is in poor taste as opposed to being racist.

Secondly, to the person who mentioned Kung Fu. The part was supposed to go to Bruce Lee, but because Hollywood felt an Asian actor was not good enough for the part, it went to David Carradine. So yes, the premise of this show using a Caucasian actor was a racist one.

@Pillie 17...well I must say you have a valid case on that one...
22:51 January 8, 2012 by Katinkaxx
Is every representation of a black person done by a white person automatically racist, regardless of the context? What about the "Sternsinger", i.e. children representing the Three Wise Men of the Bible and collecting money for charities? One of them usually has his face painted black. This tradition goes back to the Middle Ages when painters started depicting them as representatives of the then known continents (Europe, Africa, Asia), implying that Christianity is universal.

I understand that "blackfacing" is a sensitive issue in the US, but as far as I know, there is no "Minstrel Show" tradition in Germany, and the word "blackface" in the sense of putting on black paint to deliberately ridicule and belittle black people does not even exist in German. I would understand people protesting if this "face painting" occurred in a racist context similar to the Minstrel Shows. Other than that, it seems very much like transferring connotations from an American cultural context to a German one. I know I am stating the obvious, but the same things have different meanings/connotations in different cultures. I hope you're not seriously suggesting that the whole world should refrain from doing anything that is offensive to Americans even though it has completely different connotations in their own culture.

Also, I think that some of you are too quick to dismiss the matter of the theatre purportedly not finding a black actor. If they for some reason really needed someone elderly with accent-free German, that would indeed narrow things down: accent-free (= born/raised in Germany); aged 60+ (= born in the 40s/early 50s). Do you really think that there were many black/mixed-race children born in Germany in that time frame? The only ones I can think of are the around 4,000 children of Afro-American soldiers and German women, but many of them were adopted by families in the US. I have no idea how many of them have become actors and live in Germany. At the moment, I can't think of anybody.

Google indicates that the conflict with the theatre has apparently received almost no coverage in the German media. There have been some individual complaints by black/Afro-Germans, but they seem not to have been widespread. Again, time will tell if the "face painting" will be regarded as offensive in Germany in the future. But this is a discussion that will be decided by black and white Germans, and it has little or no connection to "Minstrel Shows", "blackfacing" or America.
08:39 January 9, 2012 by Klaipeda
Germany didn't have blacks in their population until long after WW II was over. That is why blacks were played by white actors with blackface in the past. In Germany it never had anything to do with racism. Americans had blacks played by whites in blackface because they were racists. But Americans have never had to face up to their barbarous behavior towards non-whites.

As Jesse Owens said, the Germans treated him like a human being. He even said Hitler acknowledged him and last year it was revealed that Hitler (who we are told is the ultimate racist) even shook Owen's hand, congratulating him on his victories - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1205901/Forget-Hitler--America-snubbed-black-Olympian-Jesse-Owens.html Luz Long, the blond German (with swastika on his shirt and giving the sieg heil salute on the medal stand) was competing against Owens in the long jump. During the competition, in front of 100,000 specatators Long put his arm around Owens shoulder and walked out to the grass and they laid down so Long could give Owens advice on how he wouldn't fault on his next jump (Owens' faulted on his first 2 or 3 jumps). On Owens next jump he didn't fault and he won the gold and Long got the silver. Owens called Luz Long his best friend. Contrast that with how American fans screamed "nigger" at Jackie Robinson from the stands in the 1950's or how even in the 1960's black American athletes were prohibited from staying in "whites only" hotels.

When the black man came back to America, the racist Americans forced Owens to take the freight elevator to his own party. I assume the anti-German bigot that commented above "Racism isn't a solely American phenomenon as this situation unfortunately points out...Germans are fundamentally naive about racism and racist attitudes in their country. It's imperative that we keep making issues out of it until they finally get the clue".

As long as Germans let these ignoramuses to continuously insult them, they will build holocaust museums all across their country, in virtually every state and ignore their 300 years of slavery and genocide of the native-Americans. They even build holocaust musems in places where they had "whites only" water coolers until the late 1960's. But still no memorial to the blacks suffering. Such hypocrisy!

Americans are fundamentally naive about racism and racist attitudes in their country. It's imperative that we keep making issues out of it until they finally get the clue.
11:43 January 9, 2012 by LecteurX
I'm black. I find this silly. But I can't call this "racist" on principle.

People need to chill. I actually feel like supporting this play in the face of such PC-hysteria.
13:38 January 9, 2012 by tadchem
Blackface has been an honorable tradition in theaters at least since Shakespeare's Othello was produced in the early 1600's. Where would the Bard have found a black actor in Elizabethan England?

To the racists out there, we ALL are descended from ancestors born in Africa - the only difference is in how many generations it has been since our ancestors emigrated.
14:33 January 9, 2012 by DonQuixote
@ lecteurX

As a black, it is your right to find this discussion silly.

There have always been a black or group of black people on principle that, chilled, stood by and did nothing and participated in the colonization, slavery, genocides and crimes against black people.
15:34 January 9, 2012 by LecteurX
@ DonQuixote - *Sigh* Well to say the least you live up to your moniker... Don't you think that you're drawing things slightly out of proportions here? Not at all?

For me, black people "participating in genocides and crimes against black people" are just people killing other people. No, pardon, just stupid and criminal people participating in killing other people.

What are you gonna do now? "Resist"? "Maroon"? Go on a Civic Rights march? Set the theatre alight to show your just disapproval? Don't be ridiculous.

Plus, I was saying "I find this silly but I can't call this racist on principle" as to say "I find this [blackface poster] silly". This is what I find silly. You understood my post quite wrongly. But that's not so surprising in the face of your sense of just proportion on things...
18:33 January 9, 2012 by Beachrider
1) just because something was done a certain way at some time in the past, does not mean that it is OK to do it that way now. No one has to tell the western societies THAT.

2) Use of Blackface actors in the USA is primarily indicative of 'racial restrictions' that were observed (for actors) in the past. That is primarily why it comes under fire as fostering racisim in the USA.

3) If these 'restrictions' also existed in Germany (I don't know if they did), then it should have the same problem there.

4) If ~#3, then there still could be a problem with the portrayal in a context. I simply don't know enough about this situation to advise on that.

... otherwise you guys are just pushing each other's buttons. If that is what makes you happy...
19:11 January 9, 2012 by Englishted

That is true but also no women were allowed on the stage.

So England in reign of good queen Bess was racist and sexist probably would have been ageist as well if people had lived long enough.
22:33 January 9, 2012 by MaKo
Because of my cultural heritage, actors appearing blackface makes me really uncomfortable. And yes that does count for the deeply culturally ingrained Melchior who darkens my doorstep with his two compadres each year just ahead of Epiphany. I thoroughly understand that the people who do this do not have overt or even conscious racist intentions, but I don't think that makes the act benign.

The problem is that in blackface, a white person presents us with his interpretation of a black person, and in doing so paints an entity of individuals with a broad swath. Just look at the man's face on the poster - doesn't it look cartoonish? To be sure, the white guy looks goofy, too. But in any culture, a cartoon of any given minority can morph into a caricature, and that puts us on a slippery slope. Cries of "but it happened here; they're no better" and "they did it, too" are unhelpful; they keep us from garnering the lessons of our collective human heritage.
23:14 January 9, 2012 by DonQuixote
@ LecteurX

What are you gonna do now? "Resist"? "Maroon"? Go on a Civic Rights march? Set the theatre alight to show your just disapproval? Don't be ridiculous.

Its all in the Devil's Handwriting.

No, there is no need for a civil rights march in Germany or Europe. And, there is no such thing as a black or white human race.

As a human being, I and we, are all born free. It seems you are still mentality enslaved, as a black, whatever a black is?

There is no such thing as I am black or black culture!
09:29 January 10, 2012 by AlanDEUS
If you seriously queation black-face, you'd also have to frown on the britches part and transvestites on stage, along with blacks singing Madame Butterfly and of course back to any non-black playing Othello. Directors and producers have the liberty to select the best actor for the part no matter what skin color. Now THAT is politically correct.
12:23 January 10, 2012 by DepotCat
In the British Mail Online today -- {OK OK it's also known as the Daily Make it Up} - "The 'black up!' - a version of Volkswagen's new supermini - was dropped in the UK over fears it could cause offence to ethnic minorities"...So they decided to call it the 'up black' instead...LoL. Volkswagen said there were no plans to change the ¦quot;Black Up!¦quot; name on the Continent...You gotta laugh.
16:32 January 10, 2012 by Beachrider
It is entirely possible to frown on black-face, if its onset came from exclusion of blacks from the acting profession OR black-performers at-a-venue.

It DOES have the issue in the USA.

You don't have to comment on whether that happened in Germany or England, but it is obtuse to ignore it.

If people are concerned about HOW it is being used IN THIS SITUATION, that hasn't been stated. It is entirely possible to make fun of someone, observing the various cultural protections that exist in each country. Those ARE different from one country to another.
19:05 January 10, 2012 by kanata
It's a tradition for Germans to play Nazzis in German theatres. Just a bunch of nazzis these moron Germans.
20:55 January 11, 2012 by MrBowlocks
It could have been a hideous hooked (rubber) nose; a reference to another well known German 'tradition'
11:57 January 12, 2012 by stoljar01@gmail.com
This isn't a case of racism. Black actors also do the same thing, yet don't get accused of racism. Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and other black actors played white people without being accused of being racist. I, as a white person, also found the movie "Undercover Brother" as being hillarious, yet the jokes were revolving many racial stereotypes. Essentially, if it can't be done by white people, then it shouldn't be done by black. I agree with crm114 with some classifying something "risible" as being racist.
15:55 January 12, 2012 by Beachrider


In the USA, blackface actors were used when black performers were excluded due to racial bias of the performers or the venue. That is a simple truth.

This is the primary concern with use of Blackface in the USA.

No matter if other justifications fall-apart, this one doesn't.
22:14 January 12, 2012 by b-c
Incredible and embarassing. Germany is obviously way behind in many aspects...
13:50 January 13, 2012 by ChrisRea
@ b-c

Clearly you suffer a lot feeling that Germany is way ahead of your country in all the other aspects :) You have my sympathy :D
17:57 January 13, 2012 by korbermeister
I object to the fact that he looks nothing like an African American. In this age of 'Lord Of The Rings', 'Star Wars' movies, and even the 'Madea' movies, it seems very lazy & amateurish to smear 'coal' unevenly on your face and proclaim to look like an African American. They should've hired Robert Downey Jr.

20:02 January 13, 2012 by igore
Before the globalisation "Neger" was not a bad word, it just was

the word for black male, nobody was offended.

With the american influence it became rough to say this word,

because it's meaning changed to the N-Word which was not equal to the meaning in Germany.

I think Americans and Britons are offended, when you say black.
21:34 January 13, 2012 by Beachrider

You are really 'wandering around' to find something to bitch about. Just relax, it is the weekend. People get excited about all kinds of things every day.
22:51 January 13, 2012 by Notburga
I am sure they did not think at all when they painted a white guy black. A century ago it would have been ok, but people......let´s all arrive in this century, pleeeaaase ! This discussion is so ridiculous. There are enough black people in Germany to have used a black person. Just cut the TV on and you will find one. So this is a lousy excuse. They stick to those acient old methods the same way they cling to the word "colored". Blacks are black and not colored, a colored person is to me a white person who stayed in the sun too long, because he does not want to be white white. And because black people went for centuries through a whole lot more than any white person and stilll have to put up with discrimination I would say let´s be more sensitive and respect the feelings of our brothers and sisters.
17:10 January 14, 2012 by igore
Star boys' singing procession and Knecht Ruprecht

are also traditions were somebody is painted black.

This is not racism.


I am relaxed. My opinoin is, that hiding behind PC-terms

is just stupid. When people say urban in the US everyone

knows what the person means.

I have respect for the people. What offends me, is that banning words

or traditions doesen't bring us further in any direction.

For example saying:

"My cousins boyfriend is from India, 2m tall, short hair and black like a tamil."

If somebody important would say this, he or she would be called rascist.

So I am not calling anybody names, just giving the normal description if somebody asks.
03:21 January 17, 2012 by Beachrider

Stop ignoreing exclusion for convenience. It is the reason. You don't even attempt to address it. You are just pushing buttons. It is so uncollegial. Do that on your own time. I am done with your abuse on this topic...
10:22 January 17, 2012 by MaKo
Cans, Can'ts in Germany...

Can I go to Berlin and see a play where a role is performed in blackface? Ja!

Can I watch Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech on YouTube from the link supplied by Democrats Abroad? Let's ask GEMA: "Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany because it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the respective music rights.

Sorry about that."

Racism "hin oder her", that doesn't seem quite right.
05:58 January 20, 2012 by Jeff10

Please read "White Gold." Slavery and racism has been a two-way street since there has been more than one race.
14:31 January 25, 2012 by diastar
What an incredible discussion. The irony of this is the topic of the play - racism. What was the intention of this production in the first place? The logic that racism and racist theatre are American issues to be solved there would also suggest that an actual production of "I'm Not Rappaport" should never happen in Germany at all. It is shocking that a professional theatre production could take on a project that deals with racism and not bother to do a little work on understanding racism outside of this production. Had anybody bothered to take 30 seconds and google blackface or look at wikipedia before casting a white actor in blackface, they could have made an informed decision. Yes, there is a tradition of blackface in theatre. It is a racist tradition and no argument for using a white actor in blackface in a German theatre production ABOUT racism.

It is ridiculous to suggest that racism is an American invention and/or that it does not exist in Germany. This incident and way too many of the responses here just prove that racism as tradition is a default position in Germany. Is that really something to defend?
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