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Blackface Is Still Totally Cool in Germany, Apparently

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on January 4, 2013

German chancellor Angela Merkel had herself a nice little Friday.

At the chancellory in Berlin, the world’s most powerful woman sang along with carolers from all over Germany, including this ‘Three Kings’ performer … WHO IS DEPICTED IN BLACKFACE. (Merkel is depicted in DeNiroFace.)

APTOPIX Germany Epiphany
(AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Hey, it’s totally cool! Even these adorable little kids enjoy blackface!

Bundeskanzlerin Merkel empfaengt Sternsinger
Foto: Clemens Bilan/dapd

Obviously taboo here in the United States, Germany is still relatively split over whether blackface is offensive or not. In September 2011, political party leader Martin Sonneborn, dressed in shiny blackface, slapped his made-up visage on a billboard with the JFK-esque slogan “Ick bin ein Obama (I am an Obama)” emblazoned across the top. In January 2012, a theater troupe defended its use of an actor in blackface, saying, “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.” There was outrage aboard, and from many black Germans at home, but the controversy eventually died down.

Obama in Blackface? Mr. Sonneborn, Tear Down This Billboard
• Just the Swedish Minister of Culture Cutting a Racist Cake

These incidents followed some other questionably racist endeavors in Germany, which on some level could be chalked up to the vast cultural divide. In 2009, a frozen food company released Obama chicken fingers but admitted it wasn’t aware some might see the racist overtones of stereotyping blacks with a fried chicken product. That same year, Dresden’s Zoo renamed a mandrill, yup, a monkey-like primate, “Obama,” in an unfortunate effort to honor the U.S. president. German daily die Tageszeitung honored then-candidate Obama during the 2008 election by referring to the White House “Uncle Barack’s Cabin.”

Clearly, Germans don’t quite get America’s cultural and historical racism. For Americans, it pretty much goes without saying that this is highly offensive. Blackface consisted of white performers painting themselves black for degrading minstrel shows and was highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even Ted Danson learned that you don’t go blackface in contemporary society. Roger Sterling is cool, though.


• SEE ALSO: So What’s More Offensive: BYU’s Racial Ignorance or This Dumbass Interviewer in Blackface?

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