By Elvira Swartch Lorenzo •
It doesn’t matter what you think you are trying to represent. It does not matter that you think that this way you make children happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tradition. If you paint yourself in a color that is not yours, it is racist.
The blackface controversy comes every Christmas like nougat. We can see some public figures and active politicians practicing this humiliation to the group of Black people. In this context, Alcoy y su cabalgata is the most offensive and violent blackface demonstration in Europe.
They will think that I am exaggerating, but I will try to explain myself and give four reasons why you should not dress up as a page in Alcoy or do a Christmas blackface.
4 reasons why Alcoy’s pages are violence:
- The pages respond to a painful history and not assumed by this country , that of slavery. Alcoy’s black pages have their roots in human trafficking. According to the Afro-descendant thinker and historian Antumi Toasije: “… in various publications from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both from Alcoy and elsewhere, the characters carrying the scales are described as ‘slaves'” … “Therefore it is evident that from the beginning of the parade the victims of slavery were being mocked and Black enslaved people were being represented in a grotesque way ”.
The cavalcade contributes to normalize the slave period in the collective imagination as harmless and without consequences, which is completely false. The black faces that we walk through the Spanish streets, our very presence, is a consequence of that slave and colonial past that is NOT studied in schools. Shame and guilt may be the main reason for this. How to justify the massacre of millions of people?
- Dehumanizing stereotypes perpetuate . In an environment such as the city of Alcoy, with a migrant population that normally occupies the lowest socioeconomic level and that is numerically approximately 10%, (the black-skinned population is barely 1%) it is difficult for racialized people to feel like it. to raise his voice to complain about the parade. They will also have witnessed the virulent reactions that the very idea of not painting the pages provokes in Alcoyan citizens.
What image can children have of people with dark skin? Surely the only contact that most of these children have with Black people is that of that infamous representation. Portraying yourself as someone of a different race is not just a representation of one person, but rather using someone else’s skin tone as a disguise . Alcoy’s pages painted black and wearing stereotypical African garb are an unaffordable reduction in these times.
Many of these ideas and stereotypes persist today thanks to representations like these. A young man disguising himself as a page in Alcoy may claim that he does not believe in the biological inferiority of Black people, but his insistence on painting his face black, especially since makeup work is generally deliberately unrealistic, is evidence of his overvaluation. racist and continuing of the importance of differences in skin color. In this way, the black face is dehumanizing.
- Alcoy pages are symbolic violence. They are, it’s not an innocent game. Their representative violence, the way they openly ridicule blacks, is obvious.
The representation of the pages in the Alcoy cavalcade painting their skins completely black, and painting a wide area around the mouth red, giving the appearance of large lips, is exactly identical or very similar to that of the North American black face, the Dutch Zwarte Piet and a long list of representations of Blackness throughout the white western world.
In general, these makeups are a deliberate attempt to disparagingly portray Blacks as quirky, ugly, and grotesque. The flashy outfit also serves to further ridicule Blacks.
- It’s not fun for us. I know that this really matters little in this society where the black face in general, and the Alcoy pages in particular, are a clear manifestation of the disturbing relationships between the fun of the whites, the domination and the ridicule of the Blacks who come from the times of slavery.
The black face of the Alcoy pages reinscribes the relations of slavery in the ways in which it implies putting on and taking off Blackness. It makes the property of our body, of our identity, questioned since it can be appropriated and discarded at will.
These are some of the many reasons why I think that when one of those young people from Alcoy disguises himself as a page, he is exercising intolerable violence against me. Therefore, I have the right not to give up in my efforts to put an end to this racist and hateful manifestation against Black people.
Pages are your privilege.
My fight is my right.
Originally published on Afroféminas, this article was written by Elvira Swartch Lorenzo, who is a regular contributor for Afroféminas, and a daughter of Afro-Colombian migrants.