AFP: ‘Tintin in the Congo’ racism trial opens

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Comment: Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, wants Tintin in the Congo to be removed from bookshelves in Belgium.

“Imagine a seven-year-old black girl discovering ‘Tintin in the Congo’ with her classmates,” he said. Mondondo denounced the book’s depiction of blacks as “lazy, docile and stupid” and “incapable of speak(ing) French correctly.”

Another matter that adds generous quantities of salt to injury is Belgian rule in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Writes Time magazine in a 2010 issue: “Belgian Congo was one of the most bloody and cruel colonial regimes in Africa. The original inspiration for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it was claimed for King Leopold II in 1885 by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley. For 23 years, the area — the size of France, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden combined — was the King’s personal possession. 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.”

Hergé, who had never visited the Congo, changed some of the racist content in the book in 1946, when the color version was published. In the first black-and-white scene he said to the pupils about Belgian geograph: “Let’s talk about your country, Belgium!” That was changed to a math class.

“Will we continue to tolerate such a book today?” asked Mondondo, whose case against Tintin’s publisher is backed by a French anti-racism group.

Should we continue to tolerate any kinds of books that reinforce stereotypes and racism of different ethnic groups?

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A Congolese man pleaded with a Belgian court on Friday to remove “Tintin in the Congo” from bookshelves, arguing that the comic book is littered with racist stereotypes about Africans.  “It is a racist comic book that celebrates colonialism and the supremacy of the white race over the black race,” Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo said as he arrived for the opening of the civil trial in Brussels.

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  1. Timo Ojanen

    I disagree with removing historical literature from bookshops and libraries (even Mein Kampf, Lenin’s, Mao’s, Gaddafi’s or anyone’s works) of any type for their biases that were typical of their age and social context. Likewise, I disagree with removing statues or admin buildings of past dictators(hips). I think they should be left to stay as warning monuments and as historical records to future generations, who might do well to cover such historical evidence in schools for what it is, what it stood for and why, and what the consequences were.

    Much rather so than trying to substitute a more palatable past, refuse to tolerate the real past ,and fail to learn from it.

  2. Risto

    As a Belgian, I’d say: it is a sad thing what has happened in the Congo. I really feel deeply ashamed about the crimes perpetrated by the royal family, the great bankers and industrialists, the clergy and a good deal of the Belgian society. I do not know whether it ‘d be a good idea to remove the album from the bookshelves, I’d rather have that there would be a broad debate in society and parliament about the colonial period, which ideally would culminate in a recognition of the wrongs committed by the Belgian state.

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