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Tintin in the Congo: The race row

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starspireite
Member
#1 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 08:44
From metro.co.uk...

"Racist Tintin should be banned"

A high street chain was today criticised for stocking a Tintin book accused of having racist content.

The Commission for Racial Equality is calling on Borders to pull "Tintin in the Congo" from its shelves.

It says the illustrated book makes black people "look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles".

The book will offend many people and should be removed from sale, according to the CRE.

A spokeswoman said: "This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles.

"How and why do Borders think that it's okay to peddle such racist material?

"Yes, it was written a long time ago, but this certainly does not make it acceptable. This is potentially highly offensive to a great number of people.

"It beggars belief that in this day and age Borders would think it acceptable to sell and display Tintin in the Congo. It's high time that they reconsidered their decision and removed this from their shelves."

The CRE were contacted by a Borders customer who saw the book in a London branch of the chain last month.

A spokesman for the chain said it was moving the Tintin book from the children's to the adult graphic novels section of its stores.

"Naturally, some of the thousands of books and music selections we carry could be considered controversial or objectionable depending on individual political views, tastes and interests," he said.

"However, Borders stands by its commitment to let customers make the choice. After consideration of this title, we have instructed all stores to move it to the adult graphic novels section."
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 10:08
See also these stories from The Telegraph and The Guardian.
Balthazar
Moderator
#3 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 10:55 · Edited by: Balthazar
Interesting news story.

I don't think anyone would dispute that the book is appallingly racist, and it's clearly not a book you'd want children to use to learn about Africa, nor a book you'd want white kids to use to shape their views on black people, or black kids to use to form a sense of self identity! But this is blindingly obvious, and I thought Egmont were only selling the book with a red paper band around it informing people that it was written and drawn decades ago, and contains now-offensive racial stereotypes of the time.

None of the newspaper reports mentions this warning band, only Egmont's similarly cautionary foreward. Have Egmont stopped using the warning band?

The spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality is quoted as saying that the only place the book would be acceptable would be in a museum - with a sign accompanying it saying "old-fashioned, racist claptrap". I kind of thought that this was precisely how Egmont were selling it - as a museum piece for collectors with a sign (or band) around it saying exactly that.

It'll be interesting to see how this goes. The black Africans in the Red Sea Sharks, who are protrayed as being too simple-minded to understand that Haddock is trying to save them from slavery (until he's called them coconuts several times), might raise similar concerns. As might the portrayal of the native Americans in America - again a sympathetic portrayal, but a rather stereotypical and patronising one.

I guess the real question is, do we trust children to understand that some of the books they read were written a while ago by authors who might have held views that would be unacceptable today? Or do we think that children believe that every book is an instruction for living and are in danger of soaking up everything they read as gospel?

I generally tend towards the former position. With a good prominent foreward, setting the book in its historical context, maybe Tintin in the Congo could be used to actually teach children something about the European colonial mindset. But I accept that I might feel differently if I was black. Maybe racism is still too prevalent and too damaging in people's everyday lives for this book to merely be seen as a quaint historical curiosity. So shelving it in the adult section, as Borders are doing, might be a sensible compromise.
mondrian
Member
#4 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 12:27
Very good post (again!) by Balthazar. Instant replay, but can´t resist to write my thoughts as well.

The book should include a good foreword. People do need an understanding of history, and in this case, especially colonialism and racist attitudes, and I feel the Congo-book is a very good document of the time. Should be sold & read as such, and most definitely it shouldn´t be sold as a funny children´s book.

People do soak up attitudes from books etc, source criticism develops only through analytical reading, good teaching and with time. Young kids only have a limited understanding of history and time, hence the history teaching at schools in most countries starts only after the age of ten.

Tintin in Congo (or some scenes & pictures) is sometimes used in schools as an example of colonialist attitudes. That´s the way it can (and should) be read, but giving that book to someone with little knowledge of history and/or whose ethical views are still very much in transition* is utterly irresponsible.



*Of course ethical views evolve throughout human life. But kids and teenagers tend to have rather uncertain positions on the matter, and are open to new influences.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 13:35
News just in!

Michael Farr will be interviewed at home, on camera, by CNN at 3pm and at 4pm by More 4 News. More 4 News will transmit at 8pm.

Sky News will interview Michael at 2.30pm at home, with a link to their studio where a member of the Commission for Racial Equality will be present. This will transmit live.
edcharlesadams
Trivia Challenge Score Keeper
#6 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 14:32
I wonder if people can have their fingers poised to record them? It would be good to see the coverage later if some of us can't get to a TV.

This was discussed on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show at 1:45pm - with the man who made the initial complaint and James Heneage, founder of Ottakar's. It should be up on Radio 2's 'Listen Again' site later - I will check back with the details.

Ed
number1fan
Member
#7 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 15:48
From BtYahoo NeA High Street bookshop chain is moving an edition of children's favourite Tintin to its adult section following a complaint of racism.

The Commission For Racial Equality had called on the Borders chain to pull Tintin In The Congo from its shelves.

It said the illustrated book - which has been the subject of controversy for years - had the potential to offend many people.

A spokeswoman said: "This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles.

"How and why do Borders think that it's okay to peddle such racist material?

"Yes, it was written a long time ago, but this certainly does not make it acceptable."

The CRE was contacted by a Borders customer who saw the book in a London branch of the chain last month.

A spokesman for the store said it was moving the Tintin book from the children's section to the adult graphic novels area.

"Naturally, some of the thousands of books and music selections we carry could be considered controversial or objectionable depending on individual political views, tastes and interests," he said.

"However, Borders stands by its commitment to let customers make the choice. After consideration of this title, we have instructed all stores to move it to the adult graphic novels section."


Oh what realy gets on my nerves is that everything has to be politically correct this was one in the 20's when times were alot differnt to what they are now.
No one is forced to read these books people forget that they have a choice like people who cry and scream about tv programes they dont like well if you dont like something in the media ignore it.
Listen to this Def Jam Comedy Dvds are rascist to white people but are they moved of the shelf nope.
jock123
Moderator
#8 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 18:50
Michael Farr is also taking part in a debate on BBC News24 at 19:30.

My thoughts are that while the CRE have a point, and are right to take issue with the contents of the book, as Balthazar says much of what they object to is already mentioned on the belly-band. I feel that they have over-egged the pudding in the language of their protest: they would have been far better served, in my opinion by a) asking that the warning be improved/ made more explicit/ more informative; b) that it be adhered to the book in some way, as the belly bands do seem to slip off on the shelves, or perhaps that the whole volume be shrunk wrapped; c) offered to include materials with the book, discussing the issues that they feel strongly about, and offering educational material on the questions of racial stereotyping and generally tried to make a positive out of it.
Prohibition will only lead to a market in the book - the Tintin Shop in Covent Garden were out of copies this afternoon...
Balthazar
Moderator
#9 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 19:23
jock 123
I feel that they have over-egged the pudding in the language of their protest.

You're right, Jock. I think the problem is that the CRE are coming to this from a position of ignorance about the cultural context of Tintin as a major part of 20th Century culture.

To us adult Tintin enthusiasts, and to most intelligent child Tintin fans as well, Tintin in the Congo is an important part of Hergé's work - embarrassing and offensive, yes, as Hergé himself freely admitted, but worth studying to understand the development of Tintin, and the European comic strip tradition generally, and possible to enjoy whilst acknowledging its massive moral flaws.

To the CRE, who probably have no appreciation of the history of comic books, no understanding that historical comic books are culturally interesting, and no idea how many intelligent people read Tintin, Tintin in the Congo must simply seem to be a mainstream children's book aimed at eight-year-olds and, as such, unbeleivably racist in this day and age.

Hopefully, Michael Farr can put them straight, but I do think us Tintin fans - especially us white Tintin fans - should accept how hurtful this book might be to some people. I'm not in favour of censorship, but it's nonsense to say that anyone who finds this book racist is simply being ludicrously politically correct. As I said, Hergé himself accepted it was racist.
jockosjungle
Member
#10 · Posted: 12 Jul 2007 19:43
Without sounding harsh this book has been out for a while now, so why now do they complain?

There is plenty of racism in literature, I mean gypsies aren't all thieves but they are portrayed that way in Famous Five books. In Huck Finn how often are black people referred to in a negative way?

We accept them because they are from a different time

R

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