Colonial Fetish

By Jeff Mannes Switch to German for original article

Racisms don't stop at sexuality: a Black History Month exploration of how fantasies from colonial times influence our sexuality.

[Trigger warning: this article contains descriptions of racist and sexualized experiences that may be (re)traumatizing to some].

Luxembourg has a racism problem. More than one in two Black Luxembourgers said they had already been racially insulted in this country in the five years prior to the 2018 publication of the “Being Black in the EU” study. At 52 percent, Luxembourg was thus in a sad second place among the twelve EU countries compared and far above the average of 30 percent. As many as 70 percent said they had been discriminated against because of their skin color or (perceived) origin (compared to 39 percent for the European average).

“Since when do we let Black people into 'Classique’?” It’s phrases like this that you hear as a Black person in the Grand Duchy, according to the November 2019 “Being Black in Luxembourg” conference. "You hear things like, 'We need foreigners. But not the Black ones, not the ones from Africa’", one participant tells us in a well-received episode of the Luxembourg podcast “paus.” that featured exclusively Black people as part of the “Black Lives Matter” movement last year.

In addition to this explicit racism, however, there are also not-so-obvious forms of racism. “You hear it even from people who actually like you and mean it nicely”, says another person on the podcast, who was often called Tarzan in school because of their long frizzy hair. “But you should know that it’s not. It’s only meant nice in the sense that people look down on us from above, maybe see us as 'cute’, like we’re dolls. It’s dehumanizing.” They said they have no desire to meet new people in Luxembourg because you are immediately confronted with these forms of racism again.

Black History Month

Ignorance of these racisms is why so many people have a false image of racism (and, moreover, other forms of group-based hostility such as sexism, ableism, or queerphobia) and react both defensively and in denial when racist statements or actions are brought to their attention. Racism, in their eyes, is a trait of a few people with bad intentions and not what social scientists say it really is: an ancient system of beliefs that is socially institutionalized and individually internalized. It is institutionalized because, historically and socially, it permeates all social institutions, from the family to the state. And it is internalized because it is unconsciously internalized by each and every one of us through our socialization and, consequently, often unconsciously reproduced by each and every individual. It is therefore the task of everyone not to react in denial when attention is drawn to racist statements, but to understand it as a learning opportunity to unlearn one’s own internalized racism.

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