First one way and then the next – to the sound of bongo drums. Full speed ahead and feel the air rushing through your grass skirts as Hottentotten spins you a merry dance.
The Hottentot carousel, part of Djurs Sommerland‘s Africa section along with other wholesome entertainment like the Cannibal Cauldrons, is another nasty reminder of persisting cultural racism. Hottentot is an antiquated derogatory term for Africans, specifically for the Khoikhoi people of South Africa.
When outraged people called for removal of the offensive rides on the park’s Facebook page, administrators merely deleteded the comments, citing as a reason only the tone (of the condescending replies to the original post, I would assume), but stated in private correspondence that neither rides nor theme sections would be renamed.
Twitter user @labeet shared a link to a blog post summing up the whole affair (where I also got the above image and information) and was immediately hit with tweets accusing her of political correctness. The official twitter account for Bæltestedet, a show on radio station 24syv weighed in (in Danish, my translations follow):
Suddenly everybody have an opinion about #djurssommerland – it’s too much – like with Pippi in Sweden. It’s fiction. Relax.
The show’s twitter person is referring to the — now redacted — mention in Pippi Longstocking that the titular character’s father is a “negro king”. As @labeet points out, while the Hottentot carousel was erected in the nineties, Astrid Lindgren wrote her book in the fourties, a product of another attitude toward other races.
I’d add that 1) the Pippi redaction is perfectly in tune with the overall humanist tolerance evident in Lindgren’s works, and 2) the fiction argument doesn’t hold water when applied to an amusement park ride featuring an offensive caricature of an African. That’s not a “fiction”, it’s a 4 feet fibre glass blackface minstrel fact. Some Danes are unwilling to admit that certain parts of their cultural heritage is outdated and basically wrong — @baeltestedet continues:
All everybody sees now is racism – it corresponds to if I was a butcher and wanted the film “The green butchers” stopped. QUIT IT ALREADY.
(It is not required to have seen that film to understand the example…)
The person at the keyboard attached to @baeltestedet’s twitter goes on to suggest that the park also close their Viking themed section because the depiction of our old Norse ancestors as pillaging marauders might be offensive to some. A rather helpless attempt to gain a rhetoric footing, followed by a quick exit from the discussion.
I think the last quote offers the only, involuntary glimmer of insight in @baeltestedets contribution: “All everybody sees now is racism”. I do believe that scales are falling from a lot of people’s eyes these past years, and they are gradually, finally speaking out against racist imagery and verbiage that has been handed down from earlier generations — and challenging the people and social structures that would preserve or even expand upon that inherent racism. And I say that knowing full well that there is a large contingency of the population pulling toward the olden ways.