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Belgium judge rules Tintin in the Congo is not racist

Tintin in the Congo racist?

A Belgium judge has ruled that the 1920’s comic book Tintin in the Congo is not racist but “gentle and candid humour.”

[The Plaintiff] said the book should be banned in Belgium, which has a history of colonial aggression, exploitation and violence in the Congo, because of the number of damaging black stereotypes.

He said that Tintin employed a little black helper who was seen as “stupid and without qualities”.

In one scene, a black woman prostrates herself before Tintin, saying: “White man very great. White mister is big juju man.”

The comic book has prompted efforts to ban it other countries such as France and Britain. In Britain the comic is still available but with a labels stating that it contains racial content.

Community Comments

#1 JLG
January/5/2013
@ 7:48 pm

The thing is, too often this kind of thing is the result of white people talking amongst themselves about black people, or something to do with black people, without blacks themselves—-or in this case, specifically Congolese themselves—-engaging or being engaged. That in and of itself is pretty insulting, I would imagine.
In this case, an African WAS part of the conversation, as the book was brought to court by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a Congolese, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations (which Google tells virtually nothing about). But to come to a conclusion like that, despite Herge himself distancing himself from the stereotypes in the book years later, is a condescending slap in the face, I think. I don’t have patience for racism-chasers or wolf-criers, but sometimes an awkward relic is an awkward relic, no matter what some judge says.

#2 Donald Rex Jr.
January/6/2013
@ 1:59 am

Revisionist history in terms of the treatment of race and racism in literature alway seems to do the opposite of the intention. Rather than demeaning persons in the present, such work documents how persons were actually treated in the past.

TinTin In The Congo was read without a thought in the 1920s, but a few decades later it was felt to be inappropriate and a bit embarassing by Herge and his publishers, and it went quietly out of print for three decades or so. When it came back in the 70s with a disclamer and revisions in parts of the art and story it was really worse than the original, which was eventually returned to print.

I always equate this book with Jack Benny employing Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson in the 1930s. At first they played up stereotypes like shooting dice and carrying a straight razor, but soon Rochester was the star of the show. I reckon context is important in considering sensitive subjects in art and literature.

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