One of my biggest pet peeves is talking to certain kinds of Black folks once they have returned from their first trip to Europe. After you talk about the food, the time zone changes and how long it took to find a socket adaptor for your laptop you will usually hear some variation of the following three phrases:
“Oh My God there’s just no racism over there.”
“Yo, German/Italian/French women/men LOVE black folks over there!”
“I’ve got to move to Europe there are just so many more opportunities over there for us as a people.”
After I’m done screaming in my head I allow them to live in their fantasy world before occasionally discussing what life is really like for members of the Diaspora in Europe. But now I’ve been saved part of that lecture thanks to the folks at Dutch magazine Jackie and their feature story on Rihanna. As many of you might know, Jackie magazine got into a bit of trouble over the last 48 hours when it was revealed that editors allowed the following passage to see the light of day in a feature story on Jay Z’s protégé:
“She has street cred, she has a ghetto ass and she has a golden throat. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate niggabitch and displays that gladly, and for her that means: what’s on can come off. If that means she’ll be on stage half naked, then so be it. But Dutch winters aren’t like Jamaican ones, so pick a clothing style in which your daughter can resist minus ten. No to the big sunglasses and the pornheels, and yes to the tiger print, pink shizzle and everything that glitters. Now let’s hope she won’t beat anybody up at daycare.”
I’m all for giving people an occasional pass on bad translation but I figure that “Niggabitch” is probably known to be an offensive term in any language. Of course Rihanna has struck back at the magazine via Twitter, and the editor has summarily apologized and stepped down from her job but the larger story, as usual, remains untouched. Much as my friends who spend 5 days in France getting chatted up by blondes in a college café may not realize it, racism and discrimination still occur in Europe, and multi-cultural sensitivity is sometimes non-existent. This is especially the case in nations like the Netherlands where the minority populations are so small that the voice to resist racist depictions is limited. What is often the case in Europe is that you have more extreme ideologies and attitudes toward race. Those who are progressive are really progressive, and those who are conservatives or racists are borderline Neo-nazis. Making fun of people of different races or colors is not nearly as big a deal in Europe as it is here.
Remember the Mohammed cartoon from a Dutch paper? As a regular reader of blogs from African Americans abroad this Jackie story does not surprise me at all. One of the best – selling books in the Netherlands two years ago was a racialized porn story about a young white man who decides to find himself by sleeping with all of the “different kinds” of Black women in his country.
In the end, this story will blow over by Christmas and no one will care anymore but this should server as a slight reminder to Americans about our European cousins. All of that socialized medicine, liberal-leaning parliaments and quality public transportation doesn’t always translate into more progressive racial attitudes.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.