The following images are part of an ad campaign by UNICEF in Germany. The campaign purports to raise awareness about educational inequality in African nations, but strangely has opted to use white German children posing in blackface as uneducated African children to convey that message. According to the ad agency that created the campaign, the poster "shows four german kids who appeal for solidarity with their contemporaries in Afrika." The text that goes along with each image is translated beneath the ad:
"in africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school"
"some teachers suck. no teachers sucks even more."
"I'm waiting for my last day in school, the children in africa still for their first one."
"in africa, kids don't come to school late, but not at all"
Not surprisingly, the ads have generated quite a bit of heat as they zoom around the world on the internet.
Malena Amusa has written at Alternet.org, "Besides claiming that every single person in 'Africa' isn't educated, and doing so in an extremely patronising way, it is also disturbing that this organisation thinks blackfacing kids with mud (!) equals 'relating to african children'. Also, the kids' statements ignore the existence of millions of african academics and regular people and one again reduces a whole continent to a village of muddy uneducated uncivilized people who need to be educated (probably by any random westerner). This a really sad regression. Bottom lines of this campaign are: Black = mud = African = uneducated. White = educated. We feel this campaign might do just as much harm as it does any good. You don't collect money for helping people by humiliating and trivializing them first."
In response, one reader wrote, "The ads seem to be trying to evoke in the viewer a sense of 'what if these were our children.'" Another posted, "Cultural context and imagery are handled slightly different in Germany. Sublime and slightly overboard. Why not using imagery like that for a pressing issue? Don`t apply US PCism." A different reader charged that those criticizing the campaign were merely "looking for the racist element in everything." And one final person asked, "This is clearly an attempt to help some poor kids. Why make a BIG DEAL out of it?"
Check it out the full Alternet piece at this link (be sure to scroll through the comments):
German Ad Campaign Uses White Children in Blackface to Portray "Uneducated Africans"
So, what is this all about? Is it just another example of racism, white supremacy and neo-colonialism? Or, is it American PC run amok, American cultural police imposing their values and perspectives on the rest of the world? Or, is it well-intentions gone awry? Or, is it some knowing use of historically loaded imagery to make a statement, or get attention? Or, is it something else altogether...?
For what it is worth, when I saw this story, I was reminded of a story from 2005, about a German city (Augsburg) that had decided to have an African cultural celebration inside their local zoo! The exhibit included real human beings along side the exotic animals. Anti-racist organizations throughout the country and around the world reacted. Here is the story:
BBC: "Row over German zoo's Africa show"