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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Racism Is Worldwide, Have A Piece Of The Cake.

According to an article in Fria Tider (a Swedish publication), the minister of culture was celebrating with a “n–ger cake.” To add insult to injury, Liljeroth was invited to open festivities of World Art Day by — brace yourself — “performing a clitoridectomy on the cake” to bring awareness to the global practice of female circumcision.

If you think this story can’t get any more perverse, there is a video and photos of Liljeroth slicing the genital area of the cake and eating it. Did I mention that the body screams each time someone slices the cake?

Other than the obviously perverse and hateful nature of this heinous incident masquerading as performance art, Liljeroth isn’t your stereotypical racist. Prior to this incident, the politician had publicly taken a hard-line approach against racism, even changing Sweden’s press-subsidy laws in order to block tax funding of a nationalist newspaper. Liljeroth has been viewed as a friend in the fight against racism in a country known for being sensitive to such issues.

What is evident here is that what people think and what they do are two different things, particularly when it comes to race and gender.

When I saw the photo, I initially thought of Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, commonly referred to as the Hottentot Venus. Baartman was an enslaved South African woman who was literally put on display as entertainment throughout Europe because of what the medical and scientific establishment regarded as her exceptional bodily form: protruding buttocks and an elongated labia.

Baartman was “exhibited” in London even after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and eventually sold to a Frenchman. In France she was exhibited under even more demeaning conditions, some at the hands of an animal trainer. She was the subject of several scientific paintings. Baartman died in 1815, and her preserved genitals and brain were on display at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris until 1997, when her remains were repatriated to South Africa at the request of President Nelson Mandela.

Liljeroth’s participation in the current heinous act demonstrates just how far we haven’t come as it relates to the treatment of black women’s bodies. The kind of pain, suffering and humiliation endured by Baartman — who was literally property from which economic institutions like slavery, and cultural institutions like museums, benefited during and after her lifetime — is met with little regard or sensitivity by those who would call themselves “anti-racist.” If Liljeroth is anti-racist, then Houston, we have a problem. This wanton act and her willing participation in it speaks to the perversion of power as it relates to race, gender and sexuality.


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