Chika Unigwe, Nigerian-born novelist and author of the NLNG Prize winning novel, On Black Sisters Street, has recently been at the forefront of confronting racism in the Belgian media (De Morgen). Her third novel, Night Dancer, is available in Nigeria from Parrésia Books.
‘The second fact is that there is a certain level of racial dementia in Belgium. There is an inability to judge what is racially offensive and what is not. Belgium has never confronted its colonial past and has therefore never moved on from it. There is a statue celebrating Leopold despite the atrocities he committed in the Congo. Zwarte Piet (with the black face, red lips and the kinky wig, reminiscent of the golliwog, so popular in neighboring Netherlands that even the Prime Minister gets into blackface) is considered a national treasure in Belgium.
Employers can say (and have said) “I do not want a black worker” without much fear of punishment. (Here’s a variation on that excuse.) The black immigrant is still expected to be grateful for the chance to live in Belgium and eat at the “Massa’s table” and not ruffle feathers.
Things will only change when Belgium realizes that no country is an island, that there are consequences for actions and that yes, the world has moved on. The media outcry outside Belgium at De Morgen’s misguided racist satire (and the apology from De Morgen) is already a start. The act of apologizing is a big step in the right direction (if only because as far as I know, this is the first time a Belgian media outlet has ever acknowledged, much less apologized for being offensive) even if the apology itself leaves a lot to be desired.’
– Chika Unigwe.
Read the full essay in Africa Is A Country HERE!!!