Happy Blackface Day in German-Speaking Lands!

by Diepiriye Kuku

6 January 2010


Today, January 6th, is the day when folks here in Germany are likely to see the harmony and cooperation across races that we still seek in other areas of our lives. Today is the day that Blackface is not a minstrel show, and jokes about The Little Rascals representing American multiculturalism, and Buckwheat being Obama won’t hold any weight, like on other days here in Germany.

Today is the day when a Black child approaching a ‘normal’ German house will be greeted with open arms, and not suspicious glances, followed by the hushed gossip. Three kinder dressed as the Three Wise Men (Heilige Drei Könige) who ‘predicted’ the birth of Jesus parade around to each home to sing, collect candy and cash, and mark “C+B+M” along with the year, in chalk above each household’s door. The chalking stands for the latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means: “God protect this house.” No, there is no official punishment for not participating, but you know how life is in the village even in a so-called secular state (wink wink).

Not all of the groupings of kids in Biblical drag around Germany will be in Blackface, and the practice is apparently not considered offensive, partially due to the (comparatively) tiny nation’s lack of minstrel, race-baiting history with blacks, though the story of Santa Claus and his evil, dark-skinned companion is a whole ‘nother can of worms. It is interesting to note, however, that the Nativity scenes here in Germany almost always depict the historically correct racial construct, whereas in America one cannot help but notice that the three kings are usually all white (is that whiteface?).

Today is the day in Teutophone lands where the fellowship of humanity is observed above all that could separate us. Today is the day when we lay down our arms for armistice and at least pray for peace, for He is coming.

Predictably, the local newspaper here in Aachen found a picture of a happy and content Black child to print. No bondage of poverty from which readers can send in pfennigs to save, nor images of civilians in war-torn nations for by-standers to pity. No images of decaying AIDS patients to pander to this most widely circulated image of Africans in this decisively non-multi-kulti land. No, this is the day when Christians in German-speaking lands will sit back and face one of the earliest projects of globalization known to Man, in spite of the marginal inclusion of women.

Today, especially, is the day for all the non-Christians (like me) to express a deep appreciation for the life of Jesus. Today is the day that we realize His birth, over and beyond His death. Today is the day we remind ourselves of His birth and al that followed, not focusing on Today is the day for all the non-Christians (like me) to express a deep appreciation for the life of Jesus. Today is the day that we realize His birth, over and beyond His death. Today is the day we remind ourselves of His birth and all that followed, not focusing on His death, sacrifice and the folly of humanity, but on humanity’s potential.

Today, let’s extend a hand to one another, to all of us who believe in the Prince of Peace, regardless of religion, and that humanity must realize this dream, and that humanity can realize peace on Earth. Today is the day when pop culture meets spirituality in a most meaningful way—no gifts, no spending, no credit, no savings, and certainly no Bling! Happy ‘Epiphany’ to all my German Christian friends and family. Moreover, may there be peace on Earth regardless of what potentially divides us. To paraphrase the Dalai Lama: Everything is interdependent, interconnected. If you harm others, you get suffering. If you help others, you get benefits. Early Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin reiterates the same: “We are all one, and if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.”


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