Black as Evil

Dr Y. Vassilkov iiasguest10 at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Sat Dec 9 14:51:37 EST 2000

Several days ago I had the opportunity to watch how people in the
Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas - Saint Nikolas day, 5th September, when
this Saint, with red dress, red face and long white beard, visits children
and presents them gifts. But guess who is the Saint's companion and helper,
distributing gifts to children? "Zwarte Piet", i.e. the Black Pete,
absolutely black youth with African features - he is even more popular with
children than Sinterklaas himself! And this tradition is at least several
centuries old...
    There are many examples of this kind which contradict "European
traditional thinking on blacks" as it was formulated by L.Polyakov.
Shakespear "associated black skin with evil"? What about Otello - a bit too
"sensuous" maybe, but a tragic hero, no doubt! Great Russian poet Pushkin
(early XIX century) never missed a chance to show how proud he was that his
grandfather was an African (who had become, by the way, a general in the
Russian army). An Indian known under the name "Porus of Vizapur", who seems
to have had very dark skin, was made by the Queen Katherine II (XVIII
century) a Russian nobleman and a high official; his son was a writer who
wrote in French... Such facts do not go well with Polyakov's generalizations
according to which Europeans of that time saw in the Blacks "beasts" or
    In every nation there are some people who suffer xenophobia - fear of
strangers, of humans with different physical features. In the less civilized
societies xenophobiacs constitute the majority. With the growth and
refinement of culture xenophobia usually disappears surviving only on
cultural periphery. In the modern world most of the nations reached such a
level of civilization that xenophobic feelings look like an atavism.
    I see no reason at all to continue investigating how bad some whites
considered the blacks to be in the past. And vise versa. Or do you think
that there were never any bad feelings among the Blacks towards the Whites?
Have not you ever heard, e.g., a story about the origine of Whites from the
union of a runaway Black criminal with a swine? Widespread in different
parts of the world. Or the anti-White mythology of the American Black
Muslims? What good it will do if we shall collect foolish stories of this
kind on our List?
    That is why I agree with several list-members who have already said
before: the topic designated "Black as Evil" is harmful and dangerous. We
should better drop it for good.

                            Best regards

----- Original Message -----
From: "Venkatraman Iyer" <venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2000 7:30 PM
Subject: Re: Black as Evil

> Europe's traditional thinking on Blacks:
> " Black men became the butt of merciless censure by the
> white man, from Noah's curse on Ham, whom first rabbinic
> and then Protestant exegesis considered responsible for
> the crimes of castration and incest, to the classification
> of Linnaeus and the descriptions of several philosophers
> of the Enlightenment. Blackness, and with it a great range
> of evil associations, was contrasted with whiteness, as
> was innocence with crime, vice with virtue, and bestiality
> with humanity. The strength of the mutual temptations
> between black and white can be inferred from the sternness
> with which they are repressed, and social vetoes suggest
> the strictness of a taboo which only stimulated the bio-sexual
> attraction it was supposed to check. Classical Antiquity
> had also made much of the sensuality and shamelessness
> of Negroes, to whom recent science obstinately attributed
> a monstrous penis. World literature, but especially that
> of Anglo-Saxon countries from Shakespeare to Poe and
> Melville - all of them in love with whiteness - acquaints
> us with the leaps of imagination which associated black
> skin with evil or with lubricity or, more plainly, with
> the beast. Professor W. D. Jordan, whose majesterial
> analyses we summarize, has also observed that when the
> most primitive pssions sought expression through
> pseudo-scientific generalizations, travellers' tales
> were enough to transform fantasies about the bestiality
> of the Blacks into anthropological theories. As it
> happened, the first explorations of the Dark Continent
> revealed the existence of not only of aborginal tribes
> but of hordes of large anthropoid apes, and observers
> were unable or unwilling to distinguish between the two.
> A more common error than that of Rousseau who asked
> himself whether these apes were not men was that of
> Voltaire who assimilated the Negroes to the apes on the
> strength of these same ingenuous and fanciful travellers'
> tales."
> [p. 135-6, Poliakov, The Aryan myth, 1974]
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