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Belgian Court Rules Tintin Not Racist, Just ‘Gentle’

This just in from the Department of “What Were They Thinking?”: The Brussels Appeal Court has upheld the decision to keep Herge’s Tintin Au Congo (Tintin In The Congo) on the shelves, ruling — somewhat amazingly — that the 1931 comic strip isn’t actually racist after all.

Here’s the thing; I have no problem with the decision to keep the title available for new readers to discover, as offensive as the book’s portrayal of the native Congolese may be (Anti-censorship and all that). However, here’s a line from the book, when Tintin is addressed by a Congolese woman: “White man very great. White mister is big juju man.” Here’s another line, from the Congolese chief cursing Tintin’s smarts: “By my ancestors, me myself kill miserable white man!” Oh, and here’s Herge’s visual representation of the Congolese natives:

Yeah, that’s not racist at all.

The Court rejected the argument, put forward by a legal team representing Congolese immigrant Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo and the Belgian Council of Black Associations, that the book contained “negative stereotypes” that could impact the behavior of the children reading the book; instead, the Court said, the book offered “gentle and candid humor.” And, you know, some kind of questionable material.

This isn’t the first legal challenge to try and take Tintin In The Congo off shelves; Mondondo also attempted to have the book banned in France without much success, and an attempt in the UK five years ago led to publishers Egmont UK placing a warning about racist content on the book’s cover, and adding a new introduction to put the contents in some kind of historical context. Perhaps other publishers should consider following suit.

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