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[Opinion Essay] J’accuse!
The fury over "The Other Dumas" and European views of race
Alfred Oshin (memnon72)     Print Article 
Published 2010-03-29 11:23 (KST)   
The 19th-century French writer Emile Zola wrote an open letter to a French newspaper entitled "J'accuse!" ("I accuse" in English) over the case of Captain Dreyfus. The letter was addressed to the president of France and Dreyfus was an artillery officer in the French army. The eloquence of the letter was such that the expression J'accuse! entered the English vocabulary. It became an expression used when a person makes an attack on an injustice committed by the powerful.

Therefore, I, like Emile Zola declare, J'accuse! But of what?

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The new French biopic "The Other Dumas," about the world-famous French novelist Alexandre Dumas -- whose most famous work is the "Three Musketeers," is likely to be of interest to many literature lovers. What will be of equal interest is that this film has caused a bitter racial controversy. In the film Dumas is white. In reality Dumas was black. Black intellectuals and cultural critics, especially in France, are very angry. To put it mildly.

At this point you're probably wondering why the outcry is limited to the Black intelligentsia? Why would this film want to change his color? How could any film be taken seriously with such an obvious mistake? Let me solve this racial mystery for you.

Shakespeare said the world is a stage and we are all actors in it. On the stage of European history black people play the part of slaves on plantations in the new world and savages in African jungles. The parts black people have in European history are considered so unimportant, so insignificant that many people of any color and any educational attainment cannot name a black European of historical note -- despite overwhelming historical evidence to the contrary.
Alexandre Dumas the great black French literary hero
©2010 wikipedia

Caracalla and Geta were Roman emperors, Alessandro de Medici ruled Renaissance Florence and Abram Gannibal held the position of governor in one of the territories in the Czarist Russian Empire. I could go on. The one thing they had in common? They were black Europeans.

Europe has a racist education system which promotes both implicitly and explicitly white superiority. Black European history is only taught in a few universities, so is it any wonder why only the black intelligentsia are outraged by the French film about Alexandre Dumas. Simply put most Europeans don't know about the existence of black people in European history.

The European educational system is not just content with removing black people from its distant past. The same is done with relatively recent history. Europeans of all colors are mostly unaware that Black Europeans suffered with white racial minorities in Hitler's concentration camps. Europeans are also unaware that Black soldiers bravely fought in World War I & II. In the First World War, Black people fought on both sides. In Europe, each country has an annual commemoration for the civilians who suffered and the soldiers who fought in these wars. There is a collective European amnesia about black people in those troubled times.

I think the reason why European culture removes black people from its history is to make white Europeans feel and think they are true Europeans. Black Europeans are taught to think of themselves as the human scrap of former African or Caribbean colonies.

There is a caveat to my thesis. I'm sure if Alexandre Dumas was a 19th century rapist, mugger, pimp, gangster or drug pusher and not a literary genius he would have remained black.

J'accuse! I think you know of what.
©2010 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alfred Oshin

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