ATTENTION: IF YOU READ THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE IMMEDIATELY FOLLOW TO PART 2. THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT UPDATE – I SPOKE WITH COLLINS AND LOVETH IN PERSON. THANK YOU.
I am an African American living in Denmark. I work hard, I attend Københavns Universitet, and I pay my taxes. I have just seen your show “Sort Arbejde” for the first time this evening. Much to my surprise and dismay, I saw that the intro and outro animation to this show features stereotypical minstrel characters with jet black skin and big white lips. I was completely shocked to see these characters used, not in a historical context, but as actual content for the program. I must assume that you are unaware that using such antiquated stereotypes of black people is highly offensive and outrageously inappropriate. It was immoral in previous centuries; in 2013 it is inexcusable. Even a cursory read on Wikipedia could have informed the producers of “Sort Arbejde” that they should not use this flagrantly offensive imagery to introduce a television program. (See this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface)
The meaning of the idiom “sort arbejde” while offensive, does not necessarily have to single out black people – there are plenty of folks of all colors who are are not paying taxes properly in Denmark. There are plenty of white Danes who take “black money” too. The title of the show is inappropriate enough, but use of minstrel imagery is not only unnecessary, it is totally unacceptable. Your network has crossed a serious line, and it needs to be addressed.
The fact that the kind of racism intrinsic to a phrase such as ‘sort arbejde’ has found it’s way into common Danish vernacular is already a shameful enough. But DR is a national network. You have a responsibility to your viewers to maintain standards for what is ethical, what is professional, what is culturally and politically acceptable. We expect more of DR then simply upholding the status quo, especially when that status quo is inherently racist. That you would not only give the title “Sort Arbejde” to a primetime program, but go as far as to actually use minstrel characters like “Mammy” and “Coon” as the intro to a television show about black people in Denmark is just unbelievable. Worse, it is blatantly racist.
I am incensed and disappointed by this choice of imagery on your network, and I am sure there are many other people, both in Denmark and abroad who share my sentiment. This is my first attempt to contact DR, and I ask you to please, read this message thoroughly, take it seriously, and take the necessary steps to change the intro and outro graphics to “Sort Arbejde” immediately. Be a leader. Set an example for other Danish media companies that you are in touch with history, with current standards in racial politics both in Denmark and internationally, and most importantly, in touch with your diverse and multicultural audience. Demonstrate that you have the moral conscience to correct mistakes when they are made. There is no excuse for a national television network to use outright minstrelsy as part of the content on their programming. I hope you will do the right thing.