'Tintin in the Congo' sales soar in Britain after racism row
Sat Jul 14, 2007
Sales of a Tintin comic book have rocketed since Britain's Commission for Racial Equality claimed it was racist, a newspaper reported Saturday.Sales of "Tintin in the Congo" have shot up by 3,800 percent after the CRE watchdog claimed it contained potentially highly offensive material, said The Daily Telegraph.The comic has reached number eight on Internet retailer Amazon's most popular books list, the broadsheet reported.
A CRE spokesman accepted that its interjection could have sparked the rise in sales."It is a delicate balance but because we had a complaint from a member of the public we felt we had no choice," he said, according to the newspaper. Borders, a British chain of bookstores, said Wednesday it had yanked copies of "Tintin in the Congo" from its children's sections following the CRE saying that it "beggared belief" that they should sell the comic. "This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles," a CRE spokeswoman had said."How and why do Borders think that it's okay to peddle such racist material?"
The CRE said it was contacted by a Borders customer last month who saw the book on sale in London. "Tintin in the Congo", which first appeared in Belgian newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle as a comic strip in 1930-1931, is part of the series "The Adventures of Tintin" by the Belgian author and illustrator Herge. But its tale of boy reporter Tintin's trip with his dog Snowy to what was then the Belgian Congo is seen as controversial by some because of its depiction of colonialism and racism, as well as casual violence towards animals.Herge later said the book was merely a reflection of the naive views of the time. Some of the scenes were revised for later editions.
Last week one of my white colleagues phoned to ask me if I knew how racist Tintin was. His brother in England had phoned to ask him to buy a copy of the book since all the copies had been sold out over there and my colleague was surprised that his brother wanted a copy of such a racist book. Of course, when my collegue and I had this conversation I hadn’t yet received the above article so I wasn’t aware that Tintin had been causing quite a stir in the UK due to its racist content. For those of you who don’t know, Tintin is a famous French cartoon from the colonial period about the escapades of a boy and his dog. If you can remember the old Tarzan series, it’s the same concept. The intelligent white person goes to Africa to educate the stupid, primitive African. We all know the typical Hollywood scenario.
In fact, we use Tintin in our African civilization classes to analyse racism, colonialism, the European mindset, and especially to compare it with African philosophy. In my opinion, that is how African people should approach this book. It should be used for analysis and to educate. Books like Tintin, films like Tarzan, the minstrel show and all those old racist books and television shows are excellent teaching material for our people because they demonstrate so clearly the difference between ‘civilization’ (a high culture) and ‘barbarism’ ( a low culture). Of course, this presupposes that one already has a good knowledge of African history and civilization.