An image of Belgium’s foreign minister “blacked up” at a charity event in Brussels has prompted scorn and outrage on social media.
Didier Reynders took part Saturday in a procession for “Les Noirauds” (“The Blacks”), a charity set up in 1876 under royal patronage to raise money for children’s charities. Dressing in blackface is still common in Belgium and the Netherlands, where “Zwarte Piet” (“Black Pete”) is a beloved, although increasingly controversial, Christmas character.
But local TV station VTM News commented that “in France they find it totally inappropriate, especially for a minister. They think that he is desecrating Africa. Reynders seems unaware.”
Reynders posted images on his official website of himself at the event, under the headline: “I marched with Swarthy in the streets of Brussels.”
A translation of one caption reads: “The motto of the swarthy is ‘Fun and Charity.’ Both components have been fully met again this year and it is with joy and good humor that I have attended.”
Twitter erupted with comments. Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director Peter Bouckaert tweeted: “Belgium FM @Dreynders I have question: will u wear #blackface outfit 2 next meeting with African leaders? Shame on you!”
And in a number of posts Nigerian-born author Chika Unigwe tweeted: “@dreynders ought to be ashamed. Dressing up in black face is super offensive. A politician of his stature should know this!.”