There’s a key rule of derogatory history: The more melanin you have in your skin, the more likely you’ll be called or compared to a simian.
Here is the U.S., African Americans were often compared to gorillas or, in the case folks sitting on stoops or in a once ubiquitous by now-vanished architectural feature of single-family homes, “porch monkeys.”
And Adolf Hitler, that most famous of European racists, called darker skinned Mediterranean peoples [including Arabs] as angemalte Halbaffen [painted half-apes] and back Africans as Halbaffen.
Now as everyone knows, thanks to countless cartoons [both on the printed page and on screen], apes like bananas.
For one famous African American, the association between her dark skin and the banana was made over. Josephine Baker became the toast of Paris and Weimar Berlin by her brilliant ovation-evoking dances. And one of her most famous routines was danced topless, wearing a wryly subversive skirt of jiggling costumer’s bananas. But when Hitler came to power, the last thing he wanted was a black nightclub star, so Baker retreated to Paris, and when Hitler’s troops invaded, she joined the Resistance, ultimately winning the Croix de Guerre. After her return to the U.S., she became active in the civil rights movement.
But the association between bananas and a derogatory view of folks with an abundance of melanin remains strong in Europe.
Consider the case of Italy’s first black cabinet minister, who has several times been the target of banana-throwing racists.
BBC News describes one such incident in this 27 July 2013 report:
Black Italian minister Kyenge suffers banana insult
Italian politicians have reacted with anger after the country’s first black minister had bananas thrown at her during a political rally.
Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, who has suffered racial abuse in the past, dismissed the act as “a waste of food”.
But Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said on Twitter he felt the “utmost indignation” over the incident.
An earlier International Business Times article on 1 May 2013 reported on incidents that had led to a call for a government investigation:
Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is an eye surgeon, has been targeted by racist and far-right websites, as well as by a member of the right-wing Northern League party.
She was appointed integration minister by new prime minister Enrico Letta on Saturday, making her one of seven women in the new government.
Now, in the wake of racist taunts from an array of sources, including epithets that described Kyenge, 48, as a “Congolese monkey,” “Zulu” and “the black anti-Italian,” equal opportunities minister Josefa Idem has ordered the National Anti-Discrimination Office to investigate.
One venue where banana-throwing has become almost a regular feature is the European soccer match [though Canada hasn’t been spared either], as NBC Sports documented back on 23 September 2011 in “A brief history of racist banana-throwing incidents in sports.”
But the latest such incident generated a genuinely interesting response.
Spain goes bananas for anti-racism campaign
FC Barcelona player Dani Alves decided to eat a banana thrown at him during Sunday’s game against Villareal, a quick-witted reaction which is quickly turning into a worldwide anti-racism campaign with the help of his teammate Neymar.
The Brazilian full-back picked up the banana as he prepared to take a corner (see the video here) in his side’s match at Villareal on Sunday, and rather than take offense to the racist jibe, he gobbled up the fruit in one bite.
“I have been in Spain 11 years and it has been the same for 11 years,” Alves said after his team’s 3-2 comeback. “You have to laugh at these backward people. We are not going to change it, so you have to take it almost as a joke and laugh at them.”
Here’s the video, via Barca Vs Madrid Multimedia:
Dani Alves Eats Banana Thrown From Public – Villareal vs Barcelona 2-3 La Liga 27 04 2014
The response on Facebook and Twitter was immediate. Here’s an example, in tis case posted by Alves’s companion Thaíssa Carvalho [via Independenti.e]:
UPDATE: A new, high level development, via ANSA. Photo and more at the link:
Renzi, Prandelli eat banana to back Alves
- Premier, Italy coach show solidarity against racism
Premier Matteo Renzi and Italy coach Cesare Prandelli on Monday ate a banana, copying Barcelona player Dani Alves’s reaction to racist abuse and giving a symbolic demonstration of solidarity.
Brazilian defender Alves won international acclaim for his intelligent response to having a banana thrown at him from the stands while taking a corner during Sunday’s 3-2 win at Villarreal – peeling it and then taking a bite. Renzi and Prandelli showed their support during a meeting with Italy’s Five-A-Side football team, who were recently crowned European champions. Many other high-profile Italians also hailed Alves.
“Bravo Dani Alves. Fight racism forever. With elegance and imagination,” tweeted former immigration minister Cecile Kyenge, whose short tenure as Italy’s first black minister under ex-premier Enrico Letta was plagued by racist verbal attacks and gestures from the anti-immigrant Northern League party.
But there’s another factor in play: The spread of a fungus that threatens the very existence of the fruit.
The story from NBC News:
Bananas can’t seem to catch a break.
The fruit is under assault again from a disease that threatens the popular variety that Americans slice into their cereal or slather with chocolate and whipped cream in their banana splits. But aside from its culinary delight, the banana is the eighth most important food crop in the world, and the fourth most important one for developing nations, where millions of people rely on the $8.9 billion industry for their livelihood.
“It’s a very serious situation,” said Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida. In 1989 Ploetz discovered a strain of Panama disease, called TR4, that may be growing into a serious threat to U.S. supplies of the fruit and Latin American producers.
“There’s nothing at this point that really keeps the fungus from spreading,” he said in an interview with CNBC.
If the banana does go the way of the dodo, let’s just hope racist fans don’t take to throwing that other “fruit” so frequently linked with blacks by racists. Via Free Republic: