The white domination – this tectonic plate that underlies the Western culture – is shifting radically, steering for a massive earthquake. I do not feel I possess the right to express my opinion on the subject; I would rather quote Wittgenstein’s famous words from his Tractatus, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” I will only appeal to you to please watch Dave Chappelle’s monologue if you have not already:
Here in Switzerland we are following very closely what is going on across the ocean. We have also had a few Black Lives Matter marches as well as a raging national debate regarding a certain sweet treat. I realize this does sound trivial but I felt gratitude when Migros, Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, removed the “Mohrenkopf” (“black man’s head” or “blackamoor’s head”) sweets from its shelves. The company had persistently refused to change the controversial name. But what’s in a name? Apparently quite a lot.
Words that we so casually use often have a complex and violent history that cannot be simply brushed aside. What lurks behind the name “Mohrenkopf” is not nice. In German “Mohren” was the term used to describe black people (later replaced by another ugly word – Neger, which is out of use now), while “Mauren” were the equivalent of the Moors, who conquered the Iberian Peninsula. Still, “Mohren” und “Mauren” stem from the same linguistic root, which is why the image of Saint James the Apostle cutting off the heads of Spanish Moors is embroiled in the bloody story of the word “Mohrenkopf.”
Also some historic guilds featuring black people in their logos have been under fire in Switzerland. The Moor is a symbol of a Bern city guild and was the source of its name. The statue of the Moor (featured below) has now been covered with cloth.
Removing statues, changing names, banning sweet treats may be described as superficial solutions by some, but from my perspective the symbols of racial violence committed by our ancestors in not so distant past deserve to be removed. The unconscious feeds off the surrounding images, thus perpetuating the cycle of suffering. “Everything we know and feel and every statement we make … derive from psychic images,” wrote James Hillman in Alchemical Psychology. We are called to transform the symbolic dimension of the public space so that a new consciousness may emerge.
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