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The 8 Mile Wall

© Fabrice Monteiro

As a child, I asked my father, a professor of medicine by profession, why he always dressed in a 3-piece suit when we came to spend the summer holidays in Belgium. He whom I had always seen dressed in a simple wax ensemble in Benin. He explained to me that it was the only way to be treated with consideration as a black man in Europe.

I then asked myself the following question:
Are we black before being a man?

The 8 mile wall is a wall built in Detroit in 1940 as a racial separation between houses occupied by whites and those occupied by blacks within the same social milieu. This 1.80 m high and 800 m long wall did not represent a real physical barrier but it says a lot about the psychological barriers that have been deliberately created since slavery to encourage difference through color.

From the pseudo-scientific studies of the 19th century applying to demonstrate the inferiority of blacks to human zoos where Europeans discovered their first black man behind bars by going picnicking to the acclimatization gardens. The exotic imagery conveyed by the first postcards from Africa, the media, the cinema or advertising, all contributed to a certain perception of the black man from one continent to another and continue to do so.

The good savage, Uncle Tom, Aunt Jemima, how to get rid of the hilarious and persistent Mr Banania in the 21st century?. This ethnocentric vision fueled by stereotypes and manipulations of the image of black becomes reality for the spectator and insidiously contributes to a certain gaze, sometimes in spite of oneself but which is not without consequences in the establishment of respective identities.

Here, the "blackface" no longer laughs with all his teeth while rolling balls. He exhibits himself with dignity as a symbol of mental oppression as an appeal to reason, a challenge to break definitively with a difference, the “inferiorization” of one's neighbour.

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