A French television show is being called out for racism after opting to dress a rape victim and former teenage prostitute in blackface “to protect her identity.”
According to The Daily Mail, Sunday, Sept a Huit (Seven to Eight), a popular weekly news show, aired an interview with a teen girl identified only as “Nina” as part of its usual ‘portrait of the week’ segment. However, viewers couldn’t help but notice her strange appearance.
It was later confirmed that the producers of the show used blackface makeup. They also gave her a frizzy coarse-textured wig to make her appear like a Black person.
Later on in the interview, the host, Stéphanie Davoigneau, asked ‘Nina’ questions about a book she called Papa, Viens Me Chercher [Father, Come And Get Me] but when her father appeared during the segment, he was very clearly a white man.
The sloppy and tone-deaf attempt to protect the 17-year-old quickly drew ire and mockery from fans who accused producers of relying on damaging racial stereotypes. But show host Harry Roselmack, who is Black himself, defended his team.
— Courrier picard (@CourrierPicard) February 19, 2020
“The choice of this makeup was made after tests, by experts, with the agreement of Nina and her parents,” said Roselmack, noting that the segment was never meant to “mock” anyone.
“Without going into details that could help identify Nina, this choice was the most visually efficient,” he continued. “It has happened that we approved, in a similar context, the opposite makeup: lightening the skin of a Black woman to allow her to testify.”
“The real substantive debate, the societal debate supported by the brave testimony of this teenager and her father has been left in the background,” he said, voicing his frustration that the controversy has overshadowed the intent of the interview which was to highlight sex trafficking.
“Over 7000 teenagers are said to prostitute themselves in our country. Nina was one of them. Her story is terrifying,” he clapped back. “But what everyone is talking about is the way her makeup was done for her protection.”
“The fact that the Black community can rise and respond publicly to what it considers disrespectful is a good thing. But we ought to make the right choices to fight the right battles,” he concluded.