In anticipation of this week’s state elections in Berlin, German party leader Martin Sonneborn has erected a billboard featuring himself dressed in blackface with the slogan, “I am an Obama.”
While his decision is making waves here in the U.S. — a country that includes minstrel shows in its recent history, and a place where blackface continues to have racist and uncomfortable implications — and among anti-racism groups in Germany, Sonneborn says he was merely trying to poke fun at the global hype surrounding Obama. It’s worth noting that he holds a rather unique place in German politics, having edited a satirical magazine and having founded a satirical political party called, easily enough, “Die PARTEI.” The party’s claim to fame? Its goal of someday rebuilding the Berlin Wall. (Laugh track.)
In the country where a monkeylike primate in a zoo was named Obama in an attempt to honor the president, and a newspaper once referred to the White House as “Uncle Barack’s Cabin,” it seems that another touchy racial issue may have been lost in translation. But don’t expect this to be a teachable moment.
Asked about the billboard’s connection to blackface in American history, Sonneborn told the Local, “No, I didn’t know that. If Americans associate it with that, then I’m sorry, but I’m not going to take it down.”
In other news: Rappers Lead Opposition in Senegal.