William Shakespeare was a racist


RECENTLY the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education sponsored a countrywide exercise to find out from us Zimbabwean citizens what we would like our children to be taught in our schools. Sadly, however, that exercise was carried out at lightning speed that we were all left wondering whether the Government officials concerned wanted to get our views or they simply wanted to fool us to think that something was being done to change the country’s schools curricula which has remained stuck in the dark days of Rhodesia, when in reality nothing was actually happening. Yes, those of us who want drastic changes to take place in the education sector as far as what our children must read and also not read were left bitterly disappointed for at the end when everything is said and done, our children are still going to be taught the same old Rhodesian books written by for example, the racist William Shakespeare whose books instead of being completely removed from our schools have, however, remained the centerpiece of English Literature in Zimbabwe. They must go! In this article we would like to show that William Shakespeare was a racist by walking you dear reader through one of his plays which has not been banned from our schools. The play is called Othello. Let us talk a bit about the writers and characterisation. It is always important to bear in mind that writers use the mouths of the characters they create to pass on the messages they want their readers to get. Therefore it is not the book or play that ‘speaks’ to the reader, but the writer – the human being of flesh and blood who does. And so when you read William Shakespeare’s plays such as Othello or The Merchant of Venice, it is the racist Shakespeare speaking to us and not his characters such as ‘Barantio’ of ‘Shylock’ etc who are speaking to us. Now let’s come to William Shakespeare’s Othello. The play Othello is about a black man, Othello who marries a white girl Desdemona and William Shakespeare uses this play to vent his anti-black sentiments. Right from the beginning, they are not allowed a happy marriage. We start our sad journey through this racist play on the night when the father of the girl one Brabantio is woken up by one Iago who tells him that his daughter has eloped with a black man. Here is Shakespeare’s racist nonsense. Iago speaking to Brabantino says: “Sir, you have been robbed. “For the sake of decency, dress up and rouse yourself. “Your heart is shattered. You have lost your daughter. At this very moment an old black man is covering (copulating – having sex) with your fair (white) daughter. “Get up and wake up the snorting citizens with help of a bell, else you will soon become a grandfather of a child begotten by a black man. “I say get up.” There you are. As far as Shakespeare was concerned, it was taboo for a black man to get a white girl as a wife. It was not decent he preaches. The father Brabantio wakes up and accompanied by that man Iago, they get to Othello’s house where he has the white girl Desdemona. And below we reproduce William Shakespeare’s racist ideas about blacks and all the stereotyping that goes with it. He speaks through Brabantio his wife’s father. Here we go! “O foul thief, where have you hidden my daughter? “Cursed as you are you have used magic or black art to influence her. “I shall refer my case to all sensible persons of normal judgment and ask whether a maiden so tender, so beautiful and so happy in her place would ever behave in this manner without the use of some magic spell. “She was so much against marriage that she rejected the suits of our country’s wealthy and handsome young men with curly hair (whites).” Now here comes Shakespeare the racist demon in full cry. “How could such a girl run away from her father’s house to a black – bosomed wretched creature like you and this expose herself to general mockery? “You are the man whose black face would rather terrify a young girl rather than attract her. “Let the world decide whether this is not clear to reason that you have used some foul magic on her or have exercised some evil influence on her by using some drugs or love potions which often weaken the normal facilities. “I therefore arrest you and take you in custody as the man who depraves and defiles our society.” Now here is racist garbage at its worst. And to think that this rubbish is being taught in our Zimbabwe schools where our children are encouraged to recite the above passages makes one want to vomit. But it’s true. My own daughter did Othello at ‘A’ Level in a country liberated from racist Rhodesia through heavy human sacrifices. We must not have Othello in school libraries and classrooms. Throughout Othello, William Shakespeare the racist portrays the black man as a beast who has no reasoning power. Yes, someone who cannot think, but has to be led by the nose as donkeys are. To show that the black man is ‘uncivilised and unthinking’, Othello is shown striking his “innocent wife in public and giving her no chance to explain her conduct”. In the end, the black man Othello lives up to the stereotype of being a brute who murders his innocent wife for nothing and because William Shakespeare can’t stand the black man Othello anymore, he kills him by making sure he Othello commits suicide. Now if we are really serious about moulding our children into self-confident blacks who in the end do not suffer from an inferiority complex and colonial mentality vis-a-vis whites when they become adults, then we must make sure our children read the right books in our schools. Let us be honest with each other here. What black child or white child for that matter will grow up respecting a black person after memorising in High School the racist garbage in books such as Othello? It is time the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, instead of carrying out window dressing exercises such as the one mentioned above knuckle down to business and remove toxic literature from our schools while at the same time they sponsor the writing of black friendly books throughout the country.


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