This is the most offensive thing I've seen in a long time:
Zoo organizers in the southern German city of Augsburg have come up with the idea of putting Africans on display at their zoo as an uncoventional way to attract more visitors. That's right. They want to create a living "African Village" featuring African basket weavers, woodworkers and storytellers posed among huts located near other African inhabitants, like elephants and rhinos. The idea is to let visitors gawk at -- or as their brochure says -- "discover the Dark Continent." Plans for the show -- scheduled to open July 9 -- have engendered outrage from Africans and civil rights advocates across Europe, but particularly those in Germany. Historian Norbert Finzsch, provost of the University of Cologne, too, has lambasted the project, insisting it underscores that in Germany "people of color are still seen as exotic objects (of desire), as basically dehumanized entities within the realm of animals." Finzsch insists the idea to hold such a display is "the direct result of 40 years of German colonialism and 12 years of National Socialism.I cannot believe that the quote-unquote "show" is still scheduled to go ahead. I don't know whether to be more offended if Barbara Jantschke is sincerely puzzled or if she's being disingenuous.
Zoo organizers seem to be painfully oblivious to their insensitivity and claim to be at a loss to understand the commotion. For instance, in a written reply to a Swiss African protestor, zoo director Barbara Jantschke, insisted that the idea was not to offend people. Instead, she said, the zoo is "exactly the right place to convey an exotic atmosphere." Nor could she understand the brouhaha, after all, one of the organizers is himself "a native African with black skin." Ever heard of sensitivity training?
[Via Foreign Dispatches.]
Update, 9 June: I tried to find information about this event on the Augsburg Zoo's webpage, but since I don't read German, that didn't work. Thanks to American Amnesia, I see that this is the page. So, in fact, the "African Village" exhibition is going on as we speak! (I guess the Spiegel story might have mixed up June with July...) By the way, if you feel like complaining to Barbara Jantschke, her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.