Davidson Microaggressions Project

Moodle & Blackness

In a Moodle discussion post from my class, we were asked to comment on the story of the South African Khoikhoi woman, who people now know as Sara Baartman, who was coerced by English, and then French swindlers into a contract in which she was exhibited in a human zoo. Her exhibition was deeply entangled with scientific racism. She died in 1815. I read my classmate’s Moodle post about Sara’s history, and the discussion of France returning her remains to South Africa. My classmate said that she was as French as she was African, and her role as a spectacle in Europe had an impact on French people. Therefore, my classmate said: “who owns her history? Although Sara was not French, she is a product of France.” This comment was probably meant as a throwaway. I know that very few people put much thought into their discussion posts. But I find it deeply troubling that someone could think of a Black human being as a product or cultural good belonging to the nation-state which imprisoned her, even after her death. It is especially disturbing coming from a white person in a major that is supposed to teach humane instincts. What does this say about the culture of our humanities program at Davidson, and among white people? Why is it that even in these casual comments, a lack of care for Black bodies is expressed?