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The Colonial Roots Of Racism and Colorism In MGM Congolese Families

Mixed race Congolese or Rwandan girls/Source Metis-Be.com

As Patrice Lumumba translated it through his speeches, the source of colonialism in the Congo, was racism.

If one remembers the brutality of Belgian colonialism in this central African nation which lasted for a century almost, the horrific mutilations performed on Congolese bodies were not the only gruesome aspect of colonialism there. Actually, even if Slavery is explored more and more, scholars still do not know the extent of that brutal criminal system. The clouds which cover up the era of colonialism in Africa are even more thicker, since, unlike the slave trade, colonialism continues in Africa.

One of the best characteristics which describes the brutality of Belgian colonialism is its system of apartheid. The Belgians, as northern Europeans, favored this policy of racial distinction and separation. Blacks had to be separated from the pure Belgian whites, and in this horrific system, the mixed-race group had to pay for the degeneracy they supposedly represented. If the Black Congolese endured the worst treatment, the scars left within the mixed-race Congolese community can not disappear.

Actually, the Belgian phase of colonialism in Congo was the worst in Africa for many reasons. First, the extent of horror is shrouded in mystery, so much so that the oldest generations were raised in fear of speaking to their children about the violence endured. The Congolese are a traumatised people from the start. Indeed, before the arrival of the Belgians, the nation was torn apart by both the Atlantic and Arab slave trades. The Belgian colonial phase was a new era of trauma which was forced upon an unhealed group which failed to express their despair and pain, for constantly oppressed. Following the failed independence in 1960, the Congolese were tormented by endless rebellions and massacres. The rise to power of Maréchal Mobutu in 1965 marked the beginning of a dictatorship which lasted for thirty-two years during which, the late president not only massacred his opponents, but also plundered the resources of his country mercilessly. Ousted by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, a year before his departure in 1997, the Congo war began and is still going on. The war also nurtured by the power of Kigali (Rwanda), along with the US and accomplices, caused more than twelve millions of deaths. The tragedy of the Congo relies in the succession of horror, the lack of communication to help the population heal and upon the fact that its resources are still plundered for the advantage of the Silicon Valley and the new technological poles of the “developed” world.

In this turmoil, if the tortures endured by the Black Congolese remain an unexplored secret, the condition of the mixed-race group is even less talked about. The mixed-race Congolese always evolved in secrecy for shaped, birthed and raised through fear.

The black Congolese have a saying which claims that mixed-race Congolese do not like to marry Black. First, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not Cape Verde. The latter was a colonial construction which allowed the Portuguese to further the propaganda of lusotropicalismo. The Congolese are not familiar with the concept of racial fluidity, racial admixture, since the majority of Central, Western and Southern Africans, are negroid and black who do not mix. In ancient times, the Aethiopians/Kushites and Egyptians were two powerful black nations which rather intermarried, but did not mix with white groups, contrary to the Canaanites and Northern Africans. The same way the Black Congolese were encouraged to look at themselves with shame, so were the members of the mixed-race group.

The Pembe Bologna family is one of the most famous in the gossiping world of Kinshasa. They are MGM Black people of Congolese, Italian and Belgian descent. They intermarry with other mixed-race people, sometimes black. This photo was posted as an illustration and we do not imply that the family members there interract through colorism or racism at all
Jean Bamanisa Saidi is a quadroon born to a white father of Eastern European descent and a biracial mother of Eastern Congolese and Belgian descent. His mother was the product of colonial racial adxmiture. Bamanisa was the head of the province of Kisangani.

As stated by Belgian-Congolese researcher Assumani Budagwa, the mixed-race children born under colonial rule were said to be the fruits of evil, for being the products of the inferior and superior race. They were viewed as degenerates. Therefore, if a good portion of mixed-race Congolese married each other and evolved with one another without connecting much with black people, one needs to understand that this behavior took root in the apartheid system of colonialism itself. Indeed, mixed children could be taken away from their black mothers. The black mothers who were chosen by white men were stigmatised as “prostitutes” by the black group. When the children were placed in orphanages, they were told not to and forbidden to marry black people at all. Mixed-race girls, as early as twelve, could be the victims of an international pedophile ring as older Belgian, American, Irish or French white men traveled to these orphanages in order to marry them. This abuse was applied to both black and mixed-race women under Belgian colonial rule.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, war lord, is a dark skin, almost black passing mixed-race Congolese with Portuguese roots. Bemba and his family are MGM Blacks

Black people were presented as inferior beings to the mixed-race group raised by the Belgian catholic institutions. Due to the tense political climate at the dawn of independence, the mixed-race children born to poor black Congolese mothers and who were raised in the black Congolese side faced violence too. Following the 1960, as the state was falling down, militias persecuted mixed-race families, often killed or beat them, and the mixed offsprings had to be hidden, especially when the black mothers were seen as traitors for having procreated with white men. Marie Daulne, singer in Zap Mama, was born to a black Congolese mother from Isiro, and a Belgian father. The latter was murdered by the Simba rebels who hated mixed-race marriages and white people following the brutality of colonialism. After the murder of their father, the mother of Marie Daulne took them to the forest where pygmies hid them for a certain period of time, before they were sent back to Belgium.

The violence of rebels and the chaotic political environment in the Congo led to a bad sentiment of many mixed-race families, but also of black Congolese who migrated to Europe years later. Since the Belgian institutions greatly contributed to the dehumanization of the black man who was introduced as an inferior being, the brutality of the rebels and their inability to organise for peace, somehow validated the horrific lessons taught by the catholics.

The mixed-race group never evolved with one another because they wanted it, but simply because the impact of colonial manipulation was so high, that the culture of intermarriage prevailed as an automatic practice. The mixed-race group formed a new category which evolved in silence and trauma. From the black side, mixed-race women were considered as low women in terms of social class for described as sexual objects for both black and white men. The mixed-race men did not always study and performed ungrateful jobs. Whether the mixed-race Congolese grew up in Belgium or in the Congo, their mentality totally differs, but the issues related to racism and colorism in families remain strong.

Moise Katumbi is the son of a white Jewish father and a black mother of Zambian Bemba roots. In their hipocrisy, the black Congolese group attack the mixed-race community they accuse of trying to separate themselves from the black group, but the same black Congolese have total disdain and mistrust towards the few mixed-race candidates in local elections, for simply being half black.

The members of the older generation, heavily brainwashed by the Belgians, can consider themselves to be superior. Then, depending on the origin of the non-black Congolese parent or heritage, a hierarchy can be established. Family members who descend from Belgians, are not perceived the same way as those who can descend from southern Europeans such as the Greeks, Cypriots, or Italians. The Black Congolese themselves held a higher respect towards the northern Europeans such as the French, Belgians or Dutch, but they disdained the Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, they also considered to be the “n*ggers of Europe”, especially the Portuguese.

Then, the mixed-race Congolese group is traumatised by its conception, rooted in colonial brutality, but also with issues related to abandonment. Most white parents abandoned their children and disappeared. Social class also played an enormous role since the mixed-race people raised by the white institutions were seen as superior than the abandoned mixed children who were poor and raised by the black side. In Angola, the mixed-race elite of Luanda made a clear distinction between them and the poor mixed group whose members were more adjacent to the Blacks.

Many mixed-race families which created MGM Black lineages did so in order to preserve the non-black genes they carry. They can look down upon the Blacks, just like many Congolese black families can have a problem with their children marrying mixed people who are considered socially inferior in the Congo. In this regard, due to the desire of racial preservation, members pay attention to not only the color, but the features. A dark skin or brown skin mixed woman will be less advantaged than a white looking one regarding marriage. Indeed, if two dark skin mixed people were to marry one another, the risk of a blacker baby would cause problems. Such case would be a disaster to the mixed side, but a source of mockery to the black side. There, the darker skin mixed people are described as a “waste of genetics”. (in French: Être métis pour rien) To the black Congolese, many envy the mixed group and this envy is often characterized by a constant projection through them. The mixed group are considered socially inferior by the Blacks, but at the same time, they possess all the features dark skin and unambiguous black Congolese women wish to have as well.

Mixed race women in Belgian institutions set in the Congo/Source METIS-BE.com

Actually, the black group is affected by colorism and racism, hence a space where the darkest members, with the most negroid features, will be shunned and mocked or encouraged to marry lighter, whiter in order to make the race prosper.

The mixed-race Congolese group is originally made of biracials, of either Belgian-Congolese roots, but also of Portuguese-Congolese (the most frequent), Greek-Congolese (in Katanga where a Greek community prevails), Cypriot-Congolese (Goma), Arab-Congolese (Kisangani and northeast), Jewish-Congolese (Katanga and Kinshasa), Swizz-Congolese, American/Canadian-Congolese or French-Congolese. Later, Indian-Congolese, Syrian-Congolese, Lebanese-Congolese mixes took place. The Congolese heritage, especially for those who come from the northest region of the country can be mixed with either Rwandan, Ugandan or Burundian heritage, making these families both multiracial but also multiethnic. If Islam comes into the scene, interfaith homes can also come to be formed.

Yet, from the biracial branches came out more admixture. It is frequent, in both Congo and Belgian diaspora to see the direct descendants of the older biracials born before the end of the colonial rule, marry other races, whether white, Indian or South America, making their children multiracial.

Many members of the quadroon and octoroon categories can feel superior or more special for being only one fourth black African. They do not claim to be biracial, but insist upon their quadroon/octoroon status with pride.

Beautiful Barbara Kanam is part Greek and from Eastern Congo. Many mixed women of her phenotype will try to whiten their skin to be “yellower”. Kanam comes from an MGM Black family
Abeti Masikini was an MGM Congolese woman who came from a black Congolese mother and a mixed-race father who was assassinated in 1961

Often, the lightest girls find elevation within the black range. There, countless colorist black men choose to put them on a pedestal and fetichize them. When a child is born, it is frequent to hear the mixed-race families, or even the mixed mother, rejoice if the child did not take any black features at all. The same way, these same colorist black men hide their colorism behind a fraudulent pro-blackness, wishing that their mixed-race children were born dark with no white or non-black admixture at all.

Yet, the most difficult things happen when the mixed race mother decides to marry a black man out of love. From there, the children who will be MGM Blacks will come out in various shades. Even if the mother is not a colorist, colorist family members on both sides will comment on the features and phenotypes of the kids. The latter will not be seen as children, but rather as experiments. Often, the most negroid children who do not display any type of mixed race heritage will be exposed to the most brutal forms of violence. The other family members will call them “wastes of genetics”. The other lighter children who feel an attach to their mixed heritage will be blocked by members of the black side who hate themselves. By exploiting the heritage of the negroid siblings, the lighter ones will be put back to the black range, out of disdain and jealousy for looking more mixed race.

It is not rare that mixed-race in laws, especially on the women side, have a relationship based upon jealousy, whenever one mixed woman is white, with straight hair, while the other, though light skin or light brown skin will be elevated, but feel threated by the white-looking mixed-race in laws. The mixed-race women who simply look like light skin but non-mixed black women can put on skin whitening creams in order to appear yellower. They can also perm their hair or accentuate a more mixed heritage so as to feel more elevated. Yet, despite their efforts, they still can not compete with the white-looking quadroons in the family.

The condition is even worst for the purely black children who are related to these mixed-race clans. The latter can feel automatically isolated for not belonging to the group. Often, colorist and racist terms can be used by the elder generations whose members hide their brutality behind their fraudulent ways of calling themselves “black,” knowing well they are not at all. With their kinky hair, negroid features and glowing dark skin, the black children can easily become jealous of their mixed-race siblings and relatives. They feel inferior, not as pretty and their experience differs from any other black child who grew up in a black home with black parents.

Though these issues are known, they remain hidden, in the continuity of colonial trauma.

By Victoria “VKY” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved 2023

[1] Realfonzo, Ugo “Belgium considers granting mixed-race children full access to colonial archives”, Brussels Time, 2022 https://www.brusselstimes.com/232134/belgium-may-give-mixed-raced-people-full-access-to-colonial-archives

[2] Ainsworth, James “Zap Mama, Marie Daulne and Africa Unbounded”, Island of Spice, 2011 https://islandofspice.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/zap-mama-marie-daulne-and-1000-ways-of-african-expression/

[3] Braeckmann, Colette, “Métis, un mot qui enflamme le Congo”, Le Soir, 2017 https://www.lesoir.be/114853/article/2017-09-19/metis-un-mot-qui-enflamme-le-congo

[4] Stroobants, Jean-Pierre “Un tribunal belge déboute cinq femmes métisses nées au Congo”, Le Monde, 2021 https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/12/09/un-tribunal-belge-deboute-cinq-femmes-metisses-nees-au-congo_6105393_3210.html

[5] “Métissage et métis dans l’Afrique coloniale belge”, RFI, 2015, https://www.rfi.fr/fr/emission/20151101-metissage-metis-afrique-coloniale-belge-blancs-budagwa

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[7] Budagwa, Assumani “La ségrégation ciblée des Métis sous l’administration coloniale belge au Congo belge et au Ruanda-Urundi“, Metis Be, 2018, http://metisbe.squarespace.com/bronnensources/2018/2/22/audition-0702-chambre-des-representants-assumani-budagwa

[8] Malghem, Luc “Les sanglots des « sang mêlé » de la colonisation…”, Centre Libre X, 2014 https://centrelibrex.be/dossiers/noirs-blancs-metis/noirs-blancs-metis-les-sanglots-sang-mele-colonisation/

[9] “RDC: le calvaire des métis abandonnés, au cœur d’un combat entre association et autorités” Bakolongo, 2019 https://www.bakolokongo.com/rdc-le-calvaire-des-metis-abandonnes-au-coeur-dun-combat-entre-association-et-autorites/

[10] Likaka Osumaka. Colonisation et construction d’identités : l’administration belge et l’identité Mbolo. 1910-1960. In: Revue française d’histoire d’outre-mer, tome 85, n°321, 4e trimestre 1998. pp. 27-41. DOI : https://doi.org/10.3406/outre.1998.3687

[11] Randles W.-G.-L. De la traite à la colonisation : les Portugais en Angola. In: Annales. Economies, sociétés, civilisations. 24ᵉ année, N. 2, 1969. pp. 289-304. DOI : https://doi.org/10.3406/ahess.1969.422054

[12] Hennes, Dana. « L’identité des métis belges : entre post-colonisation africaine et globalisation européenne (note de recherche). » Anthropologie et Sociétés, volume 38, numéro 2, 2014, p. 211–227. https://doi.org/10.7202/1026172ar

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