A Brief Look at People of Colour before the 20th Century: Part 3

"Portrait of Gustav Badin" (1775) by Gustaf Lundberg

Portrait of Gustav Badin (1775) by Gustaf Lundberg; Public Domain Image

     Gustav Badin was given to Queen Louisa of Sweden as a gift. She, in turn, educated him on the same level as her children. He was in charge of 3 Royal Palaces, had an extensive library of his own containing more than 800 books, and was, at one point, the Swedish Ambassador to France.  While Gustav many have been a slave initially, it’s clear he was a member of the Royal Family and was treated as a member of the Court. His diary is currently being translated and the original is housed at the University of Uppsala. I start off with this tidbit because now we’re entering a time period that I know very well, which is the Late Georgian/Regency period. It has always bothered me that any film depicting anything from this era has no one of colour in it, expect as an oddity or experiment. Clearly, while Gustav may have been an oddity, he became vital to the Queen and her family.

General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, by Olivier Pichat (1883)

     General Dumas should sound familiar to anyone who’s ever read the Three Musketeers or the Man in the Iron Mask ( or seen the film versions). Born in St Domingue to a white Nobleman (Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie) and his enslaved mistress (Marie-Cessette Dumas), the father did the right thing and shipped Dumas to France, where slavery had been illegal since 1315 CE, thus setting his son free. He also helped his son enter the military. Dumas was one of 2 men of colour to have high military ranking in Europe until the 1970s. He was a major pivotal figure in the French Revolutionary Wars. He married a white French woman and had a son, Alexandre Dumas (aka Dumas-Pére), who wrote the Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask, etc. Dumas-fils (his grandson) was a well-known playwright. Dumas-fils’s illegitimate half brother, Henry Bauër was also involved in Theatre at this same time, as a critic. So yes, this is someone who’s never been portrayed in any film or television show about Napoleon, which is oddly weird considering how many battles this man won for Napoleon. Sidenote, “enslaved mistress” seems to convey consent where most scholars agree that consent is never given when a person is a slave. While I use the term “enslaed mistress”, it is under extreme distaste and only being used as many historical sources (published sources) list her in this pseduo state of consent while being enslaved.

Петровское. Бюст А.П. Ганнибала.jpg

Bust of Abram Petrovich Gannibal, located in Petrovskoe, Russia.

     Like Guztav, Abram was gifted to Peter the Great as a gift. There has always been a trend of “gifting” slaves to royalty and the aristocracy, but as in the case of Guztav, the “gifting” meant freedom. The Tsar freed Abram, educated him, and bestowed on Abram the status of Godson. Such a status not only made him important in the eyes of the Court, but made him a Peer of the Realm. This man was Dumas’ counterpart. He was a military engineer and General in the Russian Army. He trained in France and fought on behalf of France in the 1720s. Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth, considered Abram to be a member of her family, placing him in a position of power. Elizabeth put him in charge of a large Estate in Estonia, which was one of the wealthier private Estates of the Tsars. Abram was married twice-once to a Greek woman (who proved to be unfaithful) and married (secretly while still married to wife #1) a woman of Swedish and Germanic noble descent. His oldest son, Ivan, became a well-known Naval Officer who helped found the city of Kherson and who himself attained the second-highest military ranking in Russia. When his first wife was forced to join a convent, the second marriage was considered valid and legal. Author and Poet Alexander Puskin is his great-grandson. Other descendants of this man include Natalia Grosvenor (Duchess of Westminster), Alexandra Hamilton (Duchess of Abercorn), George Mountbatten (4th Marquess of Milford Haven & cousin to QEII). Yet not many people want to learn about this man. And he’s never shown in any documentary of film about Peter the Great.

Dido Elizabeth Belle - Wikipedia

Dido Elizabeth Belle (cropped from a larger portrait by David Martin)

Dido Elizabeth Belle has become a more well-known woman of colour in recent years due to a new interpretation of the David Martin portrait of her and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. The film Belle (2013) is an exercise in trying to tell her story but also explain slavery during this time in English History. This is what we do know: her father was Sir John Lindsay (he passed in 1788) and her mother was a slave Maria Belle. Dido was technically born into slavery in 1761. She was brought to live with William Murray, her great-uncle, in 1765. Her father let her to be educated as a free person. Very little is known about her life, except she was educated and even though treated as a member of the family, was still technically a slave in the eyes of British Law. She lived with her great-uncle 31 years, and seemed to take on the role of a secretary according to observations by Thomas Hutchinson (former governor of Massachusetts) and in the second volume of James Beattie’s Elements  of Moral Science. For now, these are the only contemporary insights we have into Dido’s daily life and existence. William Murray seemingly ruled against slavery in 1772. Dido married Frenchman John Danvinier in 1793. She was left money by her father, her great-uncle (who also confirmed her freedom in his will) and by his wife, her great aunt. She died in 1805 at the age of 43 and her last decedent died in 1975. While not much is known, the mere fact we do have a film about this person clearly shows that people of colour existed in England prior to the 20th Century.

There is another person, or two, or three, I wish to include in this posting. Yet I feel that because these people were influential and important, they each deserve their own write up and not to be included with the ones I have listed here. I did consider making a post just about the Dumas’, and may yet do so.

The Cult of Karen & Chad: Extreme Privilege

To be a “Karen” is to be, generally, a white privileged cis woman. While it is a slang term, it’s been the inspiration for many memes and gifs that multiply almost as much as cute cat video on YouTube. Chad is the male counterpart. However, I have firmly come to the conclusion that both terms are more universal as I have come across many Karens and Chads (in person and online) over the past two years. Now, I have considered calling WOC who act this way “Candace” after the ubiquitous Candace Owens. And have thought Kayne really needs no explanation. Yet, both are merely just a Karen and a Chad beneath it all.

Karen | Know Your Meme

The typical Karen image courtesy of Knowyourmeme.com (the image is actually of Kate from Kate plus 8, who seems to exemplify the term Karen)

I’ve come across a slew of Karens whilst working with my uncle in his shop (a convenience store for us Americans). I should note that the shop deals primarily with minorities, yet this doesn’t mean that there are non-minorities who visit daily. Once such Karen is always insistent that she should get free cups of ice simply because she sends her kids to the shop multiple times a day. Now, a free cup of ice now and again is not a big monetary loss. However, when one person comes in and is taking 4 to 5 cups of ice four to seven times a day, every day over the course of  year, it’ not only a large monetary loss (each cup costs, on average, 30 cents out of our pocket, on top of the water and electricity it takes to generate the ice), it’s also wasteful because the cup, being plastic, is thrown out and not recycled. This, I would state, is an example of Karen behavior. The Chad version of this is to take a cup of ice, but throw the money we charge for this item on the counter and complain we are ripping him off while making suggestions that I should be willing to engage in a little hanky-panky. Yes, the Chad behavior combines the rudeness and privilege of the Karen, but mixes in the assumption that being male makes them irresistible to any female in a five-mile radius of their good self.

Controversial national 'white privilege' conference coming to ...

Image from Madison.com of a real honest to God conference (seriously, this is not a joke); the ultimate gathering of Karens and Chads.

Now, online dictionaries deem that a Chad is a man in his early 20s to mid 30s. Usually white, it has now been associated with Neo-Nazis, Incels, and just truly awful men. While a Karen is a woman in middle age, Chad is more of the frat boy persona. I feel that this is unfair. Regardless of age, any person can be a Karen or a Chad. And while it has been aligned with white privilege, the past few years have shown me that this cult like attitude has spread (and has always existed) across the racial divide.

Dress code for 18yr frat boys : uofmn

Image courtesy of Reddit (no, really) showing how a frat boy (or Chad) should be dressing.

Most people can agree that a Karen is a woman who is demanding and is used to getting her own way. Some examples of this are women who demand to speak to a manager over every little thing. Women who demand sale prices after the sale has ended or special treatment because they deserve it. Women who even think they should be able to do anything they want because Society somehow “owes” them. This, to me, is the true definition of a Karen. None of these behaviors are regulated specifically only to white culture. Many of us can recall seeing women of all backgrounds and levels of society who exhibit this behavior. Having worked in retail, bartending, waitressing, and even as a teacher, I an assure you, dear reader, that Karen knows no color lines, no monetary barriers, nor is confined by any known border that exists. Karen is everywhere and we’ve all suffered her wrath.

Let's Agree to Agree Wallpaper by JoeGPcom on DeviantArt

Artwork by JoeGPcom courtesy of Deviant Art

Likewise, Chad is not just a glorified Frat Boy. Chad is an overpuffed man who thinks he is the ultimate example of manhood and, therefore, entitled to everything and anything he can possibly think of. Lets face it folks, we all know at least one Chad. We’ve all met at least one Chad in the past year, if not numerous times in our daily lives. Chad can be an obnoxious high school student trying to buy smokes or booze illegally because he wants to or a man in his fifties making sexually suggestive remarks to a younger woman because her being pleasant MUST mean she wants him (she really doesn’t).

So, why write such a post? Firstly, because I’ve noticed an uptick in obnoxious boarding on vile behavior ever since the outbreak began here in the US and Europe starting around January to February of this year. People online becoming truly heinous with deciding to “educate” others on all sorts of topics such as medical advice, body shaming, and even sending death threats because a parent deleted a child’s Minecraft game. This post stems from an experience I just had recently (and recently, as in today).

I was part of George Takei’s fan group on Facebook. Had been a follower and fan for years (what can I say, I love Star Trek). While a rule of this fan group is no trolling, over the past few months the trolling has gotten excessively worse. The Comic Sands article was posted. I read it after coming off of a late shift and made the comment that while the punishment was excessive, it seemed equally, if not more so, for people to demonize the parents for deleting what is, in effect, a video game. I was bombarded with numerous comments from the parent destroyed the child’s artwork (because a game is art now), to I should be thrown out and abandoned like the bitch I was. I even was privately messaged on Facebook and Twitter with images of people holding a printout of my profile picture, with red X’s on it, hold guns to my image, and even one person had a knife sticking through it. Every single person who sent it to me has been reported (please give me a modicum of sense here) and a majority of them were white. Notice I said a majority of them, but not all. I had an African American woman inform me that I needed to be taught a lesson (yes, she actually private message me via Facebook). I had someone who I am going to assume has some Hispanic or Latino background (I am basing this on his name, which is Spanish sounding, and from the fact it stated his hometown was near or around Mexico City) inform me he would be only too glad to teach me and my niece a lesson sexually because we needed to learn our place (my niece is under the age of 3). Now, my profile on Facebook is private. But, as we should all be aware, anything we post to any online database can be found.

Angry Mob Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector Graphics & Clip Art ...

Royalty free image courtesy of iphoto.com

I was appalled, scared, and most of all, disgusted by this trolling shark frenzy which was occurring. Over a video game. Let this sink in-a video game. During this time where people are dying (children, the elderly too), people are out of work, going hungry, etc, the riotous mob came for me, and for anyone, who couldn’t fathom why these parents were receiving death threats over a game. Are people that much entrenched in the Cult of Karen & Chad that deleting a video game is now seen as priceless artwork along the likes of the Sistine Chapel? A game ranks higher on being vitally important than life itself? This cult of extreme privilege is a cancer on our modern Society. No one should think that having access to a video game (which is not a free game, but costs money) is a right that cannot be taken away. Sorry Karen, Chad, Swedish Karen, Mexican Chad, Candian Karen, German Chad, Karen-Candace and Kanye-Chad, but I don’t think a video game is as important to existence as actual existence at this point in time. Thanks for telling me to go back to whence I came (please, Swedish Karen, you might want to brush up on Biology 101 and how birth works). Sorry Mexican Chad, but I have a boyfriend who won’t want to bugger my three year old niece. Sorry but not sorry Karen-Candace for sending your information to the FBI as I do think threatening to shoot me is a bit much for not thinking Minecraft is on par with Michelangelo’s David. And to all the other Karens and Chads I have neglected to mention, I do hope, that in time, you realize that there is more to life than the privilege of  playing a video game. But, like any cult, blind willful ignorance and mass idiocy will no doubt continue to reign as they induct newer and younger members into their cult of extreme privilege.

 

Sources:

https://madison.com/ct/news/local/writers/pat_schneider/controversial-national-white-privilege-conference-coming-to-madison-in-march/article_bdc7052c-92b8-11e3-ae53-0019bb2963f4.html

https://www.dictionary.com/e/slang/karen/

https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/the-day-i-deleted-minecraft-a-letter-to-my-son

https://www.comicsands.com/parent-deletes-minecraft-world-punishment-2645886872.html