sereppu asked: I'm sorry but that post of Beethoven being "black" is total bullshit. He looks like any other European that might have had Southern European origins, and I don't get why tumblr is so insistent in trying to raise "poc numbers" by spreading lies and misinformation? He's just not considered black in Europe, he would be "poc" only by USA standards, I'm sorry.
[second reblog in hope that it doesn’t look formatted wrong again, if it still doesn’t work peace]
Hi. First thing, may I please direct you to this post, the last answer here, this post here for a real example of black erasure as far as classical music goes (never mind Chevalier de Saint Georges who should be a lot more famous than he actually is and really was black), and an actual legit academic article [Black Beerthoven and the racial politics of music history by Nicholas Rinehart, which said everything that had to be said on the topic imo - if you can’t access academia.edu I’ll be happy to download it for you but I think you can read it just logging in without facebook account] which debunks the entire Beethoven was black thing. That should be enough as far as your last point goes.
Other than that.
this post uses American definitions of black, which usually depends on social context rather than origin or skin color.
So being black doesn’t necessarily mean he has dark skin. Not sure if this happens in Europe, but the US doesn’t have a monopoly on racism and we weren’t the only ones who enslaved black people.
Yeah, that’s where the first problem is. You said, not sure if this happens in Europe, which is the key to this entire discussion, as the thing is, it doesn’t. And as you said, you’re applying the American definition of black to Europe when it’s a thing that makes literally no sense. First thing, as the sources above explained but I’ll go into a tldr: basically all the proof that Beethoven was not *white* is because his mother had Moor ancestry, but a) Moor doesn’t necessarily mean *black*, you also refer to lighter-skinned people of Arabian descent with that and b) Moors had been gone from Europe as whole for four hundred years and therefore it’s not like he had direct ancestry. Not enough to make him as dark-skinned as the OP that the first answer above suggested to for sure. So it’s like saying, since there’s half a chance that five hundred years ago some relative of mine married someone from Africa then I’d qualify as black even if I’m whiter than mozzarella cheese and I get sunburn. Which makes no sense whatsoever. Also, you weren’t the only ones who enslaved black people, but *Moors* actually were never enslaved in Europe - Moors was the name for the Arabian populations who invaded the south of Europe and came as far as Vienna in the second half of the Middle Ages and they were mostly based in Spain/Southern Italy. The last city they held before Christian Europeans drove them out was Granada, in 1492. Granada is in Spain. Not in Germany. And as far as I know the slave trade was mostly a thing that happened in the European colonies, not in Europe. There weren’t black slaves in Germany of all places. Especially because anyway Germany as a whole was not a whole nation until the late nineteenth century, as you can read here, the nations who built colonial empires were England, Spain and France/Portugal - Germany did try to build one, at the end of the 19th century, and it was pretty small and it was done with after they lost WWI. And by then slavery had already been technically abolished in the US, so like, I don’t get what was your point with the US weren’t the only ones enslaving black people. No, but Germany wasn’t really that great at that either and it’s not like it has anything to do with Beethoven, because Beethoven died in 1827 and that was long before the German unification in the first place.
Also, being black doesn’t mean that he has dark skin? Sorry but in Europe it does. If you apply US social standards it will never make sense. Here you’re considered black if you have dark skin. If I had 1/8th African ancestry and it didn’t show, I wouldn’t be considered black. It’s not a conspiracy or anything, it’s how it is, how it was and how it’s always been - I’d also like to add that the last time actual slavery was a thing in Europe was during the Roman empire, where being sold into slavery had everything to do with what conquered nation you were from and zero to do with your skin color. But I digress. We were saying Beethoven.
Beethoven could be experiencing this from a historical standpoint: we see him as white, and thus we revere him. If he were seen as black, he might not be remembered.
Okay, this is - listen, Beethoven was not a politician or an activist or whatever have you. Beethoven was a classical musician. In 18th/19th century Europe, if you wanted to be remembered for your music you had to be good and you had to have good patrons, because otherwise you’d end up sick and without money and die of illness, which is what happened to 80% of the basic canon of classical musicians in Europe, Beethoven included - when he died half of the city went to his funeral, but before then he had been struggling financially for ages (there’s this anecdote I’ve read in some Rossini biography saying that the latter and some friends went to visit Beethoven in Germany and Rossini was appalled that the guy lived in such horrible condition and wanted to give him money and Beethoven didn’t accept it but whatever let’s go on), never mind that he wasn’t exactly a bundle of joy to deal with. Point is, if his contributions to music had been laughable, no one would remember him anyway. You know Antonio Salieri? Yes, the antagonist from Amadeus? That dude was one of the most important musicians of his time, he was pretty damn important at the imperial court, was Italian (and white, I shouldn’t have to add) - btw back then Italians were seen as having all the power as far as classical music/opera was concerned, think about why most opera around is in Italian rather than the language of the people who actually were composing it - and the only reason people remember him is because he’s a main character in Amadeus, because it’s not like he wrote bad music but it wasn’t even particularly special, while Mozart’s is pretty damn special. Beethoven is revered and remembered because he was a fucking genius and because he wrote some of the most famous/important/beautiful pieces of classical music ever existed. I can guarantee you that if he was really black, his life had been exactly the same and he had still written the 9th symphony, everyone would still remember him.
Case in point: Alexandre Dumas is actually black as far as Europe goes, since it actually showed
that his mother was HaitianCORRECTION/ETA thanks to johnnylawgottagun who pointed out that while writing this post I hadn’t had enough coffee and I confused shit around: Dumas’ father was half-African, Alexandre’s mother was white French. His father being famed Napoleonic general Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, son of a French plantation owner and African slave concubine, and he was in turn a protege of the Chevalier de Saint-George (I copy/pasted the correction thanks again for pointing it out). He was a lot better off than Beethoven financially, he was one of the most famous novelists in France and there’s a reason why he got paid to write chaptered novels that were published on magazines first - because they sold. People might not have read The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte-Cristo or what else have you, but everyone knows about them if anything because of the shitload of movies/tv series/dramatizations they’ve done of both since forever. Fine, not many people know that Dumas wasn’t *white* if they don’t look into it, but history has after all not given a shit about that, since his books were successful when he was alive and are considered classics now, because they’re actually damn fine books. And all things considered Beethoven is far more important in classical music than Dumas was in literature (I can’t possibly go into the meaning of Beethoven’s music generally because I’d need an essay, but without Beethoven European classical music would have been drastically different than what it actually was, while probably without Dumas French Literature wouldn’t have really changed that much, and before anyone says I’m playing favorites, Dumas is my actual favorite writer and Three Musketeers is my second-favorite book so let’s just not), so yeah, sorry, Beethoven would have been remembered and played in concert halls today everywhere whether he was white, black, Chinese or whether he had orange skin with purple dots. Please go listen to the 9th Symphony from start to finish and tell me that it’s something that people wouldn’t have played just based on skin color. Because people in 18th/19th century Europe were dumb about a lot of things but they weren’t dumb about what music they listened to. Jfc Mozart is the most famous classical musician ever and he died at 35 because he didn’t have enough money to pay himself a decent doctor and he was drowning in debt the entire time, and he was white. Like 97% of this continent at that point.
I know there are other terms for North Africans who do not identify as black. However, based on the images and descriptions, I would say Beethoven was black.
In 19th/18th century Europe there was no such thing as identifying as black. No one identified as anything unless they were of direct mixed heritage and they’d have identified as the country they were raised in in case (see Dumas), and that mere concept is just completely not compatible with Europe in that time-period or even with Europe now - listen, in Italy as it is these days you’ll be more likely to face racism if you’re Romanian than if you’re black because these years we apparently detest romanians who come into this country to steal our jobs (I’m parroting the xenophobic party here), racism in Europe works on the basis of where you come from and if you come from the neighboring country then I’ll probably hate you more than if you come from a far one, see racism against Irish and Polish people throughout the centuries. Or it’s based on religion - see the Catholic vs Protestant wars in the 16h/17th century where people would get killed or burned at the stake or exiled on the basis of how many sacraments they thought were acceptable by christian doctrine. Racism in Europe is not racism in the US, and it’s not 19th/20th century racism in the US, and I can guarantee you that even if you think Beethoven was black based on a few generic traits that can belong also to white people (and saying that if your jaw is built like that and you have a large nose and curly hair then you have to be black makes my skin crawl - here this kind of reasoning passes off as quite racist tbh…), I can guarantee you that he didn’t identify as anything other than German and his peers didn’t give a shit about his skin color when it came to giving him means to live, because generally classical musicians were dirt poor and starving because of their fucking job, not of their skin color.
Even if you say Beethoven’s not black, he’s certainly not the light-skinned Anglo-Saxon guy that all of the movies and media in the US depict him as.
If you go on the Wikipedia article and look at portraits made during his life, he looks like someone with olive/tanned skin, which is entirely normal also in Germany and would qualify as being white anywhere in Europe. Maybe in the US it doesn’t but lo and behold, Beethoven didn’t live in the US, and he doesn’t now, so that argument is pretty moot. I mean, if you look at all the portraits in that article, including ones of when he was a child (so it’s not like they were gonna whitewash him when he was like ten, it’s not like they’d have thought that far - painters in the 19th century really did not give a shit about this kinda thing, they just wanted to get paid), he’s white. At most he’s tanned. Newsflash, tanned =/= black. Or if that’s so, then my mother and I are from two different races because in summer I burn and she becomes dark enough that she could pass for Arabian. MY *MOTHER*, not my great-great-great whatever. Also well if you use English actors to portray him ofc he’ll look Anglo-Saxon, but that means there aren’t Germans or Anglo-Saxons with the same facial features? Because there are. Saying that all Germans have to be blondes with blue eyes and thin noses/mouth is as ignorant as saying that all black people have dark eyes or naturally curly hair. Also the point with Beethoven is not how he’s depicted in media - wth. Beethoven isn’t a character from a tv show or anything and he doesn’t need to be portrayed. Beethoven was a musician. If you care about Beethoven just go listen to his music, also because really I’m pretty sure that even the least-educated person in Europe knows what he looks like based on the first portrait of the Wikipedia entry, no one needs to see a movie about him to know about his facial features.
if you asked anyone in the U.S. we would all say he’s white until reading posts like the one above.
Because the post above is sprouting misinformation and Beethoven was actually white, so yeah, you’d be right. That said, Beethoven did not live in the US as is clear, so I don’t see how it’s the business of people from the US to dictate which race he belong to anyway.
The fact that it’s not even a question is erasure of black experiences.
If there’s erasure of black experiences in the US that’s your problem. The erasure of black experiences in Europe isn’t really the same thing and as I said already, being black or half-black in Europe (because really according to that argument just his mother was not white [even if she prob. was by European standards…] but dude his father was actually white so at most he was mixed race) didn’t really mean anything as far as being successful went in that chosen profession. You know who where the primary receivers of real racism in Europe for two thousand years? Jews. Jews would be considered white by any standard here. Please, let’s just not confuse apples and oranges here.
Even if you say he is not black by European standards, it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t? Pray, how? He was European. How doesn’t it matter if he wasn’t black by the standards of the continent/country he was born in? Okay, so if you tell me that in order to say something about Al Capone we need to take into account the fact that his parents were Italian immigrants and where they came from and we really should see the context of Italian mafia having put roots in the US through the Italian immigrants that brought it there and I answer you ‘well Al was born in Brooklyn and his name doesn’t even sound Italian and all that shit happened in the US so lol no don’t bring us into this argument it’s your problem bye’, would it make any sense? Of course not. Newsflash: that statement above is exactly the same thing.
Because people in the US should recognize him as black by US standards.
Beethoven wasn’t American, he wasn’t even black in the first place, he’s a staple of European western culture and you should recognize him as black by your standards when he was born here and he never set foot once in the US never mind that he probably didn’t even speak English? So I should go around and scream to the heavens that it’s a travesty that Robert De Niro is considered American just because his dad was half-Italian so all Italians should claim De Niro’s acting achievements as something our country should be proud of? That would be entirely dumb. Beethoven wasn’t American. Turning him into some non-white token so that you can go around and say that most things that European culture produced weren’t made by white people after all (because that’s what it sounds like) it’s a disservice to actual non-white people who struggled to have their achievements recognized and who actually had to deal with being mixed race or not-white or whatever in a mostly white country. Are we serious? Here, Wikipedia has an entire index page dedicated to African-Americans classical composers. The only one I’ve ever listened to anything of is Scott Joplin - some of the others I know by name but I never had the chance to look them up. Why don’t people look them up, research them and maybe make posts about them so they’re more well-known and we all actually learn something - I clicked at random over a few names and all of them looked like very interesting/capable composers who are probably overlooked because of their skin color rather than because of the actual quality of the music. They’re all American. But no one gives a shit about any of them, instead lest’s turn Beethoven into a non-white person based on shitty circumstantial evidence because every deity ever forbid white people actually have a culture. In a place that is not the United States.
The history books have a way of downplaying the achievements of women and minorities, and one of the ways they do that is not acknowledging when someone is a race other than white.
The history books downplay a lot of things, but if that’s an American problem it’s not our problem. By the way, in European culture you’ll mostly find white people because 99% OF THIS CONTINENT WAS WHITE AND HAS BEEN UNTIL THE AFTERMATH OF WWII, and women didn’t emancipate themselves until the 19th century or so, but believe me, in my high school history books there were plenty things about women achievements in the 20th century - I don’t know about your educational system but it’s your problem, not ours, and it certainly should not be ours. Also, a lot of the people in the composers link above are women but I don’t see tumblr giving much of a shit about them either when playing the white conspiracy theory game gains a lot more notes. Also if you’re studying the history of a majorly white continent (or the literature or anything) of course you’ll run into white people. Duh. If I studied Chinese literature I’d be surprised if 99% of the people I ran into weren’t Chinese. If you listen to German classical composers ofc or writers ofc they’ll be white. And listen, given that statement I could write you a novel about how it was an italian dude who invented the telephone, the US system screwed him over just on the basis of him being Italian and without money and actually your congress admitted it some seven years ago or so, but at the same time for a century everyone thought the telephone was a US invention and that dude was some phony charlatan, so oh dear how horrid that an Italian might have come up with it and how horrid that US history books didn’t recognize that. But I won’t because it’s all water under the bridge and who even cares. That said, history books usually downplay things in favor of whoever’s in charge as well, so.
Seriously, can you please just not apply US standards to things that have zilch to do with your country? That would be appreciated. And that said it’s not that I wrote this entire rant because I’m particularly attached to the idea of Beethoven being white and I can’t stand the idea of his whiteness being taken away from us, it’s because I’m sick tired of this US-centrism which makes everything and everyone about you and your issues. It’s not. And if I may quote the article I linked above:
I’m sorry you think something I posted is bullshit? Obviously, I don’t
Yes, this post uses American definitions of black, which usually depends on social context rather than origin or skin color. In the US there are people from black families with light skin that would be mistaken for white by strangers, and their experiences are important both as people who “pass” as white and thus experience white privilege on some fronts, but also experience racial discrimination on other fronts (particularly when with family members and friends who do not “pass” as white). So being black doesn’t necessarily mean he has dark skin. Not sure if this happens in Europe, but the US doesn’t have a monopoly on racism and we weren’t the only ones who enslaved black people. Anyway, Beethoven could be experiencing this from a historical standpoint: we see him as white, and thus we revere him. If he were seen as black, he might not be remembered.
I have no idea what Beethoven’s family history is beyond what is given in the post, but his mother is of North African heritage. I know there are other terms for North Africans who do not identify as black. However, based on the images and descriptions, I would say Beethoven was black.
Even if you say Beethoven’s not black, he’s certainly not the light-skinned Anglo-Saxon guy that all of the movies and media in the US depict him as. I don’t know how he’s depicted in other media, but if you asked anyone in the U.S. we would all say he’s white until reading posts like the one above. The fact that it’s not even a question is erasure of black experiences. Even if you say he is not black by European standards, it doesn’t matter. Because people in the US should recognize him as black by US standards. The history books have a way of downplaying the achievements of women and minorities, and one of the ways they do that is not acknowledging when someone is a race other than white.
Anyway, I should end this post by saying I am white and in no ways a history major or scholar. If there’s anything I need to correct from a scholarly standpoint, let me know.
The figure of Black Beethoven is perhaps most significant because it is a radically desperate attempt to accomplish what historical whitewashing has totally failed in doing. This desperation, this need to paint Beethoven black against all historical likelihood is, I think, a profound signal that the time has finally come to make a single, concerted, organized, rigorous, dynamic, and robust effort at fundamentally reshaping the classical canon and reconsidering and reimagining the history of Western art music, period.
This dude probably said in a nutshell everything I wanted to say here - look at GREAT black composers who have been whitewashed and pay them a service instead of grasping at straws to justify this kind of misinformation with a US-centrism that makes no sense. Because sorry, but the world isn’t just you, and it doesn’t work like that everywhere,
Thank, I’m done.