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hotel praktik: racist poster?

Posted by
54 posts

Well, yes. That is most definitely a racist image for the Hotel Praktik Metropol on booking.com. (I confess I didn't use your link, because I am overly suspicious.) I'll be interested to see if they have a response to their cluelessness in having the poster at all, let alone in a series of photos promoting their property.

Posted by
16817 posts

Hi, Ling.

I see what you mean on that link. There is a rather controversial-looking art collage/installation that appears to be titled "The Shock." I would guess that it was put there by the "famous interior designer." But I also think you have no reason to be concerned about the hotel's treatment of visitors.

Posted by
286 posts

It is possible that the hotel management is unaware of the associations that image may have. I would certainly mention it to them and give them an opportunity to do a minor tuneup on what may possibly be just a poor decorating choice. It may not matter to them if their business is unaffected by the image. I myself would want to have some empathy for my customers.

Posted by
2530 posts

Has anyone thought that not all societies have the same obsession with "political correctness" than the US? -actually, most do not, and tend to apply common sense based in the background where something is said or printed.

Posted by
502 posts

i don't believe the "art" in question is racist. If you look closely, the image has been cropped so all you see are the last three letters - "die". So, without the beginning letters, you really can't determine what the meaning is.
But of course, if it offends you, there are plenty of hotels in Madrid....

Posted by
35 posts

Thanks everyone!

Laura - do you have more information about "The Shock" or where you found that out? I could not find any info using google and variety of searches. When I ask the online chat service on the hotel's website, they "hang up" on me.

Posted by
16817 posts

I guessed that "The Shock" might possibly be a title just because it's on typed on an otherwise blank page toward the center of the wall. Other pieces of the collage (such as "Dada 4-5") reference the anti-WWI Dada art movement, which worked a lot in collage using bits of advertising and other publications. So whether this is a new work or a copy of something older, it seems to follow that line of art history. See for instance:

https://www.widewalls.ch/dada-collage-readymade/

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/chance-creations-collage-photomontage-and-assemblage

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/dada-115169154/

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you Laura for responding so thoughtfully and swiftly. I was hoping there was a better answer than racist ignorance or straight up racism - you may have found it!

I'll think on this and also see how the hotel responds (I have already found one response to someone who stayed there and was offended - the hotel response was not educational and pretty unsatisfactory).

I am hoping there is some kind of explanation in any hotel materials, and hoping to see any staff be versed about "The Shock" - seeing these two elements of art to educate about racism would make me less angry about it.

Posted by
2988 posts

Definitely part of a larger image that was cropped. If it offends you, stay someplace else. While not something one would see in the U.S. I have to agree with enric that many places are not as politically correct as in the states.

Posted by
2635 posts

As with many things, intent really matters. The Hotel Praktik is, for lack of a better word, a hipster kind of a place that would put up this poster as part of what in 2013 article, Henry Louis Gates called scholarly interest. Prof. Gates actually discussed the issues around collecting derogatory pieces and how such pieces came into being and he identified himself as a person who believes in collecting and displaying these pieces as a way to illustrate how people of color are demonized. I hate seeing them and would never collect or display these pieces but I do understand the thinking behind Dr. Gates' view and I have friends who collect these pieces and have them in their homes. I have not stayed at the Pratik but my husband did on a business trip. I just asked him and he did not even notice the poster in the picture (and it could have not even been up when he was there), but he says that he arrived late and went directly to his room and headed on to his next stop after his Madrid meetings so he would not have noticed. In response to further questions, he said and this is a quote "I don't recall the staff being any more racist there than any other hotel I have been to."

Posted by
6243 posts

I also tend to agree with Enric. Other countries in the world may not necessarily be as sensitive to political correctness as the US. Personally, I think this is a whole lot of overreaction to a photo of what appears to be some kind of art installation.

Posted by
7310 posts

It looks more like wallpaper than posters, wallpaper with the retro posters as a theme. These charactures wouldn’t be included in the design in the States nowadays, and I’ll venture to say, nor in France where the original publicity poster was created.
Excellent sleuthing, Laura.

Posted by
8926 posts

Has anyone thought that not all societies have the same obsession with "political correctness" than the US? -

Or another way of saying that is countries with less ethnic diversity than the US, are more tolerant of ugly racial stereotypes. My next trip to Madrid will not Include lodging at this hotel.

Posted by
6243 posts

Dismissing a hotel based on this is like not going to a fantastic art museum (Louvre, Prado, Uffizi, etc) because they may display a couple of offensive/racist pieces of art. You can miss out on some great experiences by being too narrow minded or too politically correct - like cutting off your nose to spike your face.

Posted by
35 posts

Thanks again Laura! I appreciate that you (and sadly, only a couple others) seem to understand that I am in search of the origins of the poster and also the intent of the hotel of displaying a racist poster bc I do believe that context absolutely matters; if there is no context, it is probably racism, whether ignorant or overtly intentional.

We have chosen a different place to stay at instead, bc so far, it seems like the hotel is just trying to be provocative without any substance; exploiting non-white cultures for a spectacle.
But I'll post how the hotel responds - hopefully the hotel knows anything about the origins of that racist poster, had educational intentions, and is actually educating folks via even a little plaque explanation or that their employees understand why it is there and why it might be offensive - then I would consider staying there.

Thanks for your comment Michael S! I don't believe in political correctness. I think it is nonsense. I wouldn't be surprised if a racist came up with the phrase.

Everyone, whether you are racist and/or ignorant or not, please read Ijeoma Oluo's book "So You Want To Talk About Race?" It is super educational.

Posted by
971 posts

I'm with enric here. Most countries are not as sensitive to racial issues as the US is and don't feel the need to censor images of racial stereotypes from the (rather racist) past. Context matter and it does not hurt to apply some common sense instead of labeling a whole hotel as racist because you have seen one poster in the internet.

Posted by
7310 posts

It’s worse than a poster; it’s definitely wall paper because it’s in all the hallways. This is a chain of hôtels, wine bars, bakeries, geared to a youthful crowd. It will be most effective writing to the owners, if you can get a name.. The staff doesn’t know how to respond. If Enric and Morten don’t see this the way an hopefully most Americans do, the hotel staff certainly won’t.

Posted by
4769 posts

I agree that residents of other countries often do not have the same "trigger warning" level of sensitivity to issues like "The American Dillema." So the specific topic of this thread is not a particularly good reason to boycott a hotel or a business chain.

That said, other countries (including France) have not yet fully come to grips with their own pasts and their own ingrained attitudes. I recall when certain North Africans with French citizenship were casually referred to as "French Colonials" (but had the right to live and work in France.) The current situation in the Banlieues of Paris is not that different from urban segregation in the 1960's U.S.A.

Those other countries may yet have their reckonings. It confuses the issue to have it brought up over there by migration and religious issues. After all the Great Migration in the United States 20th century was by resident citizens who were nearly 100% Protestant.

Posted by
971 posts

Yes Bets, if those pesky locals don’t see things the way Americans do, you will just have to make them!

Posted by
803 posts

This thread seems to be an example of how race issues can become so volatile. All seemingly reasonable people and yet feathers still getting ruffled. Here are my few cents.
1. I don't think that OP was suggesting a "boycott". OP has decided to stay somewhere else and has contacted hotel management to find out more about their choice of decor. Seems appropriate to me. I might choose not to stay in a hotel because the lobby was painted pink, so I think that this old advertisement being used as decor is more valid than that.
2. Morten, race is a huge, divisive, and sensitive subject right now in the US. I don't think Bets was saying that you should have the same perspective. I think (please correct me Bets if I am wrong) she was saying if such a great guy like Morten doesn't see this as a problem...... I think it is appropriate for white Americans to have their sensitivity turned way up and to be extra respectful and thoughtful about these issues because we haven't been sensitive enough in the past. Why do I say that? Because that is what non-white US citizens are telling us and I believe them.
3. It is complicated because my favorite baseball team has a mascot that is being phased out. I love chief Wahoo and will miss him. But there are many native Americans who feel that his image is salt rubbed into wounds. I think it is correct to wave good bye.
4. I think it is a stretch to compare the wallpaper at a hotel with a famous art museum. I doubt that OP will miss anything by not staying in this hotel.

How does this relate to travel? I think if a hotel in Madrid wants customers from multiple cultures, they should consider that when choosing what images to put on the wall. I wouldn't send the authorities to make them remove it, but I wouldn't choose this hotel either.

Posted by
8889 posts

I'm with uncle Gus. Whereas the 4 stereotypes on this poster are all somewhat offensive (I'm glad you found it Laura, as I couldn't see anything in the original link), I would not call it racist against any of the 4 groups, just 4 outdated stereotypes which were never correct in the first place. As an Englishman I severely object to the top hat and monocle stereotype.
My chief objection to this poster is it encourages smoking.

If you are going to remove all history that no longer confirms to modern morals, perhaps we should start with pulling down the colosseum (religious mass murder), levelling Auschwitz, renaming everything named after George Washington (a slave owner) and changing the logo on Uncle Ben's rice (a slave stereotype).

Posted by
2530 posts

@Michael Schneider.... on the contrary, you seem to believe that the US has "more diversity", but other than in a few clusters scattered around the main cities in the country, the US isn't as diverse as many cities here in Europe. Madrid, for example, has over 20% of its population from over 110 different nationalities. In Barcelona, my home city, only 51% of its residents were born here. This is to say that we are quite aware about "diversity".

However, as my Danish colleague @Morten said earlier, the main issue here is the different approach to racial issues on both sides of the Atlantic... while racism is still present, in a degree or another, in most countries around the world -including yours and mine!-, the prevalence of this "illness" (allow me to label it so), seems to be much lower in our shores these days and, as mentioned earlier, the context in which you say something or use something --which on its own could be offensive-- does matter.

Welcome to the great world of idiosyncrasy, my friends! Not every culture sees things the same way: history, cultural backgrounds, etc. make things one way in one country and another in a different country. Without willing to start a new debate, a good example is the word "black" to refer to people with dark skin; while in the US seems to have become a sort of taboo word, in the rest of the world, from China to France to Argentina to Russia and most everywhere else in between, the term is perfectly all right -a quick Google search will show you- and it does not carry any derogatory or demeaning meaning. Actually, it might do depending on the context (and/or tone) in which is used, but this is true with many other terms.

It's a good exercise to empathize with the culture you're visiting before making any judgement. In living memory, Spain hasn't had apartheid nor instituted segregation, therefore -albeit there's the odd loose imb***le - racial features have never been a problem in this society (again, we're talking in living memory, not in the 15th century... when it was!). In fact, much like in other big cities elsewhere, in Madrid (or in Barcelona for that matter) nobody cares much about your origin, your race or your religion providing you're a "nice" person. Thus, the importance you might give to a US poster from the 50s is far different from the importance a typical Spaniard would consider -moreover noting there are Spaniards from all colours, races and creeds. It's just a poster from the 50s, which might (or might not) have a purely artistic value. Period.

Obviously, Ling has the right to feel offended, and the choice to choose a different hotel... but, IMHO, she'd be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Ahh, and @vandrabrud introduced yet another controversial issue :).... how far has a host have to adapt to a guest...or vice versa: servility vs entitlement. Great topic, surely would bring passionate answers.

Posted by
8889 posts

P.S. I've just spotted the original photo: https://t-ec.bstatic.com/images/hotel/max1024x768/434/43484847.jpg

It is not on the page originally linked to, but on one of the photos you see if you click on the hotel name.
Are you basing your objection on the fact that the 3 letters D I E happen to make a word in English?
They don't speak English in Madrid. Any 3 letter combination is likely to be an offensive word in some language. That's like insisting a certain Austrian village changes its name, because it is objectionable to you (click here to find out where).

Posted by
2530 posts

LOL!... yeah @Chris I know, without even looking at the link :))).... but hey, the town was there far before the word started to be used in the English language, isn't it?

Posted by
2203 posts

A 1910 poster advertising smoking papers. By 21st Century Liberal American standards, pretty much every thing about 1910 was politically incorrect and probably racist.

I think we need to choose our battles and this reproduction of a colorful poster just isn't one.

Posted by
2530 posts

Totally agree... you see, background does matter.

Posted by
1224 posts

Rightly or wrongly there isn't the same day-to-day perception of racism in Spain, or southern Europe generally, as there is in the US. At least that is my perception. The hotel's display was clearly about "shock", hence the title (in English not Spanish, I note). I think it is a childish display, but I doubt the intent was to be actually offensive to guests, more a silly attempt to appear outré or "trendy".

They perhaps didn't realise how some would react to that particular image (not a great excuse for an hotel with many visitors from abroad, I admit). Notably, they didn't include any "Arriba España" posters to shock for example because, presumably, they did realise that would offend many.

To give some context look at the character for Spain's popular "Conguitos" chocolates (a sort of M&Ms). They've dropped the spear now, but it still might appear an unusual, even racist, image to some perspectives.

If you think the hotel has gone too far by replicating this image, then write to them and suggest they think again; but it's not surprising to me that they didn't expect a strong reaction, but if you don't tell them how you feel then they won't know.

Posted by
286 posts

Enric, as a longtime Detroiter in the United States I can assure you that "black" is not a taboo word. It is in fact the usual description in this city where the majority of the population is indeed black. There is another word which isn't acceptable.

Posted by
4514 posts

'Black Face' for want of a better term has a long time folk history in some countries completely separate from what might be described as "Minstrelsy" as developed in the USA in the 19th century onwards. Zwarte Piet for example in the Netherlands, and its use in various English folk dances, and it is ambiguous in some cases whether they are actually representing caricatures of black people or just those who worked in dirty jobs such as sweeps. The importation of Minstrel shows were seen in the same innocent or unthinking vein, even if they were no longer acceptable back in the USA - 'the Black and White Minstrel Show' ran on the BBC as late as 1978, and for most watching at the time it was no more controversial than The Lawrence Welk Show - although not for all and there were many knowing satires of it. There are still those who don't understand why gollywogs are no longer portrayed on jars of marmalade.

This picture though does not have ambiguity as it is undeniably a racial archetype but is being used here in "art", and the name says it all I guess.

Posted by
3444 posts

Enric,

I am certain that parts of your home country have less diverse makeup of population as well. The immigrants always seem to first settle in the larger population areas because it is easier to find jobs and usually others from their countries.

My home town, Houston Texas, has 145 languages spoken by the residents reflecting the wide spread locations of their original countries. There is no one majority any more due to the large number of people living there from nearly every country in the world. We all (mostly) get along. But then you can visit other parts of Texas and find a near total lack of diversity among the population. I prefer the parts where there is more diversity.

Posted by
5010 posts

Well said, traylaparks.

Art often provokes. Without context, this image seems shocking to some of us with our modern sensibilities. This was art from an old advertisement, recycled (probably not without a lot of deep analysis) in a collage. Any keen-eyed observer will see things more inappropriate than this across Europe on a routine basis. I wouldn't use it today, but I'm not sure this is a hill to die on.

Posted by
2530 posts

@Silas Marner... indeed Silas, a "Detroiter" of course, but Michigan is not... --well, not naming any state in particular, I don't want to offend anybody here, I am sure you know what I mean. But you know that the term "African-American" is rather used instead in many many parts of the US, isn't it? Frankly, to many of us here in Europe it sounds a bit weird, for a number of reasons, and totally alien to the way we would refer to "people of dark skin", in any of the countries here. Race doesn't have to be linked to a geographical origin after all. Tons of similar examples could be cited.

@Mark, you're, of course, totally right but the main difference is that due to many factors -mostly the short distances between one town and the next- over here migration is more permeable to the rest of the society. For example, here in Catalonia -which is the size of Maryland- there are 946 towns and cities and almost all of them have migrants as residents. It's also true, and I agree with you, that the biggest cities have a greater percentage of migrants in their population. In any case, the point being that we Catalans are very used to diversity -and we've been for a long time now- so there are no issues related to race or creed (again, discounting the odd m...on!). This is not to say that everything is rosy either, huh!

But again, I believe the point of the thread was referred to a potentially "racist" views (or values) in a hotel in Madrid, and this is a multicultural city so I believe the appreciation of the OP is probably unfounded.

Posted by
2530 posts

If anything, it's interesting to see the different points of view in this thread, product of our different backgrounds and idiosyncrasies. I enjoy these chats. Yet I know it's Ling's thread though, sorry for hijacking it.

Posted by
286 posts

Enric,
The preference for "black" or "African American" doesn't really have much to do with geographical location within the United States. There are some very complex considerations involved. Sometimes being actually born in Africa is a reason to be called "African American" whereas many blacks born in the US prefer "black". Sometimes it's just a situational or contextual reason to choose one or the other. Some black people would say it's incorrect to call every black person in the United States "African American". Others prefer it. Half of Michigan's black population lives in Wayne county which includes Detroit, Highland Park and Inkster - cities whose majority of residents are black. Hence being a Detroiter in this discussion is significant. I have lived and worked among a large number of blacks for 50 years and in fact had a black spouse for many years with many black in-laws. I don't recall anyone having difficulty with "black" or "African American" Here are some interesting discussions.

http://www.fordhamobserver.com/should-we-say-black-or-african-american/
https://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/04/an-african-american-or-a-black-160773

Posted by
5624 posts

Interesting to read the Haole/Gaijin/Baak Gwai/Bilagáana/Gringo perspective on what is a racist image.

Posted by
326 posts

Though I agree with much of what Enric says, sadly, Spain (and Catalunya) is still, despite Enric's stalwart defence, very much an institutionally racist country. Fact.
On a human, interpersonal level, not so much so. This is a country which welcomes refugees — unlike a well-known, wealthy superpower whose gatekeepers are commanded to split up families prior to interrogation and probable deportation.
If, as Enric states, (which is true) that there are many residents from so many different backgrounds how is it they are not visible in public life?
How many diputados (congress representatives/Members of Parliament) are of South and Central American, North and West African or Asian origins? How many city hall/town hall mayors' parents are from Africa, Asia or America? How many TV presenters on national Spanish and Catalan TV are Asian, North African or American? How many people of colour in Spain work in banking and the financial sectors? How many CEOs? How many people of colour work as shop assistants? How many people of colour work in academia?
So, given Spain and Catalunya's, rich diversity where is that rich diversity effectively and visibly represented?

The truth of Spain is yes it's ok to be 'different' but it's best for everyone if you know your place — much as it was in the UK at the end of the 1970s.
It wasn't that long ago when the Spanish football association was fined for racist crowd behavior — (elements of the crowd threw bananas onto the pitch and made gorilla type noises every time a black English player touched the ball).
Here are two links which discuss the problem of racism in football then (2014) and now (January this year):
https://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/05/sport/football/diop-monkey-chants-racism-football-atletico-madrid/index.html
https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2755921-why-spanish-football-needs-to-do-more-to-combat-racism

Posted by
2530 posts

@Hi Bill,
I would really be pleased to reply your questions because indeed there are a number of significant examples to illustrate what I said: from Robert Masih Nahar, originally from Punjab and one of the current 10 senators of ERC representing Catalonia in the Spanish Senate; to a number of famous bestseller writers in Catalan language such as Aisha Miró or Mathew Tree among other; to prime time TV presenters as Halldor Mar or heavy weights in the industry such as the CEO of Mango, Isak Andic... and to top it up, the former 128th President of Catalonia, Montilla democratically elected in 2006 and who wasn't even a Catalan-born. Many other examples come to mind. HOWEVER, I feel we'd be really hijacking this thread if we embark on a one-to-one conversation about whether this is a nation institutionally racist or not, which I suppose is of little interest to readers from "overseas" :) So, if you like, may I suggest to continue this discussion in PMs instead?

Posted by
326 posts

"Montilla democratically elected in 2006 and who wasn't even a Catalan-born."
Says more than you wish it did in the context of this discussion.
José Montilla, born in Córdoba, Spain and you think it's worth remarking that he became President of the Generalitat? Rather proves my point don't you think?

Sorry, but an English writer writing in Catalan (have had the pleasure of meeting Matthew a few times); an Indian writer writing in Catalan; an Icelandic TV presenter, and a Turkish clothing/fashion magnate do not amount to effective and visible representation. My point stands.

Another link (El País — I spit) worth looking at: Racism in Spain.
(What is PMs?)

Posted by
7310 posts

This is a very interesting conversation.
No, I don't think this was intentionally racist, just ignorant. In trying to be a hip hotel, it went overboard.

You, Ling, are insulted by the Asian, Chris F by the British stereotype, any Native American or Black would be offended by the other two characterizations, and that's the bottom line. What would be our reaction if it had derogatory characterizations of Jews, Arabs, gays, even Spanish icons, Dutch icons, Polish icons, Germans all as Nazis, etc.?

Are some images better in a pedagogical context or in a museum rather than in the popular culture if we want to attain the goals we set out as travelers, which for most of us is knowing and understanding those who are from other cultures, lead different lives?

No, I don't think you'll get anywhere with the hotel staff, as I said before, Why don't you find the owner and send a link to this thread.

Posted by
2530 posts

@Bill, no, no... I don't care where my president is born providing is a good president. As per the rest, you're not being fair, this is not about it, it's about Ling's initial comment so no one would expect me to list you a long list of examples, just included a few... which btw, even if modest are quite significant if you compare with the "visibility" of migrants in some other "advanced and far more populous societies" around.

PMs = Private Messages

Posted by
326 posts

@Enric. Interestingly Matthew's novel, the first novel he has written and published in English, SNUG, revolves in and around notions of racism and nationalism.
Will respond tomorrow to your other points. Bon a nit.