Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that we as Eurovision writers sit among a range of sites, representing fans from across the continent and beyond. Many of these sites, us included, have spoke about issues around diversity and representation at the contest before. For example, Eurovision podcasters Isobel Chillman and Roland Bodenham spoke to this on a segment for ESCInsight. Ellie Chalkley also published a phenomenal piece around Mahmood’s journey to Eurovision last year that included similar themes.
More recently, as we stand in this moment of increased discussion around issues faced by Black communities in the West (and beyond), a number of fellow Eurovision sites have used their platforms to speak out on this issue. For example, Connor from ESCUnited published an editorial about why Eurovision fans should care about the Black Lives Matter movement. Wiwibloggs also published an incredible editorial about Black artists’ contributions to the contest throughout its history.
We of course must note that a number of these came in response to a Eurovision fan posting a thread of sites featuring Your Face Sounds Familiar on Twitter. This show frequently features blackface as a form of light entertainment for European audiences.
In 2020, I personally do not think we should have to argue why blackface shouldn’t be appearing on modern television. This article does a great job at explaining the issue with dismissing blackface as ‘harmless entertainment’. Note that the article only scratches the surface and doesn’t quite articulate just how long blackface has existed for and its role in European entertainment.
‘It’s an American issue’
An important step for members of the Eurovision community to take, specifically those who are not engaging with or are criticising the Black Lives Matter movement, is acknowledging that anti-blackness and other forms of racism exist across EBU member states. This expands beyond the former colonial powers of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.
Doing our homework and educating ourselves on the history of racism in the countries we live in is work we all ought to be doing. Especially since many education systems do not accurately cover these topics in national curriculums.
But racism has been present in our precious fan community for years also. Just this year, we saw Czech entrant Benny Cristó share experiences of being bullied for his race when growing up in the Czech Republic via his Instagram. Following his Eurovision Song CZ victory, he went on to face yet more racist abuse, this time online.
This is one case, but we must realise that if you witness such abuse and do not challenge it (be it responding or reporting), you too are complicit in this behaviour.
I, as a white Eurovision writer, know that I could have done more to publicise and condemn this abuse. If any member of our community, performer or otherwise, is facing online targeted abuse, we have a duty to call this out.
What WE can do
We at ESCXTRA are blessed to have thousands of wonderful readers, and operate as one of many fan-run sources for Eurovision news and content. With this comes a platform that allows us to reach a global audience.
We take this responsibility seriously and so, going forward, we are calling upon our supporters and other fan sites to take a more proactive stand against racism, and other isms that we see within the community. With Eurovision having such a large following that identify as members of LGBTQIA+ communities and their allies, we strive to ensure that ‘inclusivity’ doesn’t mean just creating a safe and supportive community for those who are white.
But beyond this, we endeavour to be a platform for artists bringing underrepresented stories to the contest, to truly ‘celebrate diversity’. In practice, this involves digging deeper into the artistry behind non-European influences of past and future entries.
What YOU can do
As the other excellent articles linked earlier on have done, we encourage you to visit the Black Lives Matter ‘Ways to Support’ card. As an international community, note that the site includes translations into a number of languages. Connor from ESCunited also shared an excellent reading list of anti-racist books from Penguin Random House.
Going forward, we all have a role to play in stamping out the cyber abuse of Eurovision and national final artists in general. As mentioned earlier, this involves calling it out when you see it and reporting abusive social media accounts.
We understand that in national final season, tensions run high and we all want our favourites to win, but we perhaps need to consider the toll of undermining someone’s achievements on social media. Many of us are guilty of this, but when the next season rolls around, let us strive to support the artists instead of targeting those who we feel ‘robbed’ our faves. In particular, be mindful of how accusations of being ‘undeserving’ of opportunities hits minorities differently.
Anti-racist work existed centuries before Black Lives Matter, and so we must be prepared for what lies ahead. As many of us come from countries where queer people don’t have equal rights, allow this movement to not sit separate from the struggles many members of the Eurovision community face, but understand that we are all ultimately striving for equality.