Lost in Translation: Turkish Anchor Appears in Blackface on Air in Coverage of President Obama

turkishblackfaceThere is a great deal of chatter on the Internet today about an anchor who appears in blackface in the coverage of President Obama’s trip to Turkey. The rough translation from the appearance is “Welcome, Mr. Obama. You took our hearts with your hospitality. We appreciate your kindness. We will do whatever America asks of us, as friends. Now, we ask the same of you.”

There may be something lost in translation here. Some have stated that this is an attempt at humor or a spoof. Others have argued that it was meant as a sign of respect.

It is possible that the Turkish media does not realize how insulting such an appearance would be, though a simple google search would reveal the cultural meaning of blackface appearances in the United States.

For the video, click here.

26 thoughts on “Lost in Translation: Turkish Anchor Appears in Blackface on Air in Coverage of President Obama”

  1. YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE IT IS NOT INSULTING , INSULTING SOMEBODY BECAUSE OF HIS COLOUR IS A BIG SIN in his religion .

    i will try to explain what reported said in his speech
    firstly he is protesting OBAMA and he wants obama to do some favor for TURKIYE then there is a famous proverb in turkish (isteyenin bir yuzu kara vermeyenin iki yuzu) means ‘The one who asks has one side of his face dark; the one who refuses to give has both sides’ Used to put the shame or burden on the side that can give but refuses to do so.

    Namely he tries to show this proverb and he said if you dont what i want , you are more black than me… thank youtotaly agree with you guys that reporter is very stupid .

    you can sure about there is no insulting in his speech , i am a turkish that s why i know .

    according to islam colours of people are not important we all are brothers… sorry about my english , I APOLOGIZE FOR HIS STUPID SHOWING FROM MY BLACK BROTHERS…..

  2. In the end, I believe that this story is meaningful only because it demonstrates that every network has a Glenn Beck clone.

  3. Just cuz it’s “not done” in the U.S. doesn’t mean the Turk is out of line here. It is possible that the cultural meaning in an appearance changes as you change cultures. duh

  4. a Turkish friend of mine gives us his take on the footage ….

    he basically played around a Turkish saying. We don’t have any black Turkish people. So when you say your face is black, it means you did something wrong. Like black face = bad person, white face = good person kind of thing.

    So he is saying , I painted my face black to be equal to you (but he is actually talking about the U.S. being terrible in Iraq, about relationships with the Kurdish terrorists, IMF problems, etc) to have a proper conversation with you.

    Bla bla bla…

    So yeah, he is serious but it would go many ways. You cannot really translate Turkish saying into English. Some people would even take this racist…

  5. When I was your age they just threw shoes at Presidents who visited Islamic countries. Ah, the good old fashioned days.

  6. Yes, shoes would have been good – and flight suits, hats made of pretzels, the possibilities are endless. 🙂

  7. Too bad they didn’t wear dunce caps when Dubya visited. Now that would have been funny.

  8. How can they google something that they don’t know that exists?

    The concept of blackface does not exist in Turkey so “father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”

  9. I had thought that maybe it was just a black handed compliment.

  10. Come on you mean Racism exists in other countries? I am shocked and Appalled.

    Now, if that is true do we get upset? Be offended? Or ignore it because we are better, “More Civilized and Better Educated.”

    I heard this statement a while back and I life it. “It is none of my business what you think about me.” Sounds good to me.

    Unless I am dead, more than likely, I’ll still get up and do the things that I do. What ya think?

  11. Gokhan Taskin is a news anchor on the unpopular (ratings-wise) Flash TV network in Turkey. His antics are well-known to the general populace. A few months ago he donned a headscarf for the entire duration of his program in order to protest the ban on headscarves in schools:

    http://www.tumgazeteler.com/?a=4585828

    On this occasion, it seems he was trying to “visualise” a play on words in order to make his point. It is based on a Turkish proverb “Isteyenin bir yüzü kara, vermeyenin iki yüzü” (roughly translated: “The one who asks [for something] has one side of his face dark [i.e. black]; the one who refuses [to give] has both sides”). From what I understand, it means asking for something will make you feel ashamed but refusing to give something that you are able to is even more shameful.

    Mr Taskin was using the occasion to make some requests to Obama and (looking at the picture above) saying he has asked for some things for which he is ashamed [=black in the face] but “let the person who refuses not be Obama [i.e. not be black]” (“vermeyen Obama olmasın”), which is quite insulting whichever way you look at it.

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