German zoo sorta apologizes for naming monkey ‘Obama’
And you thought the New York Post had a monopoly on calling the president a monkey? This spring, a zookeeper in Germany named a newborn mandrill monkey “Obama.” After a few months of righteous indignation from an organization called Initiative for Black Germans, they’re finally changing it. (The group’s actual name, by the way, is Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland, which makes me uncomfortable for some reason.) From the Local:
“It’s a catastrophe,” director of the Initiative for Black Germans (ISD) Tahir Della told The Local on Friday. “Black people continue to be confronted by associations with the animal kingdom and primitivity.”
The baby mandrill, which belongs to a species closely related to the baboon, was born on March 23, Manuela Collmar, zookeeper at the zoo’s “Afrika Haus,” told The Local earlier this week. Each year the zoo names all newborn animals beginning with the same letter.
“This year they all begin with ‘O,’ and one of the zookeepers chose ‘Obama’ – it was meant to be positive and an honour in light of his visit to Dresden in June,” Collmar said, adding that neither she nor her colleagues were aware of the history of using monkeys to caricature and ethnically stereotype black people.
In an email response to ISD director Della’s complaint about the mandrill’s name on Thursday, zoo director Karl-Heinz Ukena echoed her sentiments.
“The possible associations of this name choice were not considered, and the racist charicterisation [sic] – particularly with the background that the US president recently visited Dresden – was far off,” Ukena wrote, adding that the zoo had meant to express its “esteem” for Obama.
The new name? Oprah.
Nah. It’s “Okeke,” which according to the zoo director, means “‘he who was born on market day.” Unfortunately, Okeke is also a very common African surname. Well done, Dresden zoo. Well done.