News

Politician enjoys a delicious slice of racially insensitive red velvet cake

Pin it

If your first thought when you saw the above headline was, "Well, I don't understand. How can a cake be racially insensitive? Especially a red velvet cake, which according to recent scientific studies is 100 percent positively correlated with deliciousness and approximately negative 70 percent correlated with racism," let me be the first to say that I was just as confused as you were when I first saw this [NSFW] story (via the Swedish English-language newspaper The Local). Then I clicked on the link, and I was instantly proven wrong. Yes siree bob, that is one racially insensitive cake.

The lady enjoying the delicacy in question is Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, who was photographed cutting the cake, which is intended to be a depiction of a black woman undergoing female genital mutilation, at the opening of an art installation at Stockholm's Moderna Museet during World Art Day. The cake was created by installation artist Makode Aj Linge, who also poked his head out through a hole in the table during the ceremony so it looked like the cake was alive. The piece is intended to provide commentary on the issue of female genital mutilation; whoever cuts the cake is supposed to symbolically start at what would be the woman's clitoris, after whispering "your life will be better after this."

Unfortunately, many Swedes and members of the National Afro-Swedish Association are not huge fans of racially infused cake performance art, as photos of Adelsohn Liljeroth surrounded by laughing onlookers have prompted many to call for her resignation. "The 'cake party' was meant to problematize female circumcision but how that is accomplished through a cake representing a racist caricature of a black woman complete with 'black face' is unclear," a spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association said in a statement. "Her participation, as she laughs, drinks, and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision."

For her part, Adelsohn Liljeroth is not apologizing anytime soon for her role in the incident: while she understands "quite well that this is provocative and that it was a rather bizarre situation," she argues that the intended meaning of the piece was "misinterpreted," adding that she was invited to speak at the museum during World Art Day about "art's freedom and the right to provoke." Which is a valid argument, and the piece is certainly effective as a work of provocation; nonetheless, using blackface and racist caricature in the context of artistic expression is almost never a good idea. Besides, Adelsohn Liljeroth could have done well to note the first lesson that every elected official learns on the job: don't be photographed slicing into the clitoris of a red velvet cake designed to look like a racist caricature of a black woman.