Music

“Update Your Culture”: Watch The Spice Girls Shut Down A Blackface TV Segment Back In 1997

The incident occurred on the Dutch TV show, 'Laat de Leeuw'.

Every time Australia’s ‘days since a blackface incident’ clicker ticks back to zero, it can feel that our endless ‘conversation’ about racism is simply not reaching the ears it needs to.

Only by continually shutting it down can we, hopefully, make any sort of progression past something we should be long beyond. And this week, a video has emerged of The Spice Girls showing how its done.

While the girl group announced a reunion tour earlier this week, their callout of blackface comes from 1997, when they appeared on Dutch TV show Laat de Leeuw. In the video (and full credit to Pedestrian.TV for pointing us towards it), host Paul De Leeuw introduces a group of performers in blackface as Zwarte Piet aka ‘Black Pete’, a traditional Dutch character and moor from Spain who helps deliver presents with Santa. And the girls, sitting on chairs in front of the troop, are not into it at all: all look uncomfortable, and Mel B calls it out.

“I think they shouldn’t paint their faces,” she says, incredulous. “I think you should get proper black people….I don’t think that’s very good.”

De Leeuw begins to defend the performance as Dutch “culture” — a defence that continues to this day in the Netherlands. In the below video, you can see Mel B make a motion to the production team to ‘cut’ the segment, before Geri Halliwell weighs in with a very simple retort for what should be a very simple solution: “update your culture”.

Mel B also shouts “It’s the ’90s!”, blissfully unaware we’d be echoing her 21 years later on a more-or-less monthly basis.

Of course, the video isn’t revolutionary: that’s kind of the point. Blackface is archaic, immediately offensive and offensively alive in our world, revealing how little consideration or care most have. If you don’t get it now, it’s unclear when you will — fuck, maybe The Spice Girls will be the thing that gets you there.