Editorial: Why it Doesn’t Matter Whether or Not Pestilence’s Patrick Mameli Used the N-Word
Earlier this week, MetalSucks ran a story in which we reported that during a recent exchange with a Facebook follower, Pestilence’s Patrick Mameli used the phrase “Je zegt dat ik een neger ben?” — which, according to Facebook’s in-app translator, is Dutch for “You’re saying I’m a n*gger?”.
Mameli has since claimed that this is a lousy translation:
“Pestilence nor myself are in any way a political band. We do not condone or support nazism or racism in any way. Pestilence exists only to create awesome music for our listeners and fans. We have many fans that know and have followed Pestilence since the beginning. We have never been a political band. Pestilence exists for over 30 years now and we have never had to deal with any accusations on being racist, supporting nazism or anything similar. On being a racist, for god’s sake, my ‘soon-to-be’ wife is Asian, how could I be rasist? We love our fans of all races, religious convictions and different beliefs. Being Dutch I can tell that what I said isn’t racist at all. It’s simply translated incorrectly. That word has no negative association in the Netherlands as the infamous n-word has in the US. There is a different inappropriate word in Dutch that is a better translation. All in all, this is nonsense of the highest order. We will not let our good name be slandered by sites like MetalSucks, that are just out there to create chaos. Most people got our back on this one, but there seem to be some folks out there that still believe those B.S. stories. My words have been twisted and a ridiculous story was produced to make us look bad. Again: we are not a political band. We entertain. That’s all. Don’t let your judgement be clouded by just a few people out there that want to slander bands for their own personal benefit. This time it’s us, the next time it could be you or your band. Stop this madness. This way alot of bands could get banned from the U.S. just because of false accusations and statements. We can not let this happen. The metal community needs to stand up against these type of sites!”
There are a whole lotta flaws in Mameli’s argument, ranging from the fact that just because you’re in love with an Asian doesn’t mean you’re not bigoted against people of African descent to the fact that Pestilence are a political band whether they want to be or not because all art is political.
Having said that, to Mameli’s credit, Google translate agrees that Facebook’s translation is inaccurate:
Having said that, not to Mameli’s credit, whether or it means ‘negro’ or ‘n*gger,’ the word ‘neger’ is still racist. From an article in The Guardian about the Dutch tradition of dressing up in blackface to portray a character called ‘Zwarte Piet’ (‘Black Pete’):
“You don’t have to have a degree in psychology or sociology to work out that the figure of Zwarte Piet, and the use of words like ‘neger’ and ‘allochtoon’ ensure the continued internalisation of ideas of superiority of white Dutch people, and of inferiority and marginalisation of black Dutch people.”
The New Yorker also wrote an article about the racist implications of the word (albeit within the context of its use in Germany); works on display at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum have had the word removed from their titles; Wikipedia notes that “The term neger is now generally considered offensive; in its place, the term sort (black) is preferred.” It’s a word the Dutch used to refer to slaves, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s a word the Afro-Dutch community loathes.
But for the sake of argument, let’s give Mameli the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that the word ‘neger’ has no negative connotations in and of itself whatsoever. Are we the only ones who still think it’s weird that of all the responses Mameli could have had to being compared to Milli Vanilli, he chose “Are you calling me black?”? Is that really the first thing people think of when they remember the duo at the center of one of the biggest scandals in pop music history? Why is “Are you calling me black?” even supposed to be a funny response? What is the joke if not “It sure is funny when one white guy compares another white guy to a black guy!”? If someone had said “I hear a real Paul Masvidal influence in your guitar playing,” would “Are you calling me gay?” have been considered an appropriate reaction?
Furthermore, it’s not as though all the context doesn’t suggest Mameli’s intentions were unkind. Everyone who has criticized MetalSucks’ alleged mistranslation of ‘neger’ seems to have ignored the second social media post on which our article focused. In that one, Mameli a) showed support for notorious racist Donald Trump, b) showed support for notoriously racist media outlet Fox News, c) endorsed the ridiculous and harmful “deep state” conspiracy theory, and d) claimed that had Trump not moved “the Jewish embassy” from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he would have been killed… in other words, that Jews, Israelis, and Zionists are all the same thing, and they’re secretly controlling the world.
(And that’s not even getting into the fact that the phrase “the Jewish embassy” makes no sense; Trump didn’t move “the Jewish embassy,” he moved the United States embassy in Israel. So at the very least, Mameli should have had said that Trump “moved the embassy in the Jewish country” or something like that.)
The thing about all of this is, as MetalSucks has said time and time again, it’s okay to fuck up. We ALL do dumb shit from time to time. But you have take responsibility for what you’ve done, and you have to demonstrate a willingness to try and do better in the future. But Mameli doesn’t want to take any responsibility for what he did; he just wants to slam MetalSucks for daring to have noticed.