Deconstructing Florence + The Machine's Racist New Video


With a song title like “No Light, No Light,” you can expect a video to be dark. But the Florence + The Machine clip is more than that: It’s racist.

In the clip, porcelain-skinned, scarlet-haired Florence Welch is distraught. She is being tortured and pursued by a man in a mask.

When the man removes his mask, we see that he has been painted black. (Also, he’s in front of a wall of graffiti. Isn’t that what black people do? Ruin things?)

The man is half-dressed and sticking pins in a voodoo doll.

Haitian Vodou is a religion that is very misunderstood. Slaves were brought to the Caribbean against their will and forbidden to practice their traditional African religions as well as forced to convert to the religion of their masters. The Bond movie/Eurocentric/Americanized viewpoint presents Vodou as an evil, primitive version of witchcraft. But it’s a religion like any other, with a moral code, gods and goddesses. Many ceremonies deal with protection from evil spirits.

In addition, the “voodoo doll” itself has been misconstrued. In Haiti, it was traditional to nail small handmade puppets or dolls to trees near graveyards; these small figures were meant to act as messengers to the spirit world, and contact dead loved ones. It’s safe to imagine that European folks didn’t understand this — and assumed an evil intent behind a doll with nails in its body.

And the video sticks with the popular (erroneous) myth: The dude sticks sharp objects in the doll, and Florence writhes in pain.

Meanwhile, a chorus of white boys in a cathedral sing along with Florence. Organized religion, white skin = good!

Dark skin = bad.

While many cultures consider black to be a positive color — the color of rich, fertile soil, the color of strong, dense woods like ebony — the Eurocentric view is that black is evil. (In some cultures, white is a negative color — the color of death, of bones, the absence of color.) This video is in keeping with the outdated, narrow view that nothing black can be good. This is at the very root of racism! The phrase “deepest, darkest Africa” refers not to a place in which there’s no sunshine but a place where the people are dark. And therefore scary. And therefore bad. And this video aligns with that theory.

Just in case you haven’t gotten the point, this dark man literally chases Florence up a staircase and through the streets.

But, in the end, Flo is saved by organized religion and white people. Thank God.

Here’s the clip, in its entirety. Obviously the man is not supposed to be a black guy — he is supposed to represent evil. And the lyrics are about a love gone wrong:

No light, no light in your bright blue eyes

I never knew daylight could be so violent

A revelation in the light of day

You can choose what stays and what fades away

And I’d do anything to make you stay

But the very idea that black is evil and white people save you and primitive religion is bad while organized religion is good is part of what caused the oppression of dark-skinned humans throughout the world, from Africa to Mexico to India. Christian missionaries often “saved” folks by forcing them to change their religion, then stealing their gold and infecting them with smallpox. It’s disappointing to see a remarkable artist take part in a short film that feels like colonialism-promoting propaganda.

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