Letter: Exoticism is the rich person's racism

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The Independent Online
YOUR ethnic fashion supplement (21 March) reminded me of Phyllis Rose's definition of exoticism in Jazz Cleopatra, her biography of Josephine Baker.

'Compared with racism, exoticism is merely decorative and superficial. It doesn't build death camps. It doesn't exterminate. Exoticism cares mostly about its own amusement and tends to find the differences of colour amusing where racism finds them threatening . . . Racism is like a poor kid who grew up needing someone to hurt. Exoticism grew up rich and a little bored . . . If one is to be treated as a thing, one would rather be treated as a rare and pretty thing than as a dangerous or disgusting one. But that is still to be treated as a thing.'

Linda Grant

London SE24

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