Is The Mardi Gras “Zulu Tradition” Racist?

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mardi gras zuluBy Dr. Sinclair Grey III

Are we at a point in time whereby traditions should be abolished? Here’s something to think about – whenever traditions seem to be ‘pro-black’, do we risk offending other races and/or nationalities?

An example of this would be Mardi Gras. Let me pose another question to you. With so many people marching down the streets dressed in blackface and throwing coconuts, is that good? Is it okay for African-Americans to do it or what would happen if whites would do it?

Mardi Gras is celebrated on Fat Tuesday, the day before lent begins in the Christian church. It is usually held in New Orleans, Louisiana and is attended by thousands every year. With so many misconceptions about Marci Gras, click here to learn more about its conception and history.

Here’s something you should know about Mardi Gras. “The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is the largest predominantly African-American Krewe in New Orleans. The origin of the Zulus dates back to the early 1900s when the Mardi Gras celebrations themselves were segregated.”

Famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong was chosen to be the Zulu King in 1949. Many blacks tried to dissuade Armstrong from this, but he considered it an honor and even mentioned that this was something he wanted to do since he was little boy growing up in New Orleans.

“When the black consciousness movement radicalized  thoughts and opinions on race in the 1960s, some demonstrated against the Zulus and their numbers dwindled to near extinction. It took a concerted effort to desegregate the Mardi Gras parade in 1968 that led to the krewe’s resurgence. But by that time, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club had become more that a group gearing up to march in the Mardi Gras Parade.”

There is so much to learn about Mardi Gras and its traditions and rituals. One thing for sure, an individual with an open mind will gain much information that’s available.

Source: theGrio and History.com

Dr. Sinclair Grey III is a speaker, activist, published author of (5) books, life coach, and liberator of persons from all intellectual, social and cultural walks of life. He is a committed advocate for change. Email: drgrey@sinclairgrey.org. Follow on Twitter @drsinclairgrey. Visit his website: www.sinclairgrey.org

75 Comment

  1. Really??? What is going on here?? Don’t we as a people have more important tasks to perform rather than pointing out racisim every effin minute of the day??? Who gives a rat’s behind?? Life is very, very short. Too short to waste energy on racism. Try enjoying your grandchildren and try making preparations for Springtime. Be happy.

  2. Has this writer been to a Zulu parade ? Half of the participants are white. They have taken over the parade

  3. At one time, Zulu and Bacchus were the top Mardi Gras parades. Getting a Zulu coconut was a BIG deal…for everybody. A black krewe having a parade in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day was a source of pride; talk about your prime real estate! If the author wants to explore racism in Mardi Gras, do some footwork and find out how many of the traditionally white krewes have integrated and to what extent.

  4. have you been to a zulu parade? its not just about the krewe of zulu, but factor in the community involvement BEFORE the parade. its a culmination of events that transpire ALL YEAR LONG.

  5. its a celebration. its religious in its "intent." please stop ruining it for everyone. they don't throw as many coconuts as they used to because of some drunken tourist, now you want to throw in the race card? really? i say stop it and leave it alone. its all about the party. just enjoy. since katrina it has been a struggle. they're almost back to where they used to be. so celebrate with them, not against them. leave the culture of new orleans alone. we have far greater things going on than the krewe of zulu.

  6. Very interesting obsevation sir and well considered!

    The tragedies of the past cannot be forgotten, unfortunately!

    A lot of people suffered and died so we can have a good time at the Mardi Gras today.

    There is nobody alive to be able to tell the real roots behind the famed ZULU parade but I would put a million bucks that it was a racist signature!

  7. TruDat …. they the Big Dogs of Mardi Gras. 10 times out of 10 the author only watched it online, got his info from new outlets and from people who may have been and didn't understand what they were watching

  8. To the author:
    read up on him and you'll understand why — authors who know but isn't off the porch!!!

  9. Are you really serious right now? Are green beer and leprechauns racist? This seems like gratuitous pot stirring to me.

  10. Poorly researched, poorly written pot stirring at that.

  11. @Cynthia Palmer, you said. Since katrina it has been a struggle. Really, FEMA checks haven't helped. Truth be told, the so-called celebration was about the sailors who came to shore to have sex with Black women, All celebrations are good celebrations 4real. And if It was so great why didn't living conditions change until after KATRINA. You all got reparations for KATRINA sorry. No ill will meant just my OPINION

  12. Please stop this shit. They are ZULUS in the world, go to the southern side of the mother land. Are you so ashamed of the race that this will offend you all. This is typical of some of you all about skin colour, stop polluting and furking bleaching

  13. Me Palmer I was addressing the writer comment on what if whites were to parade in blackface and throw coconuts? I know about the other things that go on throughout the year. What are you addressing?

  14. Johnny C. Ray Jr, my parents would not take me to a Zulu parade so, it wasn't until I was an adult before I saw this krewe. I think my parents were on the side of those who protested blackface as mentioned in the article.

  15. I think that someone would have to grow up in New Orleans, celebrating Mardi Gras to really understand the tradition. Most people in the US think that Fat Tuesday is the only day celebrated during Mardi Gras. They know nothing of the krewes, parades, nor the history. So, an outsider reading about Zulu would really not understand. There are many things that people would find to be of poor taste in white and black Mardi Gras krewe presentations as they are meant to be satirical, whimsical and otherwise representative of carnival. For example, I was at Krew due Vue this year, an all-white parade that opens the season and is one of the city’s favorites. There were many offensive sights – penis’, people simulating sex, other giant sexual body parts, cross-dressers, etc. — all in the spirit of critiquing Louisiana’s political world. I was told when I attended my first Zulu parade, which I loved by the way, that the tradition of dressing in black face and of also celebrating the Zulu came from two places. One, the pride in the fierce Zulu fighters, and two making fun of (satire) those whites who would not allow Blacks to participate in Mardi Gras or white krewes and who used wild stereotypes of Blacks to do so. So, they eat chicken and wear stereotypical wigs and black face to turn the mirror back on the racists while poking fun at their prejudices in a very in your face manner. I love this. What I love also about Zulu is the gifts given during Mardi Gras and the community work that they so all year. The Zulu krewe not only throws beads, but they throw out backpacks, dolls, books, and other toys to children as they pass. Some of the most prominent Black folk in the city are part of Zulu. Their is and should not be shame about the Zulu parade, one of the most popular and well attended of any of the parades each season. Someone stated that the parade is predominantly attended by whites earlier in the blog. It depends on where you go to watch the parade, which like other parades, Zulu moves through the city. Many African Americans attend at the beginning point, which is located in a long-standing Black community in New Orleans. It is a celebration which honors that community, and which brings out families, neighbors and visitors for a good time. By the time that the parade works its way to St. Charles Street, you have mostly whites. Black folks during that time have generally moved over to North Claiborne Street to the Treme community, where Zulu parade members join them for an annual afternoon Carnival party after the parade — a little known African American community Mardi Gras tradition. During this time, most Mardi Gras tourists and whites are partying in the French Quarter. Leave the Zulu parade alone. Black folk in New Orleans know who they are and they’ve got this.

  16. Ron I just it's a tradition. I don't agree with black face but this goes back to the early early 1900's. My only point is the comment of the writer. Whites are already doing it under the guise of the Zulu club and getting away with it. There are almost as many whites riding as Zulu members

  17. Firs Thing Sir is Leave the Culture and traditions of New Orleans, especially Black New Orleans off your socially & politically correct radar . Sir I am speaking from growing up in a city that is distinctively different from the rest of the US. Some of you the so-called intellectuals want to assimilate into the popular culture,so bad it is a crime, you are prepared to throw away what little history and culture We have established.
    Black New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition is not done exactly like that of whites, as stated earlier We were not allowed into the mainstream Krewes so guess what We created Our own. But what not is mentioned is those independents the krewe cf trucks, plus the world famous Black Injuns.

    I could go on & on about some traditions and WAYz that make the city of New Orleans so Unique.

  18. Ron Crier
    No disrespect intended, I grew up in the 7th & 9th wards{upper 9}, I had to deal with the intraracism that exist in New Orleans, my Grand mother was lite skin, my Grand father was Blacker than a 1000 midnight's. I do not know your folkz, but i could imagine that this phenomenon was a criteria.
    i tell people all the time that New Orleans had the most Black slave owners than any other place in this country, but being fair We also had the highest number of FREEDMEN also.
    Dear brother I do not shie away from My heritage even when it does not portray Us in the best light.

  19. Dude you can not be more in error.
    please present your facts, because new Orleans is a catholic town and Fat Tuesday is a catholic holiday.
    You brought up a interesting point, Mardi Gras is a big deal in the Caribbean and Brazil which has very large former African Slave populations, I bet there is something from our African past which makes it a big deal to us.
    I say this because the catholic religion is `parasitic, to any and all Black people of t he catholic faith I mean nor do i intend to be disrespectful.
    I can present facts if you would like to know where i am coming from.

  20. Lee Goode, Jr. The intra-racism was/is citywide and statewide. Who are the financial beneficiaries of Zulu culture? The performers or the artisans making the costumes, float decor, beads, coconuts and etc.? Does culture only have 'feel good value'? If so, some of us may do better, and reexamine our part in this pre-lenten celebration,

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