When I arrive at the bar where we met, near Madrid’s Gran Vía – on whose sidewalks groups of African men usually set up shops selling fake bags until the police chase them away – Thion is eating a chocolate cake with ice cream that a man can’t be missed….Enough with the clichés. Or not. Even though he saw and heard it earlier on the podcast There are no blacks in Tibet, you never cease to be amazed when this imposing black man stands up and says hello with an Andalusian accent that makes you laugh at that of María Jesús Montero. We talk about prejudices and other flaws, ours and others, in this interview.
In theirs social networks He defines himself by saying: “I am a natural black”. Safe?
Without dyes or preservatives. 100% Senegalese. Also the only one in my family.
He’s hesitating me.
No, my mother was born in Senegal and is black, with Spanish nationality. My three brothers were born in Spain. I arrived in Huelva when I was two years old and I could have been Spanish, but, not being able to have dual nationality, I preferred my Senegalese passport because of my roots, to have something from there.
Well, I read that, as a child in Andalusia, he didn’t want to know anything about his country and his fellow countrymen.
Yes. In Algeciras I was one of two or three blacks in the institution and I had the same prejudices as the whites. I didn’t want to be confused with anyone on the street. My mother asked her to let me straighten my hair or dye it blonde. Racism affects you regardless of the color of your skin and I have been racist too. In Spain the cool black is the American one, like Will Smith, not the African one. It was later, spending a year in Senegal, playing basketball, and then settling in Madrid and meeting other black people, reading and reflecting, that I fell off my horse. Stopping being racist takes work.
My mother, elderly and ill, did not want a black person to take care of her. Is this being racist?
This is racist behavior that has to do with a decades-old mental structure, prejudices and narrative. Not all racism involves hatred. It happens to me every day, on the street. You notice that you generate tension. They see the black person before the person. Not always for the worse. I remember, years ago, being with my brothers on the beach and a woman holding her baby girl, who had just been born, in her arms. When I got her attention, she told me that she was so cute and she couldn’t help it. Excuse me? Are you holding an unknown child by the face? We blacks are just that, blacks, as if we were props, and we activate another set of logics and behaviors in others. Not to mention the sexual topics.
I imagine it refers to the saying “there is no such thing as a complete woman…”
“…until a black man puts it in you.” Exact. I don’t deny that it can be flattering at a given moment. But the fact is that from that saying, from the fact that blacks have fun, to the theft of blacks, there is a step. The logic is the same. And I tell you, I was stopped several times by the police in one day, and on Tinder they said, in the first sentence, that they like black aubergines, and I replied that they had to go to Mercadona. [muestra la conversación en el móvil].
You’re a comedian for a reason.
Humor is my best anti-racist weapon. Moral superiority scares me, because each person has their own processes and experiences and you can’t put yourself in their shoes. So, I try to create humor that neutralizes these prejudices. I have a line where I say I’m very nervous because I have a test to play the Wizard King in a commercial and I don’t know which one. That joke works because it exposes us all. It turns out that a white man can paint himself black and be Baltasar, but I, a black man, cannot paint myself white and be Gaspar. You have to relax.
What jokes offend you?
I think you can get humor out of anything. But if you’re going to do it with something that doesn’t concern you, find out first. Pooping, pooping, farting, peeing or big-eared humor is easy, kids do it in kindergarten. The difficult thing is to make humor about sensitive topics without offending anyone and to be funny, even laugh at yourself. What I like most about my show, Spanish, is the one where you recreate a date with a white girl. When we arrive at her house, she suggestively says to me: is it true what they say about blacks? I tell him yes. Then I voluptuously take off my shirt. I take off my belt and tie it to the bed. And I take the TV and leave. People laugh because she sees herself portrayed.
In “The Law of the Sea” he plays a migrant on a boat. Was it difficult for you to step into the role?
When I received the script my first impulse was to say no. It was my representative who told me to read it correctly and not incorrectly, because my character, Barack, has a whole story and a narrative arc: a father who emigrates for his children. Normally we blacks are called to play Immigrant 1. And I have no problem, the problem is that, since those roles are usually deep as a puddle, you can’t prove your worth and they keep calling you to act Immigrant 1. It’s very difficult to have a career. They don’t allow you to develop.
How do you feel when you see the poor living? ‘I’ll keep’ from Gran Via? There are many of his compatriots.
I have friends who have been there. Sometimes these are qualified people who may have left home five years ago, each with their own reasons, and who, once they arrive, try to spend two years living in poverty in Spain until they can work legally. They are people trying to make a living as best they can, when the easiest thing would be to start stealing cell phones.
What do you think of those who link immigration and crime?
Which is the same pattern. That kind of propaganda logic of blaming others. Migrants, black or not, are neither angels nor demons, we are like everyone else.
I believe he lives in a shared apartment with another African and a Bulgarian. Your home is like the UN.
And my landlord is Chinese, maybe that’s why he didn’t give us any problems when we called him three years ago to rent the apartment to him. I’m proud of the group we created. I already said that no one is perfect. One of my roommates, Michael, is from Ghana, and he was one of those two or three black people who went to high school with me in Algeciras. Well then. He is gay. And when I was little I was one of those who broke the dolls I played with. Here we all have to control ourselves.
It is the title of the monologue in which Lamine Thior (Senegal, 33 years old), laughingly dismantles the clichés about blacks and whites in Spain. Thior arrived in Andalusia at the age of two with her father, a fisherman, and her mother, and they settled in Huelva. After her father’s death, she lived and grew up with her mother in Algeciras, where she studied high school before earning her degree in Tourism. After spending a year in his country, Senegal, in the youth team of the national basketball team, he returned to Spain and settled in Madrid, where he combines his concern for anti-racist activism with a passion for communication and humor. As an actor, he has just released “The Law of the Sea”, together with Luis Tosar and Blanca Portillo, a drama inspired by a real case of saving a boat with migrants in the Mediterranean.
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