Amok Mama: My non-racist son

What should you do with racist terms in kids' books? Should you cut them out or leave them in? Jacinta Nandi's son knows what he thinks.

So, I have to do an update on the Negerdebatte. The Negerdebatte took a turn for the worse when this Verlag said they were going to replace the word Neger in Otfried Preußler’s The Little Witch. I have to admit, that is actually a German book, so it wasn’t quite so absolutely totally utterly mindnumbingly ridiculous when all the German people on Facebook (with absolutely no exceptions, every single fucking one) starting simultaneously having a gigantic nervous breakdown, like it was with the first Negerdebatte. I’ll give you that.

Still, it was pretty annoying though. Their arguments are really silly, I think. They basically say it shouldn’t be edited out because it wasn’t meant “racistly” when it was written, but occasionally some people do stray into fairly racist territory (“Soon we won’t be able to say anything at all without fear of offending some MINORITY GROUP or other!”) and the other people – the We’re-so-not-racist,- we’re-basically-colour-blind brigade – really let themselves down by not having a go at the arseholes who come out with that shit, I reckon.

But: It’s not up to me, is it. I’m not German. It’s not something I get to have a say in. They have to work it out for themselves, don’t they? There’s been some good articles written about it, though. Read this cunt here. Jan Fleischhauer’s his name and I know he’ll like me calling him a cunt, coz he hates censorship and political correctness and that. Nothing more politically incorrect than calling a cunt a cunt! Okay, you done?

Now read this one. This one was written by My German Mate. He really is literally my friend, he actually got offended by the blog I did where I was happy I was meeting up with a German for breakfast, he felt like I was denying our friendship like Peter and Jesus before breakfast or whatever. Okay, so I think this article is really good because it’s so fair. It’s really fair and neutral. I think it’s fair like how an Iranian divorce court judge who really genuinely doesn’t despise women is fair. Just really, really, really, totally fair.

Okay, and now read this one by a black German who wasn’t allowed to share other kids’ toys at the sandpit. That one made me cry. It’s nice, isn’t it?

And now, having read all those articles and weighed up the pros and cons, just make up your own minds. They should blatantly just streichen the word “Neger”, shouldn’t they? The advantages blatantly outweigh the disadvantages. Good. Glad we sorted that one out.

So, last night, my son Ryan was in the bath and I was checking Facebook on the floor in the corridor while he splashed about a bit. And a girl I know fairly well started getting majorly precious about how she didn’t even think in racial categories because she was, like, beyond racism. Funny how all the people who are beyond racism are usually white, but still. Then she started getting all precious about how people were trying to whitewash history and pretend racism had never happened by editing out the word “Neger”. It was a bit annoying. She was being fairly precious. You know, I really don’t mind people thinking that black German kids’ happiness and self-esteem is less important than literary and historical accuracy. But don’t get so fucking precious about it. Admit that’s what you think. You can think that. But you cannot have the moral high ground, sorry. And nobody’s trying to pretend racism never happened. They just want to streichen the word “Neger”. Okay, so I did swear at her a teeny-tiny, mini, mini, incy-wincy, teensy bit. Sorry. I couldn’t help it, she thinks it’s okay for black kids to hear the word “Neger” during their bedtime stories – Eilmeldung: there are black kids in Germany! – she should be able to handle a few “For fuck’s sakes” on Facebook.  But she couldn’t. Hypocrite, that’s what. So then I decided to put away my laptop and ask Ryan what he thought.

“So, Ryan,” I said, “there are these old kids’ books in Germany.”

“Yeah?” He said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“There are these old books, like Pippi Longstocking and also some Otfried Preußler dude. And in these books, there’s a bad word.”

“A bad word?”


“Like ‘fuck’?”

“No,” I said. “In a way the word is even worse than ‘fuck’.”

“Oh,” he said. “The N-word.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But not the English N-Word. The German N-Word.”

“How’s it called?”



“Yeah. Neger. You never heard it before?”

“No, Neger. What’s it for, Mum? Is it for men or for women or…?

“It’s, erm. You promise you won’t say it in school? If you say it in school, they will throw you out. You’ll be expelled. Promise, yeah?”


I felt really ashamed as I whispered: “It’s for black people.”

Ryan looked fairly shocked. “Black people?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. I bit my lip and looked at him carefully to see how he was gonna react.

“Oh, just like the other N-word!” He said, nodding sagely. “The other N-word is for black people, too, Mama.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess they’re, like, connected.”

“And they’ve written that bad word in a book? In a kids’ book? I thought they only wrote bad words in grown-up books?”

“It’s in a book from the Olden Days,” I said. “In the Olden Days, it wasn’t a bad word, because, erm. In the Olden Days. People just were really kind of totally racist to black people in the Olden Days. So you could say anything you wanted to them, it didn’t matter, really, because you know. They didn’t have any power or rights. What words you decided to call them was the least of their problems. But now we think of it as a bad word, because we, you know. We think black people are just as good as white people nowadays. So that word has become a bad word. And some people want to keep that bad word in the book. Some people want to take it out, and some other people say they have to keep it in.”

Ryan looked at me, totally skeptical, seriously dumbfounded, and a little bit confused.

“But why do they want that, Mummy?” He asked, squinting disapprovingly.

“Because, they think, we should, like remember racism. Because you know, in the Olden Days people were pretty kind of totally racist but they think it’s important to remember that. Like, in America they had slavery and everything. All that bad stuff, you know. So they want to remember that. They want to remember the history. They want to remember the bad things in history.”

Ryan shook his head at me in disbelief. “Mum! Just because you want to remember the bad things in history, doesn’t mean you have to do them all over again! I am not agreed with them people, Mum! Them people are wrong and stupid. I am not agreed with them. They should change all the bad words in them books.”

“Yeah,” I said. “So I was thinking, I’m gonna buy Pippi Longstocking in English so we can find out if the English version has the bad word in it too. I’m sure I read it once as a kid, but I can’t remember there being any bad words in it.”

Ryan looked at me, his face fully panic-stricken.

“Mum!” He cried in a petrified tone. “Don’t make me read Pippi Longstocking! Please no! Please, please, please no! Don’t you know….” he lowered his voice into a tone which could only be described as pure contempt: “that Pippi Longstocking is for…..” – now his face twisted in scorn and derision – “girls?”

“Oh, right,” I said, and pulled the water out of the bath. My non-racist son, I thought to myself, proudly. Just gotta work on the misogyny a little bit.