Photo by Laurence Chaperon (Wikimedia Commons)
I got really annoyed about that fake shitstorm the Germans had about Kristina Schröder before Christmas. For those of you who don't have enough German friends on Facebook (you should count yourselves lucky, most of their shitstorms are really fucking annoying), shortly before Chrimbo, the Family Minister gave an interview in which she made the most uncontroversial, innocuous comments about her Vorlesetaktik possible. I mean, really fucking uncontroversial. She said she was going to balance out Grimms' fairy-tales with other stories because she felt like they were a bit sexist sometimes and she said she was gonna skip over the word “Neger” in Pippi Longstocking until her kid was old enough to understand the concept of racism.
Cue every single German person on Facebook having a fucking baby. Weeping uncontrollably with sorrow, howling inconsolably with rage. "What about our beautiful German Kulturgut?" they groaned and moaned and whinged and wailed, a sentiment which would have been slightly less ridiculous, perhaps, had Astrid Lindgren actually been German. One guy I know actually wrote: "They'll be burning books next." That is literally what he wrote. I wonder if he feels ashamed now that the shitstorm is over. You know, like when you're doing a sexy role-play and then after you orgasm you grin sheepishly at each other and try to get the leather gloves off as quickly as possible.
The thing is: everyone acted like Kristina Schröder was trying to be anti-racist. They acted like it was an ideological decision. And it fucking wasn't. She's actually planning on saying the word "Neger" out loud to her kid – as soon as she thinks her kid's old enough to understand it – that is, old enough to hear it without repeating it on the U-Bahn. She's not trying to be "politically correct". She's not trying to end racism. She doesn't think that the status of black people in Germany is more important than literary accuracy. SHE'S JUST TRYING TO BE POLITE. It's a practical solution to an etiquette-based problem. The word "Neger" is a swearword. She's skipping over it, just like how our parents used to say "And now he's kissing the lady" and press fast-forward during the dirty scenes in James Bond.
Thing is, though, kids are fucking racist. They just are. If you were to teach your kid the word "Neger", before they were old enough to take it – and parents are the best judges of that kind of thing – they would repeat it, loudly, in the playground and you'd get called into school to explain why. They'd get in trouble. It's a bad word, like “Fotze” or “Arschloch”. That's the reason why Schröder wants to wait. It's not political correctness gone mad, it's basic politeness gone totally reasonable. Duh. And it's not the end of German Kulturgut, because it's not even a German book. So there. Stop being silly. Pull your pants up now and take the balaclava off and we'll say no more about it.
Yeah, kids are racist and we have to drum it out of them. That's our job, as parents, I mean, unless we're racist ourselves, then it's not, obviously. Then just let them get on with it. Must be really relaxing and that. But every half-normal semi-not-racist parent has to keep an eye on their kid, because kids are innately racist. They just are.
During the World Cup 2010 my son Ryan took his Panini sticker collection very seriously indeed. However, every time he got a sticker of a player in North or South Korea, China or Japan, he sighed disappointedly and said: "Oh, Mum, look. Doppelt." I did that frantic smile you do when your kid is being a bit racist, you know, the one where you don't open your mouth that much: "Erm. He's not actually doppelt, Ryan." Ryan looked at me, totally puzzled. "Yeah, Mum," he said. "I got that one already." "Erm, sweetie," I said, "take a look at the number on the back." Then Ryan would check and then he'd look up at me in amazement. "He's not actually doppelt!" He'd cry. "He just looks doppelt! But he isn't!"
And he used to be a nightmare in sushi restaurants, too. I remember sitting on his hands once so he couldn't pull his eyes into "Japaner-Augen."
Still, it's all paying off now. He's really not that racist at all now. Tonight over dinner, he asked me: "So, Mum, do you think you're racist?"
"Well," I said. "Well, yeah. I guess so. A little bit, anyways."
"Yeah, I think you are too."
"Yeah? Do you?"
"Yeah, you're racist to Germans and Americans."
"I'm a lot less racist than you," he said.
"Well, that's good," I said. "People should always be less racist than their parents. That's the whole point of humanity, basically. My parents were less racist than their parents, and I'm less racist than them."
"Yeah," he said. "I'm not hardly racist at all, Mama. I mean," he started speaking lowly, "there are countries I don't like. But I just don't say it out loud."
"Oh, right," I said, nodding.
"It's not racist if you don't say it out loud, Mum," he said.
"Oh, right," I said. Excellent progress, I'm sure you'll agree. Soon he'll be ready for the “Neger” in Pippi Longstocking and everything.