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A group photo of participants at the closing session of the People of African Descent Week Germany 2019 in Berlin, November. The event was convened to draw attention to the situation of Black people in Germany, especially to the issue of racism and discrimination/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Germany: Black activist petitions against court decision allowing use of N-Word

Activist launches petition campaign for the classification of “neger” as a racist word in Germany after eastern state court gives AfD member the right to call people of African descent by the derogatory word. AfD is a xenophobic, extreme right-wing party.

The state constitutional court of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) ruled on Thursday (19 December) that sanctioning the leader of the AfD group in the state parliament, Nikolaus Kramer, over the use of the word “neger”  amounted to a restriction of his right to free expression.

According to the court, the word “neger” (subsequently referred to as the N-word in this report) is not one of the terms that could only serve to provoke or disparage others. Although the court agrees that it is usually understood as derogatory in today’s language, but it holds that that fact could only be assessed in the actual context in which the word is used.

The court made the claims while delivering judgement in a case brought before it by Kramer, who had challenged the leadership of the state parliament for calling him to order for the repeated use of the N-word during a debate in 2018.

Charlotte Nzimiro/Photo: Private

According to the court, the call to order issued to the member of the right wing-extremist party by the parliament’s presiding officer for the repeated use of the N-word violated the state constitution. The implicit ban on using the N-word violated the MP’s right to free expression, the court held.

Kramer had used the N-word repeatedly, according to his accounts, quite consciously, during a debate in October 2018 on the abuse of welfare support by asylum-seekers. According to Kramer, he did not want to be prescribed to what a derogatory word was.

The parliament’s Vice-President, Mignon Schwenke (a member of the Linke party), had issued the AfD politician several calls to order for using a word  that society understood as a derogatory term for people of African descent. For that, Kramer had violated the dignity of the house, said Schwenke.

The Black community has reacted with indignation to the court’s decision which could be interpreted as legalising the use of the derogatory word to describe people of African descent.

An activist, Charlotte Nzimiro, has started an online signature campaign titled Rechtliche Anerkennung dass der Begriff „Neger“ rassistisch ist! for the classification of the N-word as racist by the Federal Constitutional Court and the State Constitutional Court of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern).

“Let us insist that the term is classified as racist in Germany and that the use of the N-word should no longer be normal. And certainly not in a state parliament!” Ms Nzimiro said.

“We are part of this society and, like every other citizen, have a right to human dignity and equality, which are attacked by this judgment and gives racism in Germany even more scope for expression,” she said.

“Let us collectively express our indignation and anger!”

Sola Jolaoso

To sign the petition, click here

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