Protesters turned out in Hamburg on Saturday (29 February), the last day of Black History Month, at a public demonstration against the controversial court decision legitimising the use of the derogatory word “neger” (subsequently referred to as the N-word in this report) to describe people of African descent in Germany.
The state constitutional court of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had ruled on 19 December that sanctioning the leader of the AfD group in the state parliament, Nikolaus Kramer, over the use of the N-word amounted to a restriction of his right to free expression.
According to the court, the N-word could only be considered derogatory depending on the context in which it is used.
The decision came about because the far-right politician used the N-word several times during a debate about asylum-seekers from Africa in November 2018. When Kramer received a reprimand from the presiding officer, the vice-president of the parliament, for his use of the racist word, he went to court and won – he won the right to use the N-word.
The Hamburg protest action, christened Stop N-word! and organised by Charlotte Nzimiro of Black Power Germany, Michele Leyangha (Africa United Sports Club), Tanja Daisy Scheffler und Christophe Twagiramungu (KölnSPD), was attended by more than 400 participants.
It was the second public demonstration against the scandalous court decision after a similar action in Cologne on 18 January. In Hamburg, hundreds of people gathered to express their anger at the need to even have to point out that the use of the N-word is racist.
The demonstration started in front of the Hamburg district court and moved under permanent, loud calls “Stop the N-word!” and “All together against racism!”– to the city hall.
The event was also to give street expression to the online petition started by Ms Nzimiro on change.org for the legal classification of the N-word as racist (Rechtliche Anerkennung dass der Begriff „Neger“rassistisch ist!). The petition was addressed to the Federal Constitutional Court, the State Constitutional Court of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.
The petition, which started in mid-December, has meanwhile been signed by more than 100,000 people, including prominent Black personalities in Germany, such as moderators Barbara Becker, Yared Dibaba and Aminata Belli, the singer Joy Denalane and dancer Nikeata Thompson.
Whether in parliament, in a carnival speech or in a personal conversation – the use of the term is “always derogatory for Black people”, said the 26-year-old activist Nzimiro. “Black people associate the term with a lot of suffering, discrimination and violence against them, inequality and dehumanization!” the Hamburg native added. And that was why she was angry and horrified when the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Constitutional Court ruled that the N-word could only be considered derogatory depending on the context in which it is used.
The N-word is considered derogatory by people of African descent and because of society is yet to be made fully conscious of this fact, the word continues to be used. Only last week, the mass circulating tabloid Bild reported about a mother who cried out that her son had been repeatedly called the N-word by his fellow pupils and the school authorities in Cologne had refused to take action.
The continued use of the word even though it’s defined in the reference German language dictionary Duden since 1996 as a discriminating and insulting word is a further evidence of tolerated racism against people of African descent in Germany.
Charlotte Nzimiro demanded that the history of Black people must finally find a place in the history books and classrooms: “There’s no mention, not with a syllable, that there were also Black people in Germany during the Holocaust who were exploited, used for these disgusting German propaganda films, where they had to play the stupid Blacks (…) And I want everyone to hear it: Germany is keeping silent about its first genocide of Herero and Nama! “
Jeff Kwasi Klein of Each One Teach One (EOTO) e.V. – the Berlin-based community education and empowerment project, described the campaign against the N-word as a good starting point for the fight against the racist system: “Recognizing Black people and all other racialized communities as equal individuals means granting us the right to self-determination and thus the right to self-designation.”
To sign the petition for the legal classification of the N-word as racist, click here