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January 02, 2005

Magdi Aboul-Kheir

Translated from the German by Sabine Marschner

The Political Coolness of Norbert L. Jackson

Some time ago you could find the term »negroes' sweat« as a synonym for »coffee« in every German synonyms dictionary, but fortunately we have grown a little wiser since then. Today we're in raves about the films of Quentin Tarantino, because everybody in them is acting incredibly cool. They all call themselves really coolly »nigger«, regardless if they're black or white. Especially Samuel L. Jackson, the epitome of cool, calls everybody and their brother »nigger« in »Pulp Fiction« and »Jackie Brown«. It's refreshing how nonchalantly, in a post-postmodern way, Tarantino and Jackson rise above political correctness. I'm already looking forward to meeting Jackson at some movie premiere. »Hi Sam, old nigger, how are you?« I'm sure he'll find this ubercool.

That's the theory.

In practice my eldest daughter is now slowly learning to grasp the alphabet. She does this with our help and that of her »Coloured Pictionary«. It lists and explains all the exciting letters together with objects and names, from A like ape to Z like zebra. We were slowly working through it with our daughter.
- »A cat.«
- »Clever child, c for cat.«
- »And a lion.«
- »Well done, l for lion.«
- »And these are mice!«
- »Yes, mice, that's m.«
- »And what's the next one?«
- »N.«
- »Who is that boy?«
- »He's a ... n...« Black? Coloured? African-American? None of which begins with an N. It's unbelievable, this »Coloured Pictionary« by Bertelsmann. Its 1st edition goes back as far as 1970, but this 36th edition was published in 2001. They claim a veritable children's psychologist as their advisor. My daughter, meanwhile, wants an answer.
- »Who is that next to N?«

Somewhere on a later page, after nail, and before net and nose, there is an explanation: »In earlier times people with dark skin were called negroes. Today you call them black or coloured.« So why are they listed under »N«? Hello, Ms. children's psychologist, my child has got a problem. I've got a problem!

»Whoooo is thaaaaaat next to N? N? NNNN?«
- »Darling, that's ahm, ah ..«, and Dad moves on to »W« for »white lie«, »that is Norbert«.

A couple of days later I take a walk in town with my daughter. We see a black man. »Hello, Norbert«, my daughter says. Now where is Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?



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