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Girl pens letter to paper after it publishes column defending racist language in books

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Girl pens letter to paper after it publishes column defending racist language in books

By Mike Krumboltz, Yahoo! News | The Lookout – 5 hrs ago

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/nine-old-girl-writes-impassioned-letter-paper-over-205329433.html

A 9-year-old German girl wrote an impassioned letter to Die Zeit, a German newspaper, over a column defending racist language in old children's books.

The columnist had written: "What do you call it when a book publisher announces that it plans to neutralize any terms in its books ‘that could be felt as hurtful’ by readers—if that’s not censorship, what is?” The piece was in part a response to German Family Minister Kristina Schroder, who said that when she reads old stories to her daughter, she edits out offensive words.

After reading the column, the girl, Ishema Kane, penned a hand-written letter to Die Zeit. She wrote it in German, but here is a translation provided by the blog Stop! Talking:

Dear Editors,

You’re in luck that I'm at least writing this letter to you in my best handwriting because I am very angry at you. Why should it not be prohibited to write 'Neger' in children's books? One has to be able to put oneself in somebody else’s shoes. Because my father is Senegalese, and he is a very dark shade of brown; I am café-au-lait brown. Just imagine if you were Afro-German and lived in Germany. You're a newspaper reader and unsuspectingly buy the ZEIT of January 17th 2013. Suddenly, you note the article 'The Little Witch Hunt.' This is when you read that the word 'Neger' is supposed to be deleted from children's books, and that this would allegedly spoil the children's books. I find it totally crap that this word would remain in children’s books if it were up to you. You cannot imagine how I feel when I have to read or hear that word. It is simply very, very terrible. My father is not a 'Neger' [lightning bolt sign] nor am I. This is also true

for all other Africans. Right. That was my opinion. This word should be deleted from children's books.

Yours,

Ishema Kane, 9 1/2 years old

P.S.: You're welcome to send me a response.

Die Zeit did write a response thanking Ishema for her letter and noting that it had received many comments about the column. Editor Ijoma Mangold also mentioned that the date of the book's publication should be taken into account as acceptable language changes with the years.

The full response as translated by Worldcrunch:

Thank you very much for your letter. Our paper will of course get back to you and probably also publish your letter. But I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass to answer you directly because an article I just published in Die Zeit shared, it seems to me, something of your opinion. Not exactly the same opinion, but a similar one—so you see that the paper has looked at the issue from various positions.

You write that your skin is the color of coffee with milk in it. So is mine, so I know what it feels like when somebody uses the n-word. […] But I also think it makes a difference if the word ‘negro’ is used in an old book or not. ... Many other readers also reacted to the article you wrote in about, and having read the many starkly contrasting views I want to give this issue a lot more thought. I now also feel that I can understand the point of view you expressed in your letter a lot better.”

A recent poll conducted in Germany found that when it comes to removing offensive and racist words in children's books, people were largely split. Around half the respondents were in favor the changes, while 48 percent were against them.

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Next they will be wanting to edit tales of Polish aggression in the late 1930s

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Racist language should be allowed in books. You shouldn't be able to just edit and publish an author's work like that, and often the racist themes are part of the story. Look at In the Heat of the Night, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. Hell, even Django Unchained.

If someone is legitimately offended by the language being used in the books then they should

1. Not read the book

2. Seek psychiatric help if it offends them that badly.

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Seems pretty simple. Offer an updated *clean* version of the book, as well as keeping the original forms available.

That way some people can read a book without getting offended, and others can read the book the way it was originally written.

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Yeah. I think newly published copies of childrens books along with those available at the library in the children's section should have the N-word removed. If some historian is offended, I'm not saying burn all the old versions. You can still go ahead and buy them on the internet.

But if you're publishing new copies of the book largely for children's educational purposes, remove the N-word. The creepy children books historian niche is too small to worry about.

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Next they will be wanting to edit tales of Polish aggression in the late 1930s

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Should be allowed in books to maintain the historical context of such books.

However, couldn't they come out with an edited version while keeping the originals in tact?

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Isn't the censorship issue wonderful.

Family values supporters LOVE this.

However, censorship is BIG GOVERNMENT telling us what we can't read, watch, listen. It's telling private businesses how the can and cannot run their business.

Yet, many in the family values camp also support small government, less taxes, less regulation.

Hypocrites

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N-word is not censored in this video so look out other words are censored.

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So basically her mother and/or father told her what to write and used their child to tug on heart strings ...

Nice ...

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Censorship has no place in literature if we are determined to preserve it and cherish the social impact that it provides.

'Sanitizing' reality for the sake of "childrens' welfare" makes no sense to me. Children will be exposed to the real world, sometimes earlier than their parents might like. It's up to parents to arm their children with knowledge and understanding of the ways of the world, and that includes 'taboo' subjects such as racial tension and phrases considered derogatory by today's standards.

Restricting or banning creative content based on the potential fear of offense to a certain group is in effect, allowing freedom of expression to be silenced.

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Censorship has no place in literature if we are determined to preserve it and cherish the social impact that it provides.

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N-word is not censored in this video so look out other words are censored.

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if the parents are offended... maybe they shouldn't read the book to their kids at all and leave the book on the shelf? Yeah, I know that's radical thinking... you know, parents being parents.

Just because YOU are offended doesn't mean EVERYONE is offended.

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Free speech has limitations, for example, hate speech is not protected; in fact, its against the law. .

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Dear Ishema

You're missing the point. This is a historical document preserving your heritage. Would you also be in favor of editing the history books of your country if you had a Jewish friend? Remember, the truth shall set you free.

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Censorship has no place in literature. As state before people can choose not to read the books using such language but to censor them is to forget the word. Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.

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I was under the impression we were talking about children's books.

You know, purely educational books.

Stuff that only kids could enjoy.

Some of you are overreacting. I wasn't reading Huck Finn when I was 9.

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I was under the impression we were talking about children's books.

You know, purely educational books.

Stuff that only kids could enjoy.

Some of you are overreacting. I wasn't reading Huck Finn when I was 9.

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