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#1 dudeone

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:10 PM

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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#2 :D

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:14 PM

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

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:19 PM

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.

Edited by CAPSLOCK, 28 January 2013 - 10:22 PM.

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#4 G.K. Chesterton

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:19 PM

A lil Arun Smith in the making!
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“Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” - G.K. Chesterton

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#5 Jägermeister

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:21 PM

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.

Edited by Jägermeister, 28 January 2013 - 07:21 PM.

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#6 Newsflash

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 07:21 PM

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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Buddy I called this EXACT situtation on here two years ago and was flamed, so I guess I have a bit of hockey knowledge, not to mention the 4 years I played in the OHL idiot.


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#7 Common sense

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:44 PM

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


What aggression? Nothing happened in September 1939.
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#8 Hobble

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 08:48 PM

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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#9 thedestroyerofworlds

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 09:00 PM

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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#10 ro0

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 09:30 PM


N-word is not censored in this video so look out other words are censored.
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#11 n00bxQb

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 09:34 PM

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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#12 Mustapha

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 10:20 PM

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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#13 Dral

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:03 AM

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



I completely agree with this sentence - the rest of your post not so much.

Free speech has limitations, for example, hate speech is not protected; in fact, its against the law. Exposing kids to hate speech and prejudice isn't a good idea. Hate isn't born, it's taught. If you can't write a children's book without using racial slurs, your communication abilities are severely lacking and you shouldn't be a writer.

When it comes to books read by adults and young adults, I have no problem with a character being realistically depicted as foul-mouthed, bad-temped, down right crooked, prejudicial and all around just a bad guy.
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#14 SkeeterHansen

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:28 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4vxSf15aBA
N-word is not censored in this video so look out other words are censored.


Louis CK is just the bomb-diggity.
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#15 Zamboni_14

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 11:16 AM

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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#16 Aladeen

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:27 PM

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

Say someone has written a period fiction about a time when hate speech was not against the law. This book should be banned even though it is within a historical setting?

So I am unable to write a fiction book about a charcter that for his time used "hate speech" (say during the early American Colonial days)? and yet I can go watch a movie where humans are sewn together in a chain to form something resembling a centipede and that is protected as "Free Speech and Free Expression"?

I am actually just asking these questions, not implying that hate speech is cool.
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#17 nucklehead

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 03:12 PM

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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#18 McMillan

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:22 PM

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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#19 Newsflash

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 09:18 PM

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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Buddy I called this EXACT situtation on here two years ago and was flamed, so I guess I have a bit of hockey knowledge, not to mention the 4 years I played in the OHL idiot.


The conspiracy theories that used to be against Lateralus:
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#20 Zamboni_14

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 11:20 PM

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.


so it's not "required reading" and the parents can choose NOT to purchase or rent the book. Again, just because YOU might be offended by something, doesn't mean that EVERYONE else should be as well?
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#21 Champions of Nothing

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 11:41 PM

I have no problem of those books existing in their original form, but I for one would not read them or allow my 9-year old to read them
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#22 etsen3

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 12:22 AM

The column wasn't defending the language itself, it was complaining about censorship.

I also think it would be good to keep the originals, but also have an "edited" version.
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#23 Newsflash

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 05:24 PM

so it's not "required reading" and the parents can choose NOT to purchase or rent the book. Again, just because YOU might be offended by something, doesn't mean that EVERYONE else should be as well?


Seriously?

First, I'm not offended. I'm using sense here.

Second, what exactly is wrong with the censorship standard for books targeted at primary students being different? New copies of these books are not being made for children's books enthusiasts. They are being made for children. Do you think children's shows should be allowed to get away with racism? If these books are being targeted at children, and may end up in the children's section of a library, do you think it's not feasible that new editions of the book not contain racial epithets? We're talking about people under the age of 10 here. The epithets are not central to the stories.

Third, as to it not being required reading... that does not mean there shouldn't be standards. If someone tells their kid to go pick a book out of the library, and comes back wondering what a n***er is, you have no problem with that? Do you have a problem with tobacco companies not being allowed to advertise to kids?
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Buddy I called this EXACT situtation on here two years ago and was flamed, so I guess I have a bit of hockey knowledge, not to mention the 4 years I played in the OHL idiot.


The conspiracy theories that used to be against Lateralus:
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#24 Zamboni_14

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 08:45 PM

Seriously?

First, I'm not offended. I'm using sense here.

Second, what exactly is wrong with the censorship standard for books targeted at primary students being different? New copies of these books are not being made for children's books enthusiasts. They are being made for children. Do you think children's shows should be allowed to get away with racism? If these books are being targeted at children, and may end up in the children's section of a library, do you think it's not feasible that new editions of the book not contain racial epithets? We're talking about people under the age of 10 here. The epithets are not central to the stories.

Third, as to it not being required reading... that does not mean there shouldn't be standards. If someone tells their kid to go pick a book out of the library, and comes back wondering what a n***er is, you have no problem with that? Do you have a problem with tobacco companies not being allowed to advertise to kids?


obviously you missed the part about expecting the parents to be... PARENTS and NOT check the book out (or purchase it.) Same goes for TV shows. And it's not like the parents can't look up the book online to see what things they might consider objectionable. If a parent isn't going to take the time to actually pay attention to what their kids are reading, watching, etc. they only have themselves to blame for not paying attention.

THAT is common sense. Knowing that if you don't like your kids watching or reading something, you don't get it for them (or allow them to watch it.) Simple as that! Or are you saying we should start to censor all books, TV shows, movies just in case a kid views it because their parents don't care enough to pay attention? While we are on the subject.. maybe you should read "Fahrenheit 451" before someone finds something offensive and tries to get it banned or censored.
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#25 Dral

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 09:15 PM

Say someone has written a period fiction about a time when hate speech was not against the law. This book should be banned even though it is within a historical setting?

So I am unable to write a fiction book about a charcter that for his time used "hate speech" (say during the early American Colonial days)? and yet I can go watch a movie where humans are sewn together in a chain to form something resembling a centipede and that is protected as "Free Speech and Free Expression"?

I am actually just asking these questions, not implying that hate speech is cool.


My point was: an author should NOT be aloud to promote hate speech.

This is completely different from an author portraying a character as being hateful.

The difference may not always be apparent, but I think it should be obvious that a work of fiction or non-fiction, regardless of when it was originally published, should not be promoted (ESPECIALLY to children) when it promotes prejudice. Just because a character, or even the protagonist, is a racist/sexist individual, doesn't necessarily mean the overall message of the book needs to be prejudice.

Historical writings obviously need to be taken into context, and I actually 100% believe we should be studious readers of history - however, that being said, the vast majority of young children don't have the tools nor the capacity to do so. In the end, it comes down to the audience you are writing for: if you are writing a storybook for kids, I really don't believe you should be subjecting them to hateful context in a manner which might be seen as appropriate because they might not be able to see that this is NOT the way that people should co-exist in society.On the other hand, if your audience is post-secondary, and the environment they are learning in promotes discussion about hateful literature (or if at least your audience should know better and realize whats going on) then I have no problem with this.


I had an English teacher way back in the day who basically told us: "Look, I do not approve of swearing. But if you are writing a story, and a character swears - I have no problem with that. That is the character swearing. But if you are writing something and you swear as an author, that shows a certain amount of disrespect to the audience".


Hope that answers your question.
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#26 EX_Bert_Worshipper

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 11:12 PM

Hmmmm.... I am trying to give this a lot of thought, but I think I have to go with my knee-jerk reaction.

As a parent, I think that if my kids were exposed to racial slurs, it presents a great opportunity for me to teach my kids that yes, there is racism in the world. I've had converations with my kids about words they hear (e.g. the three letter word starting with "f" to denote sexual preference). I absolutely love it when my oldest child's reaction is a pure stunned look - he is bewildered that people can inject hatred towards others based on race, who they choose to love, gender, etc.

So, I guess I believe that there SHOULDN'T be censorship. That's just turning a blind eye. Instead, use it to show kids how racism exists in the world and empower them to (1) not be racist and (2)question why such a thing exists in the first place.

Edited by EX_Bert_Worshipper, 01 February 2013 - 11:12 PM.

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#27 Imuzi

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 11:24 PM

Huckleberry Finn was a great read those 9 years ago. It was also where I learned the n word and how it was perceived in society.

Basically a two for one deal,

Edited by Imuzi, 01 February 2013 - 11:26 PM.

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#28 Dral

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 02:17 AM

Hmmmm.... I am trying to give this a lot of thought, but I think I have to go with my knee-jerk reaction.

As a parent, I think that if my kids were exposed to racial slurs, it presents a great opportunity for me to teach my kids that yes, there is racism in the world. I've had converations with my kids about words they hear (e.g. the three letter word starting with "f" to denote sexual preference). I absolutely love it when my oldest child's reaction is a pure stunned look - he is bewildered that people can inject hatred towards others based on race, who they choose to love, gender, etc.

So, I guess I believe that there SHOULDN'T be censorship. That's just turning a blind eye. Instead, use it to show kids how racism exists in the world and empower them to (1) not be racist and (2)question why such a thing exists in the first place.


If only all kids had a parent like you...
,
Knowing that most probably dont (see the Mom gets tazered in front of her kids thread), do you still hold the same opinion?
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#29 Lockhart

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 03:28 AM

I wonder if this little girl has seen Django?

People shouldn't try and censor the past.
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#30 EX_Bert_Worshipper

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 11:00 AM

If only all kids had a parent like you...
,
Knowing that most probably dont (see the Mom gets tazered in front of her kids thread), do you still hold the same opinion?


Those kids probably wouldn't be reading books, then.
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