In German there is a turn of phrase »Ich glaub, mich tritt ein Pferd« (literally: I feel like I am kicked by a horse), which expresses highest – or in this case rather: lowest – astonishment. This ›case‹ is the latest issue of the ›Spiegel‹ for children. Its front-page article is ›The World of the Indians‹ and beckons with a cover picture (see figure on the left) which is as stereotypical as it is racist. It depicts the type ›Prairie Indian‹ with whom every German child (including parents and grandparents) is familiar.

   Tellingly, the story is not advertised in the ›Politics‹ section nor in the ›People‹ section but under ›Nature + Technology‹. (together with an article which fabulates about ›Sloths‹ and their laziness). To this, the edition notice explains: »THE PROUD PEOPLE: About 1100 Indian tribes are living in North America today. Once they were brave warriors with eagle feathers and tipis. [...] Then the pale-faces came and stole their country«.1

   One thing is for sure: the horse on the cover must have kicked the whole editorial team; for the ›native inhabitants‹ were decisively brighter than the ›Spiegel‹ journalists. Since they did not have horses, they did not ride around in the (quite inhospitable, as it is) prairie but wisely settled on fertile soil, on which they did not roam about but on which they erected villages and practices agriculture (see figure on the right).

Spiegel Indianer   de Bry Indianer
»... the ›Spiegel‹ (›Mirror‹) of racism ...«

   This had already annoyed Adam Smith who explained that »Americans at this day« would still be »in the state of hunters, the most rude and barbarous«. He did so for insidious reasons. The European experts in international law had developed the trope of ›terra nullius‹: land which allegedly even then belonged to no one when people did live there but have not taken it in possession, but instead merely roamed about (like nomads). Land such as this could supposedly legitimately be appropriated by European colonisers.

   Therefore, Indians were not entitled to have a sedentary lifestyle or even practice agriculture. If this could not be denied, the circumstances had to be belittled to an inanity. Smith had no problem with this. Concerning the Indians' corn he let it be known that it was only planted in small amounts by women behind the tents and declared that »this can hardly be called agriculture«.2

   It was only when Americans could no longer bear the colonial pressure of the European settlers, when they mounted the horses, brought there by the Europeans and returned to the wild, and flew to the prairies. The stereotype of the ›Prairie Indian‹ puts this lifestyle on a permanent basis and continuously writes forth the legitimation of the colonialism«.3

1   The press release, slightly modified, reads: »In North America about 1100 Indian tribes are still living today. ›Dein Spiegel‹ describes in its latest cover story ›The proud people‹ the life of the native inhabitants of America and explains, how their downfall came about and what today became of the former prairie-inhabitants«.

2   Adam Smith: Lectures on Jurisprudence. Report of 1762/3. In: id., Lectures on Jurisprudence, ed. by R. L. Meek, D. D. Raphael, P. G. Stein (The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, vol. 5). Oxford: Clarendon Press 1978, pp. 1-394, p. 15. Christian Marouby: Adam Smith and the Anthropology of the Enlightenment. The ›Ethnographic‹ Sources of Economic Progress. In: The Anthropology of the Enlightenment, ed. by Larry Wolff, Marco Cipolloni. Stanford: Stanford University Press 2007, pp. 85-102, p. 97 points out that Smith utilises the marginalisation auf female labour to construct his theory of social history and characterised this way of arguing as »a specular or projective anthropology«.

3   Cf. Wulf D. Hund: Der inszenierte Indianer. Auch eine Dialektik der Aufklärung. In: id., Rassismus. Die soziale Konstruktion natürlicher Ungleichheit. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot 1999, pp. 39-53 (also available at


Switzerland should occasionally feel quite ›overstuffed‹ – though not because of the alleged flooding of the country by migrants (even though it has recently found expression, albeit with a narrow majority, in a referendum). Rather it is about the, displayed as satire, mass-media dissemination of dull everyday-racist resentments which even permeate the public media as flatulences of supremacist arrogance.1

   This includes the fictional character of Mrs Mgubi, as who the Alpine jester Birgit Steinegger has been dressing up for years, in order to amuse the Swiss TV audience with »amiable stories from everyday life« (direct quote SRF).

Steinegger   Mrs Mgubi
»... Birgit Steinegger and her lookalikes, amongst them Mrs Mgubi as weather woman in Swiss TV (SRF)
– copyright of the pictures, of course, by SRF, where else ...«

   Now she has attended to the story of ›Täschli-Gate‹ (handbag-gate), the very worst case of resentments during which, in the Zurich Bahnhofsstraße, (an internationally known consumer promenade with direct access to the famous ›Paradeplatz‹, a bank paradise), the big three of social discrimination, class, gender and race, have combined to a middle disaster, for which those responsible in the tourism industry immediately apologized.

   It was exactly this apology which the TV comedian zeroed in on: following her sketch, today any(non-white)body can show up in a Swiss plush boutique and will be submissively served, for fear of international entanglements.2

»... serve immediately – maybe she, too, has some talk show in the USA ...«

   The discriminating blackface construction of Mrs Mgubi is obvious and does not only refer to her caricaturing appearance but also to her conduct and language. Many voices of the current discussion find this simply funny and think: »Butt of jokes and satires are always ›the others‹. We count among them. For centuries we have been branded cow Swiss (Kuhschweizer) and backwoods mountain dwellers«. This general absolution is illustrated, inter alia, by a cartoon, which promptly discloses the context in which the blackface enactment of the funny Frau Steinegger stands and how it is understood in Swiss everyday consciousness. The artist did not even have to deploy skin colour or physiognomy. He merely replaces ›cultivated‹ clothing with ›uncivilized‹ concealed nakedness, marginally cloaked by a banana skirt and coconut halves. The bone in the hair does one last thing to complete the ›primitive‹ message: apes, Baker, cannibals – this is the ABC with which this kind of humour upholds the long tradition of racist discrimination.3

1   Cf. Jovita dos Santos Pinto, Marina Lienhard, Patricia Purtschert: Warum zirkulieren solche Bilder ungestört in einer breiten Öffentlichkeit? In: WOZ, 11.8.2011.

2   Rovit Jain: Staatsfernsehen für die weißen Herrschaften (in: WOZ, 23.1.2014) justifiably points out that the minstrelization of the original incident has served the discrediting of non-racist behaviour, ridiculed as overzealous ›political correctness‹.

3   Hardly had this post been published, when the press reported about a decision of the Swiss federal tribunal. Following it, it is not considered a violation of the local law, if a police officer calls a foreigner a ›foreign pig‹ or a ›dirty asylum seeker‹.


The ›Rheinische Post‹ understands itself as the central organ of »Politics and Christian Culture«. This does not prevent them from ineffable contributions to the current debate on language and racism. Just recently it defended the right to order a ›Zigeunerschnitzel‹ (literally: gypsy schnitzel): »Political correctness must not become an end in itself. Whoever orders a Zigeuznerschnitzel and enjoys it, does not think about gypsies – and, if so, it would be in amicable agreement«.1

NK Rheinische Post
»... racist pseudo-question ...«

   Probably it is futile to drop the writing yet unread author of these lines a hint for his perusal.2 While he has indeed caught that »[t]he word ›Neger‹ [...] is frowned upon in most parts of the population. But nevertheless he, as ignorantly as confidently, maintains: »After all, the ›Neger‹ comes from the Latin ›niger‹ and merely means ›black‹«.3 Even though the sweets, which were for a long time connected to this name, can now only be bought as ›Schokokuß‹ or ›Schaumkuß‹, the newspaper unashamedly makes itself the mouthpiece of duplicitous racist questions.

1   Bertram Müller: Wie bestelle ich ein Zigeunerschnitzel? In: Rheinische Post, 18./19.1.2014, p. C2. See also the online version.

2   Cf. i.a. Dirk Gabler: Der Geschmack der Freiheit. Vom Igelbraten zum Zigeunerschnitzel. In: Zigeunerbilder. Schnittmuster rassistischer Ideologie, ed. by Wulf D. Hund. Duisburg: Diss 2000, pp. 124-136; zur aktuellen Diskussion siehe Süddeutsche Zeitung, 8.10.2013 (›Hannover verbannt das Zigeunerschnizel‹); Stern, 9.10.2013 (›Sinti und Roma fordern Aus für ›Zigeunerschnitzel‹‹) and Anatol Stefanowitsch: Lustig ist das Rassistenleben, Faria, Faria, Ho.

3   Against such and similar ignorant assumption see i.a. Malte Hinrichsen, Wulf D. Hund: Metamorphosen des ›Mohren‹. Rassistische Sprache und historischer Wandel. In: Sprache – Macht – Rassismus, ed. by Gudrun Hentges, Kristina Nottbohm, Mechthild M. Jansen, Jamila Adamou. Berlin: Metropol 2014, pp. 69-96.

[work in progress (2)]

In the year 2013 there was a series of ultra-racist ape comparisons.1 Two of the most prominent were directed at the minister of integration in Italy and the minister of justice in France. In Italy, senator Roberto Calderoli has compared the minister of integration, Cécile Kyenge, to an orang-utan,2 who, shortly after, was pelted with bananas. The notorious right-wing populist is discriminating against whatever and whoever is not in line with his bigoted world view. In France, the minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, was compared by a member of the Front National to a chimpanzee and was subsequently depicted by the right-wing magazine ›Minute‹ under the header »Maligne comme un singe: Taubira retrouve la Banane«.3

Racism France
»... racism à la France ...«

   Racist discrimination in the form of ›simianization‹ has a history that goes back a long time. It did not only prertain Africans or people of African descent (but also i.a. Irish or Japanese and also German people). But it was directed against blacks in a particularly intensive manner. During the coming year a volume of the ›Racism Analysis Yearbook‹ is being prepared, whose contributions are dealing with this variant of racism (and the discrimination connected to it) and which will be published in 2015 under the title ›Simianization. Apes, Gender, Class, and Race‹.

1   Cf. for this i.a. the sections »The ›Negro‹ and the ape« in Gustav Jahoda: Images of Savages. Ancient Roots of Modern Prejudice in Western Culture. London [et al.]: Routledge 1999, pp. 53-62 and »Racist discourse and the Negro-ape metaphor« in Tommy L. Lott, The Invention of Race. Black Culture and the Politics of Representation. Malden [et al.]: Blackwell 1999, pp. 7-13.

2   Cf. Lizzy Davies: Italian Senator Says Black Minister has ›Features of Orangutan‹. In: The Guardian, 14 July 2013. The website of the governmentally financed Radio France Internationale shows the corresponding photo of the right-wing politician’s Facebook page.

3   Cf. Alexander Stille: The Justice Minister and the Banana. How Racist is France?In: The New Yorker, 14 November 2013 and Tony Cross: Far-right Paper Causes Storm with Racist Insult to French Justice Minister Taubira. In: rfi, 13 November 2013. There were also racist attacks which drew on a pictorial representation of the ape comparison.

[work in progress (1)]

The ›Racism Analysis Yearbook‹ 5 | 2014 will discuss the topic ›Racism and Sociology‹ – with contributions by Marta Araújo, Les Back, Sirma Bilge, Barnor Hesse, Wulf D. Hund, Alana Lentin, Silvia Rodríguez Maeso, Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez.1My essay will treat Racism in White Sociology. From Adam Smith to Max Weber. Here the temporary abstract:

Max Weber Graffito
»... Only the Occident knows the state in the modern sense […]. Only the Occident knows rational law […], and only in the Occident is found the concept of citizen […] because only in the Occident does the city exist […]. Furthermore, only the Occident possesses science in the present-day sense of the word […]. Finally, Western civilization is […] distinguished from every other by the presence of men with a rational ethos for the conduct of life ...«

   »The relationship of sociology and racism has so far mainly been researched for the academically established sociology. In this, the focus has predominantly been on the support of racist worldviews or the incapability to critical analysis. The present study, by way of contrast, deals with the contribution of sociological thought to the formation of modern racism. In this context, firstly, racism was assigned an important role at the theoretical mastery of the social question. With its aid, an ideological offer of social integration could be extended to the lower classes, without having to question the foundation of the class society. In comparison with racistly discriminated others, they were allowed to understand themselves as the lower layers of a ruling race or culture. For this, secondly, it was made recourse to the recently developed theories of race. Cultural arguments, however, have had an important function from the start. Already Adam Smith, one of the founders of sociological thought, had at his disposal the term race; albeit, for his ideological appeasement of the lower classes, he used the cultural opposition of ›civilised‹ and ›savages‹. Eventually, one of the founding fathers of academic sociology, Max Weber, voiced doubts about the validity of the term race and verbalised, at least rudimentarily, the concept of racism as negative societalisation. But at the same time he substituted the biological concept of racism by a cultural approach. The latter could definitely do without the category race, and instead discriminated against non-European others by using the concept of western rationalism and its meaning for the advancement of modernity, while it offered the upper layers of the working class a place amongst the ranks of a supremacist conception of the ›West‹«.

1   The yearbook has been published in the meantime.

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