German Diverse Books · Reviews

Review: Deutschland Schwarz Weiss – Noah Sow

A black background. Noah Sow written in white letters, Deutschland in golden-brown letters. Schwarz Weiss in white-outlined letters. Subtitle: der alltägliche Rassismus in grey letters.

I’d been meaning to read Deutschland Schwarz Weiss for quite some time. I’d seen it at a friend’s place and had skimmed through it.

Deutschland Schwarz Weiss (Eng.: Germany Black White), subtitle der alltägliche Rassismus (Eng.: the daily racism) is as the title implies a book about the racism that black people experience on a daily basis in Germany. The target audience is white Germans. It’s #ownvoices.

Content warning for: racist pictures, statements and thoughts that are analysed by the author.

Racism is not just a problem in the UK and the US. Shocking, but true, it’s a problem in Germany as well. However, if you’re a POC in Germany, I’m sure you’ve heard that Germany doesn’t have a problem. Well, it does, and I’m grateful that I’m finding new German books that discuss this topic.

The Good

I am in love with the beginning of the book. The first chapter sets the tone for the entire book. If you’re white, it’s possible that the first chapter may throw you off but if you stop reading, remember that you have the priviledge to stop. POC don’t have the priviledge to not have racism. If you want to be an ally, you have to inspect your own internalised racism. I still do it everyday. I will not say anymore because it would contain spoilers about the first chapter.

It’s a very descriptive book, showing or describing different cases of racism. These include children’s books, advertisements and criminal cases.

I especially liked the chapter about white mothers of black children (which she states also applies to white fathers – they don’t have to deal with the same societal ideas). I would add that some of these issues arise with white parents of non-black POC children as well. If you just read one chapter of the book and you happen to be a white parent of a POC child, do read this chapter. However, non-black POC children won’t have the same exact problems that black POC have, so please keep this in mind.

As a POC in Germany, you may have come across a few of the facts mentioned in the book. I certainly did. However, I found it interesting to read through possible answers to silly phrases that black people are asked in Germany. Some of them can be adapted to other POC as well, such as Where are you from?  or Don’t be so sensitive?

As a non-black POC in Germany, I found it important to educate myself about racism towards blacks as it’s not mentioned often enough and I didn’t know about quite a few things.

Germany has a secret colonial history – I say secret, because it is hardly ever mentioned in society, in school, on TV, etc. These were the sections that I found most interesting as I was learning new facts about German history.

At times, I felt that I was ignored as a brown POC but then I realised that I’m not the subject in this narrative. Black POC have to deal with a lot more. This book made me aware of my internal thoughts and helped me to reevaluate them. Racism affects different POC in different ways. I, for example, am more priviledged in certain aspects. We are not a monolith.

The Bad

She uses the phrase “noch ganz dicht”, which I think is ableistic.

All in all

Deutsche Diversity Bücher Button

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I was saying that this book should be required reading in schools. I stand by that statement. We need to be told about these issues and I think that school would be a good place to discuss and reevaluate what we’ve been thought by society.

I wish this book was available in English, as I think more people would realise that racism is a problem in Germany as well.

This review is part of the German Diverse Books project (#DeutscheDiversityBücher). The book is only available in German.

5 stars

Have you read Deutschland Schwarz Weiss?

5 thoughts on “Review: Deutschland Schwarz Weiss – Noah Sow

  1. I saw you mention this on Twitter and immediately wanted to read your review! I was born and grew up in Germany so I would love to read this. 😃


  2. “if you stop reading, remember that you have the privilege to stop” This is so true and very accurate. Just recently I was explaining to a friend that there were no books in a certain category that had pictures of children of color. I offhandedly remarked that it was racist, and he could not see it, even after I tried to educate him about institutional racism. And this is a good decent person who is very sweet to all of us, but has simply internalized our American racism so much that he was blind to the problem. I shudder to think of those who are not good people.

    The chapter about raising black children as a white person sounds intriguing. If I knew enough German I would definitely read this book.


  3. Thanks for the review and especially your opinion that the book should be required reading in schools. Not only in Germany but in German Schools abroad. Then our kids will grow up to understand the vital role they play in breaking down color-based prejudice and discrimination. Just as important is your observation that “noch ganz dicht” is ableistic, especially in the context of a book that is against discrimination. I hope this will be left out in future editions. Lastly, if you are able to, perhaps you can encourage Noah sow to publish the book in English (I met her about 9 years ago after the first edition was published and I thought then, that an English translation would soon follow). The fact is that there are people who don’t speak German (especially outside Germany) who are affected by the topic of color and the adverse effects of it, and will greatly benefit from reading this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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