UPDATE: Here is Marika’s take, during an interview with Swedish TV. She never thought of the term as negative and was surprised that others were offended:

En negers uppväxt – A nigger’s upbringing

I have profiled comedienne Marika Carlsson here who is a popular funny woman in Sweden. I have never been to one of her performances as my Swedish isn’t strong enough to follow a comedy routine. Her latest act, “A nigger’s upbringing” has ruffled feathers in the black community. When I first saw the ad I thought she was taking a dig at the Swedish Democrats, the anti-immigration party. I don’t know what the deal is.

But I’ll ask Andy over at UrbanLife.se.

Kulturkrockar utan krockkudde. En komikers vandring från Afrikas horn till nordens Venedig.

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Tel. 08-702 91 01 eller 070-686 76 23

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  1. I don’t know what the fuzz is about either. For me “neger” has always meant “dark skinned person” with no negative connotations. Suddenly there’s a lot of commotion about it and pastries and city blocks have to change names.

    I can sort of understand those who are upset, coming from cultures where it’s only used as an insult. But I think they are doing themselves a disservice when they assign negative values to a normal word.

    I didn’t know of Marika before, but in the video clip she’s really good. Many women comedians (in sweden at least) tries too hard and almost sound mean instead. Marika strikes a good balance of funny and good natured.

  2. I used an online translator and saw that neger means negro. Maybe I can get Marika to comment on how she sees the word, tack!

  3. English speakers who read that headline might not be shocked by the term ‘negro’ (Neger in Swedish) however, in Sweden it’s used in the same context as ‘nigger’.

    ‘Neger’ is a word that many Afros-swedes have been trying to remove from swedish terminology with some success. Only recently a town called ‘neger’ was finally changed and a chocolate ball that was refereed to as ‘neger balls’ (can you believe that?) has been changed with much protest from Swedes.

    By using the word *n and standing proudly below it has been seen as a sign of acceptance regardless of the content of her show. As we know racism comes from ignorance, and sadly they are ones who don’t go to intellectual comedy shows. They are the ones who have children that end up beating another child because his skin is a different colour.

    My personal fears were immediately confirmed on Marikas blogg (http://marikacarlsson.blogspot.com/2010/10/anmalan.html#comments) where the very first comment by a white reader writes:

    HOW can another afro-swede think that is wrong to use the word NEGER – when it’s used by a NEGER!

    * please note the use of the capital letters.

    You only have to read the rest of the comments in her blog to see how many Swedish people feel they have a ‘right’ to decide what a person should be called.

    Marika is adamant that she has no idea why the black community have complained.

    @mazui ….Suddenly there’s a lot of commotion about it and pastries and city blocks have to change names….
    This is because as a modern society we try to learn from our past and realise that the history behind them is often far from pleasant. Unless of course you’d be happy asking for negro balls in your local shop.

  4. Thanks Andy. I’ve invited Marika to comment here as well. I am interested to know what she has learned from the comments on her blog, the reaction from the black community, as well as let her share the reasoning behind her decision to use a word, you have explained, that inflames the Afro-Swedish community, in the title of her act.

    I am hoping she will comment here in English.

  5. “This is because as a modern society we try to learn from our past and realise that the history behind them is often far from pleasant. Unless of course you’d be happy asking for negro balls in your local shop.”

    Until they were made to change the name I wouldn’t have thought a thing about it. It’s worth to note that the word ‘balls’ doesn’t have the same connotations in swedish as it has in english.

    Now I feel that it’s silly and I know there are people who are quite angry that they have to change what things are called.

    Words and symbols don’t mean a thing until we assign values to them, and those values can and do change. Just look at the swedish flag that used to be just a symbol for our country, but had values of racism added to it.
    The more values you add to a word, the more power it has to affect you, how you feel about yourself when you hear it. If you assign bad values to it, you are making a weapon for those who don’t like you for some reason. They just have to say that one word to make you feel all the bad things assigned to it.
    That’s why I think it’s a mistake to enforce any bad values it might have, and possibly add new ones. It would be better to either ignore it or take charge of it and use it with pride, like the gay movement is trying to do (and in my opinion slowly succeeding).

    The black people in america tried to do it with the word ‘nigger’, but it’s only ok if it is said by a black person. If a white person says it, it means all the bad things it ever did.

    You are right that we should remember and learn from the past. Sweden was a major slave trading nation in the 18th century, just as nasty as any of them ever were.
    But I don’t think the right way to do it is by sweeping it under the carpet and pretend it never happened, like we do when we change names from that time.

  6. I hope she does. 🙂

  7. Do you feel about the words ‘Fat and Paki’?

  8. Pressed reply too quickly and forgot the word ‘How’ at the start.

  9. Basically the same.

    The english language has a wonderful expression: “don’t let it become you”. Don’t let it _become_ you.

    “Fat” often has a range of meanings. Overweight, useless, no self control…
    Same with “paki”. I didn’t know the word before, so I’m just guessing now: Person with pakistani background, useless, thievish.. whatever.

    If you get all worked up because of those words, you’re letting them become you in your own mind. Or maybe you become them.

    I wouldn’t care much if someone called me gringo, cracker, ghost, gaijin, honkey, roundeye or anything like that because any meaning apart from “white person” that is associated with them doesn’t match how I see myself. The person saying it may want me to see myself as a no-good deadweight and parasite, but I won’t let those things become me.

    And I certainly wouldn’t care about cookies called “gringo noses” or a city block called “the roundeye”. I would rather find it amusing if I came across something like that.

  10. Here is Marika’s response:

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