Likelihood of Success

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Media tricks on Bundeswehr racism story?

Posted by Ron Coleman on April 15, 2007

The race card keeps playing itself this week. Here’s a very compelling story here about the way today’s German army, the product of a generation of attempted racial culling followed by a generation of apologizing about it, trains its recruits. Naturally, Al Sharpton is on the case, by the way. Now there’s a juxtaposition you have to enjoy. This, however, is not funny:

A German army instructor ordered a soldier to envision himself in New York City facing hostile blacks while firing his machine gun, a video that aired Saturday on national television showed.

Bad enough! Here’s what I found odd, though, in the AP reporting:

The clip shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest. The instructor tells the soldier, “You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways. … Act.”

“African Americans”? That is a pretty unlikely translation under the circumstances! Well, here’s the video.

Guess what. Your German doesn’t have to be so good: That’s exactly what he said! “African Americans”! Yes, the NCO did say schwarz — black — before that, but he was referring to the color of the van, not the occupants. Politically correct racism? Maybe only in Germany.

I am having trouble keeping track of the “rules” and the attitudes in play here. Am I the only one?

Happy 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game in (free) Brooklyn.

UPDATE: Similar thoughts, only a few days later.


5 Responses to “Media tricks on Bundeswehr racism story?”

  1. Stefan said

    Am I the only one who thinks this is really funny? : )

    I feel that more than just the phrasing was lost in translation. This is exactly the kind of ridiculous humor that I observed at USMC Officer Candidate School. It’s definitely a “military thing.”

  2. You might be the only one who dares to say it. I mean, for sure — the idea that every NCO should accountable on PC grounds for every motivating formulation (shall we say) that comes out of his mouth is absurd. I am sure it is indeed a military thing. But alas, Germans do not get, and probably are not entitled to, all that much slack.

  3. Stefan said

    I can accept that. I think the central question here, rather than, “What was that D.I. thinking?” is, “What idiot allowed a guy to use a camera on the range in boot?”

    Some things were meant to stay on the field.

  4. Bill said


    Thanks for the “hat tip” to our series of posts that may help to provide some historical background about race relations in Germany from a black German point-of-view (not me, I’m an American who is just managing that joint project).

    This incident is being all but totally ignored in the mainstream TV news here in Germany whereas if the roles were reversed and a U.S. military instructor were caught on videotape instructing trainees to imagine some German ethnic or racial group during target practice the story would be frontpage news for days if not weeks as we have seen with a number of German media reports about the U.S.A. and “Americans” for years.

    You (and your readers) may be interested in the dialogue about this racist incident over at my collegues blog the Atlantic Review, authored by Jörg Wolf in Berlin. Here is the URL to his “heads up” post on the story:

    Recommended by Our Readers – 04/15/07

  5. Bill, you’re welcome. That’s a great resource.

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