Revised November 19, 2017 8:57 AM ET
This pancocojams post presents a compilation of internet quotes that I've found about the European children's game "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man". In some quotes this game is called "Beware The Black Man".
In the online quotes that I've found (as of November 18, 2017) the European countries where children have played or still play the game "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man"/"Beware The Black Man" are Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland, and, Austria.
The content of this post is presented to raise awareness of this game for socio-cultural purposes and NOT for recreational purposes as I fully admit that I would prefer that children not play this game.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
QUOTES ABOUT THE EUROPEAN CHILDREN'S GAME "WHO'S AFRAID OF THE BLACK MAN"/"BEWARE THE BLACK MAN"
Pancocojams Editor's Note:
Except for the first two examples, these quotes are given in no particular order. A few editorial comments are added after some of these quotes and numbers have been assigned to these quotes for referencing purposes. With the exception of the first two examples, I retrieved all of these examples from the internet on November 18, 2017.
From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcfPVj5qR1E Afro.Germany – Being black and German | DW Documentary
DW Documentary, Published on Mar 29, 2017
Black and German: news anchor Jana Pareigis has spent her entire life being asked about her skin color. What is it like to be black in Germany? What needs to change?
“Where are you from?” Afro-German journalist Jana Pareigis has heard that question since her early childhood. And she’s not alone. Black people have been living in Germany for around 400 years, and today there are an estimated one million Germans with dark skin. But they still get asked the latently racist question, "Where are you from?”
Jana Pareigis is familiar with the undercurrents of racism in the western world. When she was a child, the Afro-German TV presenter also thought her skin color was a disadvantage. "When I was young, I wanted to be white,” she says.
Parageis takes us on a trip through Germany from its colonial past up to the present day, visiting other dark-skinned Germans to talk about their experiences. They include rapper Samy Deluxe, pro footballer Gerald Asamoah and Theodor Michael, who lived as a black man in the Third Reich. They talk about what it’s like to be black in Germany.”
Quote at 2:01-2:26 of this video:
Jana Pareigis: "I mean I always had a lot of friends. I remember in kindergarten that um we played these funny games like “Who’s Afraid Of The Black Man” and “Ten Little Negroes” it’s called in German. So um I remember sometimes they run after me and said “Jana Africana” it’s something like “Jana is an African. Jana is an African". And the problem is that “African” meant something bad.
This quote from this documentary reminded me of the first time that I had read about the game "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man" (in 2008; Read Example #2 below). This documentary's quote about that game motivated me to search for additional online mentions of this game and then publish this pancocojams compilation.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/11/youtube-comments-about-being-black-in.html for Part I of a two part pancocojams series that presents comments from the discussion thread for the above mentioned YouTube video and discussion threads for two other YouTube videos about growing up Black in Germany. The link for Part II of that series is given in that post. Part II presents selected comments from the same three YouTube videos' discussion threads about being a Black adult in Germany or in certain other European nations.
[given "as is" with spelling errors]
a) Subject: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 09:57 AM
The purpose of this thread is to explore the old belief that the devil and demons were the color black.
I'm interested in any recollections people may have of any supersitions, proverbs, folk songs, or children's rhymes, and children's games that refer to the devil, demons, witches being black (with no disrespect intended for those who are Wicca).
I'm also interested in any references to religious songs,folk songs, proverbs, or children's rhymes of the color white being good (pure) and black being evil (impure).
The impetus for my [current] research of this subject is a 2008 query that I found last night on an anti-rascist parents blog. The query was from an American mother living in Germany who requested information about a German children's game similar to tag called "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man". I'll post that query in my next post to this thread, and explain how that query led me to this subject.
I'll also provide a number of hyperlinks and excerpts from online sources that I have found on this subject. And of course, I hope that others will also do so.
By the way, I used Mudcat's search engine to try to identify any previous discussion thread on this subject, but didn't find any. If there is such a thread (or threads, or posts withing others threads) I would appreciate someone identifying them.
Thanks in advance for your participation in this thread.
b) Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:07 AM
Here is the query that I referred to in my first post to this thread:
"# 15. Sue armstrong wrote:
I live in Germany and was horrified to hear that my son was playing an (apparently common game ) in his gym class called "who's afraid of the black man?"
I told the teacher that I personally found the words offensive and that coloured children in the class might also feel really bizarre singing these words.
Her reply was that she had explained to all the class beforehand that the song was about a chimneysweep and none of the kids had a problem with it and were completely happy.
She basically told me I was overreacting and making an racial issue where there wasnt one.
I am lost for words. I have a meeting with her next week to discuss further.
I am not quite sure though how to get through to her as she obviously does not see a problem there.
I talked to my son who is asian about it and he understood what she had said and was okay with playing the game, but definitely understood how some might find it offensive.
What would you advise me to say to the teacher?"
Posted 18 Sep 2008 at 5:55 am
Anti-Racist Parent "Ask ARP: Is it wrong to sing this children's rhyme?"
There are no responses to this query to date (though I probably will attempt a response summarizing my theory that "the black man" in this children's game originally was the devil, and then likely morphed to refer to a dark skinned person, perhaps a "gypsy"."
c) Subject: RE: Folklore: The Devil The Color Black
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 10:21 AM
Here is what I posted last night in the Wikipedia talk section about the children's game "Tag" (with several additions of omitted words):
"As an African American I have concerns about the game "Who's afraid of the Black man" even if it really was/is about chimney sweeps.
I found another online mention of that game here: http://watchingamerica.com/News/17920/white-southerners-still-don%E2%80%99t-trust-obama/ about attitudes among some White Americans in the South about Obama winning the Presidential election Die Welt, Germany "White Southerners Still Don't Trust Obama"By Katja Ridderbusch' Translated By Ron Argentati' 19 January 2009
See this note at the end of the article (made because the reporter said that the interviewer still "was afraid of black men": ..."the German children's game "Wer hat Angst vor dem schwarzen Mann," or, "Who's afraid of the black man" is similar to the American kid's game "tag" where the object is to avoid being touched by the "monster." Misunderstood political correctness has also reached this facet of German culture and the adjective "black" is now increasingly being replaced by "wild," or "evil" although the original game had nothing to do with race."
I then found a mention of "Whose afraid of black man" in this google book:
"Death bringing the plague (or should one say, the plague bringing death?) survives in the game of German and Swiss children "Who's afraid of the black man?" (Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann?) pg 14 The gender of death: a cultural history in art and literature - by Karl Siegfried Guthke" ? 1999 http://books.google.com/books?id=ml36rowcpTUC&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&dq=german+children's+game+%22who's+afraid+of+the+black+man%22&sou
A reader's review of this book also mentions that game by the "Who's afraid of the black man" name:
Ancient and Modern Britons: Volume One (Ancient & Modern Britons) by David Mac Ritchie (Paperback - March 15, 1991)
Finally, I found a reference to the game "Who's afraid of the black man" this google book: Twentieth-century theatre: a sourcebook By Richard Drain: http://books.google.com/books?id=WMwk3Wrn-14C&pg=PA186&lpg=PA186&dq=german+children's+game+%22who's+afraid+of+the+black+man%22&s
In the sentence I refer to that game is described as a "ridiculous party game" [for adults] p.186 To say: "should I go to the theatre today?"isn't the same thing as: "I've got to go to the theatre today. With an obligation to go to the theatre like that, the citizen concerned gives up of his free wil all those other stupid evening pastimes, like skittles, cards, pub politics, romantic rendezvous, not forgetting ridiculous party games that just waste your time like "Who's afraid of the black man?", "Tailor lend me your wife", and so on."
I'd love to know more. The teacher's comments about the "Black man" [originally?] prreferring to chimney sweeps" is probably not correct, since chimney sweeps (who, because of their profession) were blackened by soot were thought to be good luck, particularly seeing them at the first of the new year, but maybe at other times.I've read that this is because in some European cultures chimney sweeps also carried baskets of shamrocks at certain times...Anyway, that superstition about it being good luck to see a chimney sweep at the first of the new year morphed into the belief that a dark haired man entering your door the first of the new year meant good luck etc. My point is that the chimney sweep origin doesn't wash with me (if you'll excuse that expression). I think the "black man" reference was probably a demon or a monster or the devil. But I have no sources for this.
Again, I hope that someone adds more information to this. And maybe one way of doing so is to mention the game and hopefully some German people or other people will add what they remember or know about it now-since it appears that it is still being played-but hopefully with a name change."
-This is the end of my quotes about that game on that Mudcat forum.-
*This anti-racistparent.com page no longer exists as of at least 11/18/2017. Another archived "antiracistparent.com" page with a similar title “Is it wrong to sing this rhyme?" refers to the children's game “brown girl in the ring” http://archive.li/B9uoe#selection-213.0-455.4.
I recall that I attempted to write a response to this blog post as noted above, but I had difficulty using the response feature on that website. I'm not sure if my response to that blog post was ever published and I don't have a copy of that response.
In addition to the theories that I mentioned above about the possible meaning of "black man" in that game- theories that I wasn't sure were correct then and still am not sure are correct now- the gist of my response was probably that I hoped children wouldn't play the game "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man". I hoped then and still hope now that instead of playing "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man", that game would be replaced by very similar tag games such as "What Time Is Is Mr. Wolf" because, whether or not "the black man" who is referenced in this game actually was or is meant to refer to a Black man, that game as it is titled and described could have negative psychological and sociological impact on children playing that game who are Black or dark skinned AND children who are White or other races.
** If a reader review of the 1884 book Ancient and Modern Britons: Volume One by David Mac Ritchie mentioned the children's game "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man", I can't find it now. It's possible that I extrapolated from reading some of these reviews that a game in which a "black man" chases children who aren't black until his touch turns them black may be a memorialization of a time when members of a dark skinned race conquered lighter skinned people or White people. Some such history appears to be documented in the 1884 book Ancient And Modern Britons. Here's one brief reader review of that book:
"5.0 out of 5 starsThey will not teach this in your Rockefeller owned schools ...
ByWalt Lomaxon June 16, 2015
They will not teach this in your Rockefeller owned schools of North America. This is literature that scholars have for their private collection and know full well but further the reconstructed history of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Hegemony to enforce the Secret Treaty Verona, Doctrine of Discovery, Romanus Pontifex, Codes Noir etc etc. Bro David Macritchie is a Mason and was highly maligned and condemned by his peers for exposing that many Nobles from Western Asia (Western Europe) were Moors. The Danes, Dubh, Silures (Celts), Picts well all Moors and swarthy in complexion. Masonic Libraries have images of King George III with an Afro and he is clearly a Moor."
I've added two similar readers' review of this book in the comment section of this post because they may provide an explanation as to why "black man" was used as the name of the character who chases people in the children's game "Who's Afraid Of The Black Man Game"/"Beware The Black Man".
Example #3 [This post includes a video of children playing with words in Slovene ? or German ?]
January 24, 2013 · by sloveniaabcwellbeing · in Comenius, Games, School, Slovenia. ·
"Participants: 1 Black man and up to 30 children (or more)
Equipment: Outdoor (or larger gym); a playground with two lines
Instructions: We choose a hunter – the Black man. He stands on one of the lines and the other pupils stand on the other line which is on the other side of the playground. The Black man asks: >>Who’s afraid of the Black man?Nobody!And what if he comes?Then we’ll run away!<< and they run to the other side of the playground. The Black man runs to the other side, too, and while he runs, he tries to catch them. Whoever is caught becomes his assistant ad helps him to catch the others. All the players, including the Black man, can run only towards the other side of the playground. They’re not allowed to return to the start line. If they do, they have to join the Black man and become his assistants. The person, who is caught last, becomes the Black man in the next game."
****Example #4: [selected comments]
From https://www.toytowngermany.com/forum/topic/95788-common-schoolyard-games-in-germany/ Common schoolyard games in Germany
a) Started by Showem, 1 May 2008
Posted 1 May 2008
"My sister-in-law is teaching German in Australia to primary school kids and wants to lighten up the curriculum by playing some games. She was wondering if there are any specific schoolyard games that kids in Germany would play? I couldn't think of anything in particular (having not really been around kids in school much) other than "Fang", the name for tag. Any other ideas or game names?"
Posted 5 May 2008
"Apparently there's one called "Beware of the black man"...seems to be pretty popular here, although don't quite think that's very PC..."
Posted 5 May 2008
..."Wer hat Angst vorm Bösen Wolf (instead of "Beware the black man")
The wolf stands on one side of a playing field, the sheep on the other
Wolf: "Wer hat Angst vorm Bösen Wolf."
Wolf: "Und wenn er aber kommt?"
Sheep: "Dann laufen wir davon."
Now all the sheep try to reach the other side, and the wolf tries to catch as many as he can. Every caugth sheep turns into a wolf and has to help to catch the others in the next round."....
d) Guest meikeerik
Posted 9 May 2008
blowwavedave said:I always thought "der schwarze Mann" was death incarnate or "the black death" or something like this. I'm pretty sure it's not referring to anyone's skin color, but maybe I'm just naive? :unsure:"
Apparently there's one called "Beware of the black man"...seems to be pretty popular here, although don't quite think that's very PC...
Posted 9 May 2008
"It´s the german bogeyman. He has been around for centuries in fairy books, ghost stories, etc. He might also be the devil. "Der schwarze Mann" is supposed to scare children, and he is probably more scary, when they dont exactly know what it is. I dont think that children would have had any reason to be especially scared of Africans...
On the other hand, I imagine that in the USA for example, a kid hearing the expression "the black man" might get a different idea about what it means."
From https://books.google.com/books?id=tx4uDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT496&lpg=PT496&dq=who%27s+afraid+of+the+black+man+(children%27s+game)&source=bl&ots=a8DgregkCW&sig=nMJ2kGWzAPi0Qg9xrL1tKRcJGjg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiB4MPljMnXAhUDWCYKHY-pDOYQ6AEIaTAP#v=onepage&q&f=false Children Away from Home: A Sourcebook of Residential Treatment
Editors: James K. Whittaker, Albert E. Trieschman
Aldine, 1972; no page number given
“Lotspiech: At the risk of bringing up Jung’s name, do these games follow symbolic structure patterns, such as dream patterns follow?
Lorenz: “Some do. For instance, the game “Who’s Afraid of the Black Man”. It is one of those infectious games in which you put a group of children at one end of a long alley and one single child, who represents the black man, at the other end; then they must change places. The whole group has to get to the other side of the alley, and the black man has to touch one or more of them, who, in the process, are thus converted into black men. I have been told by the Austrian educator, Meister, that this game was a symbol of pox and that it was played as a sort of religious ceremony symbolizing infectious diseases.
Fremont-Smith: There get to be more and more black men?
Lonenz: Yes, until all of them are on the same side. The more children have become black, the less chance the rest of them have to escape being infected with blackness."
From https://anteroinen.tumblr.com/post/100176708095/whos-afraid-of-the-black-man Who’s afraid of the black man!?” “Kuka pelkää mustaa miestä?!”
"That was a game when I was a kid. I guess it still could be, but I don’t go into kindergartens, so I don’t know what kids play these days. There are two safe zones and the Black Man is in the middle, whenever the Black Man shouts “Who’s afraid of the Black Man?!” you must change the safe zone and the Black Man can make you another Black Man if they catch you. This repeats until everybody is a Black Man.
It was brought to my attention that some people think that the game is racist, and I get why they say that. (The Black Man is apparently originally Saint Jacob, who is traditionally thought to make the water get cold after the summer. Practically nobody knows this though.) But at the same time, I haven’t met anyone who actually thought the Black Man was an actual black person when playing the game either.
My Black Man was quite mannequin-like with a featureless face and black fumes coming out of it. Horrifying in retrospect, but it was fun enough as a kid. Others have described monsters from their nightmares too, others just thought of it as some regular person with black clothes like Batman and lastly a chimney sweeper is a common interpretation.
I guess a few reasons as to why people don’t quite so easily associate the rhyme actual Black people are:
Musta (lit. black) isn’t even that commonly used for black people. I’ve heard that tummaihoinen (lit. dark-skinned) is preferred, although I am not sure. Finnish racial politics are mostly skewed towards immigration, so actual racial monikers are rarer anyway.
Musta (lit. black) has the meaning of dirty and tarnished. If you say that “something is all black” in Finnish, you will mean it is covered in dust and soot and it needs to be cleaned. This goes a long way to explain the chimney sweeper interpretation of the rhyme.
Black people aren’t exactly plentiful in most places in Finland. If you live in the country side the ratio of all POC to ethnic Finns is probably without exaggeration as low as 1:200. In the cities the situation is different but I think 10% is probably too high an estimate. It is hard to say for sure, since the Finnish Census Bureau doesn’t keep racial statistics.
Obviously though, times change and people gather new ideas (and meet new people, more importantly for this case). What to me was a creepy but great game might ruin someone else’s day. So I went looking for what people have come up with:
“Who’s afraid of the octopus!?” (note: in Finnish octopus is mustekala or ink-fish)
“Who’s afraid of ice man?!”
“Who’s afraid of the forest troll?!”
“Who’s afraid of Groke?!”
The octopus one is the most common, and kind of clever since it ends up using the stem from the word black innocuously. Though, I must say I don’t feel like a flubbery octopus is even remotely as threatening as the faceless, oozing obsidian mannequin I conjured up in my mind, so that one doesn’t really satisfy me. An actual monster like the Iceman or a Troll is much, MUCH better.
“Who’s afraid of Slenderman?!”
That blog post has no comments as of this date (November 18, 2017).
I added line spaces to enhance the readability of that blog post.
Parents slam school over 'racist' game
17 October 2011
"The parents of children who attend a primary school in Valais in southern Switzerland have complained over the use of a game entitled "Who’s afraid of the black man?", a hide-and-seek game they argue is “racist".
Hedi Putallaz, the parent of a pupil at a primary school in Monthey first became aware of the game, used by teachers in a gymnastics class, back in 2010.
He complained to the head of the school, who instructed the teachers to suggest that the game should instead be called "The wolf in sheep’s clothing", according to a report in the La Tribune de Genève daily.
But in a recent class, one of Putallaz’s son’s teachers again suggested playing the game entitled "Who’s afraid of the black man?"
According to the head of the school, the staff member concerned was an external coordinator, so he was not aware of the directive.
This was however the final straw for Putallaz and his wife, who is of afro-American origin. Now the couple want the educational authorities in Valais to issue an “official directive” to change the name of the game in all the schools in the canton, where it is still widely used.
“The Valais should not be considered the Mississipi of Switzerland,” say the parents in their request to the cantonal authorities because they consider the game to be a throwback to a racist past many blacks had to overcome.
“If the game was called ‘Are you afraid of the Jew’or ‘of the homosexual’, how would people react?” Putallaz said.
Jean-François Lovey, chief of the Department of Education of Valais, is yet to review, but he told La Tribune de Genève that he does not see the situation in the same way: “Honestly, it is a harmless game,” he said.
“The reasoning of these parents shows the extreme [political] correctness of our society,” Lovey added.
The Putallaz family is now awaiting a resolution from the educational authorities in Valais, but they have already warned that if their petition is not accepted, they will bring the issue in front of the European Court of Human Rights."
I don't know what the outcome was for this formal complaint.
Jamiere Abney; Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Who's afraid of the black man...
"Apparently this is children's game here in Europe (Germany/Austria?). So here's the story...
Marvin, Jose, and I are driving on our way to a local school where we are teaching kids the fundamentals of flag football to build the relationship between the Seals football club and local youth. We were discussing drills or games we could have the kids do today during the hour or so we have with them. We talk about different versions of tag using the flags vs just taggin the individual or playing some type of capture the flag type game w/ the football being the "flag". Then Marvin explains to us a tag like game, similar to something I've played w/ a twist. It's call "Who's afraid of the black man". What makes it hilarious is that Marvin is a black guy from Austria and apparently growing up he often played this and would be the sole individual picked as the "tagger" since he was the fastest growing up. The basic rules of the game are as such:
The game begins w/ a single tagger ("the black man" or Marvin, an actual black man in this case lol)
The sole tagger tags others who then also become taggers or "black men"
The initial single tagger states: "who's afraid of the black man". The group responds: "Nobody" . The tagger then says: "What will you do if he chases you". And the group shouts: "run". And the game of tag begins.
Now this sounds somewhat horrible, but we all died laughing at the cheer irony that A) Marvin often was the initial tagger at his school and B) that this game was allowed to be played at all w/ a name and back/forth responses like that. Ahh good times w/ my roommates.”
Posted by Jamiere Abney at 1:23 PM
A photograph of Jamiere Abney is placed next to his name attesting to the fact that this writer is a Black man.
From http://schouweiler.ecole.lu/projets/comenius/schollyardgames/germany/game_1.htm Schoolyard Games from Germany
Who is afraid of the big "black man" (It's a synonym for one child.)
It's a game for 10 - 40 children. There is a field like a rectangular.The "black man" is standing on one side of the rectangular. The children are standing opposite of the man.The man calls:"Who is afraid of the big "black man ?" The children answer: "Nobody !" Than they run to that "black man" and try to pass him without being caught by him. The children who were caught by the man belonge to the team of the "black man" now. the last child who wasn't caught is the winner."
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