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Schwarz. Deutsch. Weiblich.

“It was only through my studies, which began in 1998, that I became aware that neither the German media nor the German political sphere made a distinction between racism and right-wing extremism. Instead, racism was reduced to right-wing extremism, and racists were exclusively sought in the right-wing scene and not in the centre of society” (P. 153)

Natasha A. Kelly is an author, scholar and artist whose work always centres on Black, decolonial and feminist perspectives. She is the editor of the Schwarzer Feminismus: Grundlagentexte anthology (Published in 2019 by Unrast Verlag), which contains significant texts on the concept of intersectionality, some of which were published in German translation for the first time.

In her current book Schwarz. Deutsch. Weiblich – Warum Feminismus mehr als Geschlechtergerechtigkeit fordern muss (Black. German. Female – Why feminism must demand more than gender equality in English), which was published by Piper Verlag in 2023, Natasha A. Kelly traces the history of Black women in Germany, which she skilfully weaves together with her own life story. She tells of when and how she came into contact with important figures in Black, and particularly in Black German history, and the influence that these women had on her understanding of her own feminist identity.

Kelly brings in the biographies of these women in her book by dedicating a small paragraph to each of them. She briefly summarises the most significant stages of their lives, before going into more detail on the individual people and their significance in the context of Black history. Included in this are, among others, the U.S. American feminist Audre Lorde, who had a significant influence on the Black movement in Germany through her regular stays in Berlin, or the poet and activist May Ayim, whose experiences of racism experienced since childhood were expressed as a central theme in her writing.

Black history does not receive much attention in the German speaking realm, whether that be in history class, in the media or in politics. Kelly posits that German colonialism continues to be discussed primarily in comparison with British colonialism, and as such its own violence and significance are trivialised. In her book, Kelly sets out to portray the serious consequences of German colonialism. In doing so she not only deals with the colonial era itself, but also includes the treatment of Black people during the time of National Socialism, in post-war Germany, the former GDR and in the present.

For example, she tells the history of “Machbuba”, an Ethiopian girl who was acquired in the enslavement trade by Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau. Even today she continues to be falsely referred to as his beloved, which masks his abuse of power (An initiative offering postcolonial city tours in Cottbus also makes this clarification). Another example is the story of Lucia Engombe, who fled Namibia as a child and arrived in the GDR as a seven-year old, where she grew up in an orphanage. After the fall of the wall she and other children from the orphanage were deported back to Namibia, a foreign country to them.

Precisely by creating space for the supposedly individual fates, patterns in the treatment of Black women are revealed. In this way, she shows how structural racism in Germany works, and through the life stories of many women it becomes more tangible and approachable.

Schwarz. Deutsch. Weiblich. Is a personal and extremely important book. Not only does it offer an excellent overview of significant Black feminists and German history from a Black perspective, but it has also once again clearly shown me just how much I don’t know about Germany’s crimes. To know this and to understand the aftermath – this is made very clear in Kelly’s book – is an urgent need in the fight against racism.

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