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Gardner, R.A. (1975). "The Kids all Call Me Schwartzer". Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:125-134.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:125-134

"The Kids all Call Me Schwartzer"

Review by:
Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

Phyllis Harrison-Ross, M.D., and Barbara Wyden. The Black Child—A Parents' Guide

New York: Peter H. Wyden Inc., 1973.

IN 1960, WHEN I BEGAN a two year stint as a U.S. Army psychiatrist in West Germany, I treated a seven-year-old black boy, the son of a sergeant. One day he came into the session quite downcast. "What's the matter Hardret?" I asked. "The kids all call me Schwartzer (German: black man, or when used pejoratively: nigger)." Whereas the name Hardret was practically unknown in the west Bronx where I grew up, the term Schwartzer (needless to say, in the derogatory sense only) was in general use. When I arrived in Germany I was somewhat amused by the many German-speaking mulatto children I saw–children borne of German mothers and American fathers. In my scheme of things, black kids just weren't supposed to be able to speak German, which was close to the Yiddish of my childhood. But Hardret's complaint provided me with a new surprise. The white German children too (despite the Germans' criticism of American bigotry) were using the same word Schwartzer for the same purpose. I might add parenthetically that the German boast of freedom from prejudice against blacks disappeared rapidly as these youngsters grew old enough to enter the labor market.

There was little I could do for Hardret. His father was in the racist army of a racist country. And in Europe, as well as in his native country, his black skin brought him the scorn of others. There seemed to be no escape. And so I offered him my sympathy and tried to focus on his ostensibly unrelated presenting problems, which I felt more comfortable dealing with.

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