Germany's 'Negerball' charity event forced to change ‘racist’ name after internet outcry

The organizers of a longstanding German charity fancy-dress ball dubbed “Negerball” decided to change the event’s name after it provoked a heated social media discussion following a complaint filed by one user, who called the ball’s name “racist.”

The annual event has been held for almost four decades in February in three small communities in the eastern part of German southern state of Bavaria to support children in Africa. The charity found itself in the center of a scandal after a social media user saw its Facebook page and said that the name “Negerball” is offensive and “extremely racist” as it includes the word “Neger.” It is a German equivalent for the English word “Negro” and is considered by some as neutral or mildly negative in connotation.

The social media user then demanded that the organizers of the event delete its Facebook pages in order not to “spread racism online” and lodged complaint with the social network. Facebook promptly deleted the event page.

The controversy also provoked a heated debate in the social media that lasted for several weeks. The negative publicity forced the organizers of the event that to take a decision to rename it starting next year.

The next fancy-dress ball that is scheduled to be held in 2018 will have another name, Klaus Lesche, a spokesman of the KiRiKi Initiative – the charity group that organizes the event – told Bavarian Radio broadcaster.

According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, the name of the event in the social media has been changed to “Negaball” so far. Lesche confirmed that the organizers regard it as a possible new name but said others are also under consideration.

The organizers stressed that they saw nothing wrong with the event’s historic name and their intentions were good.

“I think people on Facebook are overreacting. This event has taken place 36 times already. It is well-known under its current name and from a marketing perspective it would be stupid to change it now. It is not about defaming anyone or spreading racist language, it is about raising money to help people in Africa. Our project provides 1,300 children in Africa with schooling and we also give out free meals to motivate children to go to school,” Lesche told RT.

This year the ball that was held on February 18 and, was very successful, according to the organizers, who said it was attended by some 600 people. Some of the participants told RT that the allegations of racism were absurd.

“It’s ridiculous. The woman, who raised the complaint, should have learned more about the event first. The event organizers are collecting money for charity,” one participant said, while another one suggested that “the people who are complaining about our event just do not know anything about it.”

“It is sad to hear such absurd comments and for event like this to be receiving negative publicity,” another man attending the ball told RT.

“Negerball” started back in the 1981 as a charity event aimed at supporting the African people and was initially named “Youth dancing for Africa,” but soon the name was changed to “Negerball” as it was commonly used by participants.