Swedens Racist Pastry … Negroballs! [History/Society]

In Sweden, the word for the pastry chocolate balls, have been called ”negroballs” (negerbollar) since the first half of 1900’s. The first paper trail of this is an add in a Swedish newspaper from 1918, and in the mid 1950’s it was represented in several cookbooks. Around the late 1990’s more and more voices where raised in protest and a hope of getting a ban on that name and instead call it for what it is … chocolate balls. This is not a problem for 99,5% of the population, but of course we then have that 0,5%, you know the inbred rednecks who screams ”All lives matters” during the B.L.M protests, who refuse to call it something else, because ”we have always called it negroballs”. There was never a legal ban, but a recommendation for cafés to change its name. But of course every year there’s a hillbilly store somewhere out in bumfuck Sweden that puts up that sign, and once again the debate blows up in media. Seriously, how f**kin hard could it be to respect other people?

At the bottom of this page you can read a short entry about the history behind the topic.

The first paper trail of the word “negroballs” is an add in a Swedish newspaper from 1918

On a forum I read a really good reply from a Afro-Swede that replied to a comment on this topic. I have tried to translate it here down below, but have removed certain things that gets lost in translation. If you know Swedish, you can read the original post here.

White male:
I do not understand why someone would take the word ”negroballs badly… in that case they have their other problems they should take care of instead of wanting to get some exposure in a newspaper about this.

Yes, what psychological insight you seem to have regarding the minds of brown and black Swedes. It would be nice if you could be a spokesperson for us who are brown and black because we do not know what we want and are just looking for attention.

We hardly got any attention when we were growing up. Except from the rednecks that chased me home from school for two years because they wanted to beat the N*gger, was the other constant chant I heard apart from ”The Devil Negro” and ”…..” comments, the call for me to go “home”, I do not know what, some fictitious Negro country maybe. Or my favorite from my redneck captain when I served my country in the army who most consciously and disrespectfully towards an entire continent used the word Negro in a negative sense when he spoke of African soldiers. Or when he allowed other soldiers to say n*gger to me when without reprimands (on the other hand, he allowed me to slap the other guy in the mouth, so that was fair). Too bad only for the “negroes” who could not cope.

Markus, a proud pastry chef with a giant plate of chocolate balls.
He has nothing to do with the text on this page.

You know, it does not work so well for brown and black Swedes to on one hand be called ”devil n*gger” or ”n*gger whore” and then completely let go of both the historical and immediate negativity in the name invented by European people and completely happily go to a café and order a cup of coffee and a ”negroball”. Its not that fun when you have children and read about princesses with blond long hair but where every picture of “negroes” is demeaning and paint them as a stupid and primitive people.

So there is a postcolonial imagery whose tradition Sweden also manages, that not even I myself was aware of until I moved away from Sweden and started talking about Swedish traditions and memories with people that are not from Sweden. People who do not think it is obvious that chocolate can be described as “negro” or that a stereotype Chinese face should be reproduced on the package as in the Swedish chocolate ”China puffs.” This stereotypical imagery originated in the United States and came about during a time when blacks could not even use the same toilet as a white man under the American Jim Crow laws (read more about Jim Crow here) that did not disappear until 1965. After World War II, Japanese were demonized as yellow and ugly people with big teeth and it was the same during the Vietnam War. Much like Islamists are described today with bomb turbans and as notorious misogynists. These racist symbols have since been abandoned in the United States to the relief of people of African and Asian descent. Muslims are still fighting. What’s it like to be constantly misrepresented? A good comparison might be that as a white German constantly have to be associated as a Nazi. As a bit of a lesser known fact, it can be mentioned that the last forced sterilization of a Sami (Swedens native people) woman was committed in 1967 as part of an ethnic cleansing in the Nordic countries, so it is not the case that we in the Nordic countries are innocent of historical and brutal racism.

The man on this picture has nothing to do with the text down below.

So what do I mean by “a postcolonial imagery”, and expressions such as “white normativity” and other academically sounding words. As an example of white normativity let’s talk about hair. For a little girl growing up, a “negro kid” as she might be described by you and others (my daughter), her image of what is beautiful, like many other little girls, is long hair. Already at the age of 4, she often cries and is upset that she does not have the same beautiful “princess hair” as her Chinese, Indian and European peers (we live in Northern California in one of the most multiculturally concentrated areas in the United States). Almost every night when she takes off her sweater, she pulls it over her head, leaves the sweater sitting so that it hangs “like hair”, and then asks repeatedly, urging affirmatively, “look what beautiful long hair I have dad”. It may sound like a small thing and it might have been if it had happened a few times. But it’s almost every day for almost six months and it’s heartbreaking as a parent. Sure, it will pass, but the very knowledge that she is doing this because she does not see her own hair as beautiful because it has a different character is very sad. Even the black Disney princess has long wavy hair. To get such hair when you are of African descent, you must either shock it with chemicals (straight perm) and or use so-called “Hot combs”, heat the hair and dissolve the curls with the help of Vaseline-like hair product, which takes several hours a day (which my grandmother’s generation did regularly, not to look too much like “negroes”). It is a tradition that continues today around the world, especially in the southern United States. The natural appearance of black people is seen as too primitive and “uneducated”. Black women spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars a month to hide their African hair. A perm costs about $ 500 each time and many go every week and fix their hair.

So there you have the “Negro” association for a culturally Swedish man of partly (American) African birth. An opinion other than your own. Which do you think should be promoted? Your own statement where you have already decided for us what we think and that we ourselves should be confronted with “our problems”? Or is there room for other opinions? However, you are right that we have problems. Unfortunately I can not fix them myself and it no longer works to clench my fist in my pocket, swallow hard and shut up? I have tried it for almost 40 years now… it is getting harder I can tell you that.

I’m thinking like this, maybe it’s not such a big deal to stop using the word “negro” or ”negroballs”, because it is both outdated and simply insulting as it is perceived by us, people of color.

So, what do you say?

A recipe for “Barnens negerbollar (the childrens negroballs)”
appears in the newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet on December 14, 1943

History of the Chocolate Ball

Article from the Swedish version of Wikipedia

Chocolate ball, also coconut ball or oat ball, is an unbaked pastry, the main ingredients of which are oatmeal, sugar and cocoa, often garnished with coconut flakes, powdered sugar or sprinkles. Chocolate balls are common as homemade goodies and are included in the standard range at Swedish cafes.

An older name for chocolate ball is “negro ball”. The Language Council advises against using this term because the word Negro can be perceived as derogatory. The Swedish dictionary states that the word negerboll can be perceived as offensive.

A recipe for “Barnens negerbollar (the childrens negroballs)” appears in the newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet on December 14, 1943. A similar recipe for “oatmeal balls” appears in the Danish book “Opfindsomhed in a time of crisis” from the same year.

Pastries with names such as chocolate ball and negro ball have occurred before but apply to other types of pastries than what is today called chocolate ball. In 1918, the term appeared in an advertisement in Svenska Dagbladet, where a company sold confectionery – including Negro balls – in boxes. These negro balls (the contents of which are not described, but in the same ad also marketed “chocolate coconuts”) were sold in 1.5-kilo cartons containing about 300 pieces.

The use of the word “negro ball” in writing has decreased since the beginning of the 2000s (for example in recipe books and on café menus) as the word “negro” has come to be perceived as derogatory. The Language Council and the Swedish Academy recommend not to name the pastry that way. In the Swedish Academy’s dictionary, the word “negerboll” was first introduced in the 11th edition, which was published in 1986. In the 13th edition of the Swedish Academy’s dictionary, which was published in 2006, “chocolate ball” was included for the first time. The word “negro ball” remained, but with the recommendation “Use chocolate ball” instead. In the fourteenth edition (2015) Negro ball is not included.

A patisserie in Sjöbo, a small southern Swedish town that called the pastry “negerboll” was reported in 2003 for Ethnic Discrimination (DO). The review was canceled as the complainant was not personally offended. The DO believes, however, that the name should not be used because “the word Negro is strongly associated with slavery, oppression and lack of respect for the equal value of human beings”.