I’m afraid I’m again suffering from a bit of racism overkill (mixed with a hint of white people fatigue), so this clearly isn’t a nuanced analysis, this is exasperation talk. Racism is a world-wide problem, it is a world-wide structure of systematic oppression, and, if only due to personal experiences, things are far from being fine and peachy everywhere else.
And yet, today, this would be my (non-exhaustive) experience-summary of germany’s explicit racism in 2012 so far:
Only in germany…
... is protest against Blackfacing white actors brushed aside as “USian” political correctness and it is possible to state that Black ensemble members don’t make sense for any theater company anyway, due to a lack of “Black roles,” and cultural and theater critics and the general public heartily agree.
… is it perfectly acceptable to be unaware of any form of colonial history and to essentially negate related genocides by stating that the planned murder of people had happened too early to be classified as a genocide anyway – again, to general agreement. Does anyone recognize the bitter irony of stating that anything regarding genocides that happened before 1955 in germany, when this country implemented the UN convention, doesn’t really count? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!
… do people think that we’ve talked about the Holocaust long enough and people really should move on now, because past. Yeah, tell that to Jasper von Altenbockum, who thinks that even fascist pogroms have their perks; and anti-Semitic murder phantasies as “Death of a critic” by Martin Walser may have been called out by former friends (this is when FAZ’s Frank Schirrmacher actually had something valuable to say), but continued to be bestsellers, not ten years ago. Günter Grass just won’t shut the fuck up either.
… does it seem possible that one of the biggest and well-respected national daily newspapers commemorates the 20th anniversary of a fascist pogrom by stating that it had its upsides, namely putting “social romantics” who advocate human equality (…please!) in their place, and “opening up” the door to further immigration restrictions, without facing a substantial backlash and consequences for the author, who isn’t just an obscure guest columnist, but the actual editor in chief of the newspaper’s internal affairs department?
… does it not strike the country’s Federal President and other politicians as bitterly ironic to plant a german oak, a symbol of german nationalism and 18th and 19th century theories on organic national growth, always closely related to anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and quintessential “othering” to construct the artificial “We,” as a monument or sign against german fascism and racism. Only here is the commemorative speech of said Federal President a testimony to the perpetual “othering” of certain people traditionally not defined as “german,” and only here does this speech circle around constructing a false difference between racism and “xenophobia” and making the whole thing about immigration again. Nothing is a better indicator for the pervasiveness of Altenbockum’s way of thinking in various intensities, when even the Federal President’s Lichtenhagen speech can’t help but emphasize that germany may be an immigration country, but we really should have a conversation about said immigration’s scale.
… is it perfectly acceptable that employees of one of this country’s biggest companies and providers of basic infrastructure, Deutsche Bahn (german rail company), single out Black customers for racist remarks, and the company defends recurring racist harassment by aggressively ignoring the racism in obvious statements, and telling people that “white Africans” would have also been told that “trains in Africa move slower”, apparently. Sure, that happens to white people all the time – being told “You are [insert random adjective], and that’s because [something they have seen in a film about something about Africa].” I suppose Deutsche Bahn is too busy making deals with misogynists, right-wing extremists and Christian fundamentalists to think twice.
… is it not only a constantly practiced, but now perfectly legal strategy for police officers to racially profile people, and do police officers regularly sue non-white citizens and residents who have the audacity to point out their racism, without anyone giving a damn. The petition against racial profiling didn’t even draw half as many signatures as one of the fifty against Kristina Schröder. However, the appeal to the verdict that officially condoned racial profiling will be decided in October.
… does not even a fraction of the population care about the deaths of people like Ousman Sey or Oury Jalloh, have never even heard of them, and really don’t care, because 1) they’re not really “german,” because 2) they’re Black.
… are swastikas a normal thing painted or sprayed somewhere on the street, and do people ignore waves of right-wing violence and outright terrorism against buildings and other objects and people in Berlin while getting extremely upset about burning cars. Because that’s the same.
… can it be somehow forgotten already that right-wing extremists executed people throughout the country, planted nail bombs and were aided and abetted by a network of peers for a decade, while police and political officials either stood by or directly assisted them.
… do people think it is a valid argument that love trumps neo-Nazism, when a blonde white woman*, who happens to be an excellent rower and the girlfriend of a known, violent neo-Nazi, represents this country at the Olympics in London; never mind that she actually rather quit her career as a police woman (I should probably be grateful that at least one person close to right-wing extremists in the german police force thought so…) than not continue letting her boyfriend take photos of her, and other women* in “White Power”-shirts, for his well-known propaganda page, but states that she “of course” never had anything to do with any of her boyfriends’ circle of friends or political ideas. Of course. Funny how people fail to mention that the only possible way for her to enter this relationship and not be verbally and physcially attacked by him, was to be a white, blonde woman with the right passport – that’s what actually matters in true love, of course.
… is it acceptable that a bus driver in Berlin told a friend of mine, who was visiting from the US, speaks excellent german but who, oh noes!1!, is Black, when she misunderstood where the actual bus stop was and waved to the driver (and one could also mention that this was the night bus, i.e., a line that runs only every 30 minutes, thus the urgency…) before realizing that she had to run another 50m to the actual stop, that “We’re not in Africa.” It is also acceptable, when she tells the bus driver that she’s not from Africa, and that he’s a racist, that other passengers chime in to say that “We’re all human” and “Everyone makes mistakes,” instead of showing a little empathy for her – no, the bus driver is the actual victim here. Does that ring any bells, Deutsche Bahn?
… do people seriously claim that racism has nothing to do with white privilege in this country, but solely with the unique racist and anti-Semitic quality of “germanness.” Well, DUH, germanness has always been intrinsically linked to a white self-conception, and a self-conception that was built on “othering” – see german oaks. How people think theories of Critical Whiteness and/or anti-racism and a fight of anti-Semitism and german nationalism are mutually exclusive is beyond me. They’re linked. In a big ole’ clusterfuck. It’s not too difficult to see that.
I could go on. Nothing ever changes. I am having the same 101 racism debates over and over again, and people just. won’t. quit.
Yes, I know it’s a world-wide problem. It’s not just germany. But germany is exhausting in its aggressive ignorance towards racism and anti-Semitism, it’s proudly celebrated self-conception of a “purged” nation that rid itself of every form of discrimination because of the Holocaust. Um, nope, not even close. New german confidence, it’s a disturbing thing. But Queen Latifah is awesome.