Is something wrong with me? I am seriously concerned with this question. My parents are from Turkey. And yet I disagree with those people with a migration background who have recently joined Persons of Color (POC) and lament the allegedly omnipresent racism in Germany, smell it in every German who doesn’t Person of Color is. I know what discrimination feels like. I should think the same way, right? Why don’t i do this
But the inflationary racism diagnoses remain alien to me. To put it in an exaggerated way, the finding can be described as follows: All white Germans are racists, they take on their mother’s milk and early childhood socialization, and usually do not even notice it themselves. POC in Germany, on the other hand, are, as it were, as collective victims of collective racism exposed to white Germans.
Most of the young activists want to define what is racist and what is not – according to the motto “Now we talk and decide for ourselves”. Yes, it is good when the majority society is quiet for a moment and listens to the stories that members of minorities have to tell, when men remain silent and hear what women experience as marginal, humiliating, derogatory. In the meantime, however, an unmanageable number of attitudes and actions are diagnosed as “racist”, every experience of rejection, rejection or criticism is related to origin and the right to prohibit whites from speaking on this subject is derived from one’s own experience of discrimination. This is how legitimate criticism of racism is exploited.
Many many no longer know how to behave
As keenly as it is now being waged, the racism debate will not help to reduce injustice. On the contrary: it hardens the fronts, as I have noticed in my private and professional life. The impartial togetherness becomes more difficult; out of fear of being denounced as a racist, many no longer know how to behave, which topics they are allowed to address and what they should not ask.
“Where are you from?” Strangers I get into conversation with refrain from asking me that because it is also considered racist. But I like to explain my origins and sometimes even without asking. I am the daughter of Turkish migrant workers, have lived in this country since I was eight, am now 55 years old, and my origins have played a role for as long as I can remember. My sense of belonging does not depend on whether others admit it to me; I therefore do not consider the question of origin to be exclusive.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced marginalization; many things were very exhausting and stressful, as I can see in retrospect. But: Would it have been much better in Turkey or in another country? It is not a German phenomenon that people, be it because of different social, religious and ethnic origins, or because of different lifestyles, are viewed as unequal and unequal, that they are therefore exposed to hostile attitudes and, at a further level, unfortunately, psychological and physical attacks . Unfortunately, there are prejudices against supposedly foreigners, exclusion and hostility up to violence everywhere.
The direction and tone of the criticism of racism is determined by a young, academically educated generation who, on the one hand, insist not to be reduced to their origin, but to be perceived as “from here”, but on the other hand to pursue identity politics themselves – not only through self-description as people of color but also in celebrating elements from the culture of origin. Politically problematic is the moral superiority that is derived from being affected without renouncing resentment or marginalization. “Your home is our nightmare” is the title of a volume of essays that brings together important authors of the new disintegration debate, such as Fatma Aydemir, Hengameh Yagoobifahrah and Max Czollek.
In Germany there is exclusion and violence against minorities, yes. But it is a free and democratic country, racism is frowned upon in the political, economic and social elites, and minorities are protected by the Basic Law. Is that supposed to be a nightmare?
Some descendants of migrant workers act as if their grandparents and parents had been brought here as forced laborers. But it was the economic and social hardship in the country of origin that led to people leaving their homeland. I am grateful, for example, that my parents emigrated to Germany. In Turkey my two sisters and I would not have had the chances we got here.
In the meantime, however, I have the impression that it is frowned upon as a POC to identify with this country and to feel in good hands here. In any case, I do not want to live in any other country because I am convinced that the democratic system still works best here and that I am a realist. A society without hierarchies, a country where everything is going well, is a utopia.
There was and is a lot to complain about
So that there is no misunderstanding: Not everything went well with the offers for participation. There was and is a lot to complain about in terms of society and politics. Criticism is justified, but aggressiveness is only partially helpful. The bad talk of this society and the bashing of entire professional groups such as police officers, the contemptuous designation of autochthonous Germans as “Almans” or as potatoes, may be good for empowering one another, but it does not generate any constructive discourse. It is well known that communication between people works much better if one does not shout, accuse and bombard the other person with accusations; that makes you tight and impervious to legitimate criticism.
Experience says: Anger does not offer a good set of instruments for change processes. Anger breaks a lot. The general accusation of racism does not simply brand active racists or carefree insensitive people, but also offends all those who are of good will but do not know the – often elitist – language codes of the new anti-racists.
How seldom migration occurs in school as part of world history, how few mechanisms of discrimination and racism are explained, is something I experience again and again in my courses. Diversity, with all of its advantages and challenges, is a reality that is not adequately conveyed and which too often is presented primarily as a problem. This needs to be changed so that resentment does not determine the situation or lead to crime. To do this, people have to learn to think from different perspectives. In this way knowledge and empathy can be built. But not by banning a large part of society from speaking.
Canan Topçu is a publicist and teaches at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences.