Writing against racism | culture | DW

The 42-year-old Afro-German Topka Ojit is a well-known author and perhaps the most famous coach in Germany when it comes to criticizing racism. Her debut title, “Getting Out of RACISM. Learning to Think Critically About Racism” was a bestseller in 2017.

However, in the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and global protests, I wrote the following angry post on Instagram: “I receive hundreds of press inquiries these days. Like all of my colleagues. Most of them start with ‘Does racism exist in Germany, and what are your experiences with racism?’ In Germany, we are stuck in the same miserable, endless loop over and over again. I am summoned by these exact questions, to Hanau, to Chemnitz. Every time the same questions arise. Guess what: It’s racist to ask if There was still racism in Germany.”

Ojit is not alone in experiencing this frustration. An increasing number of publications have focused on (everyday) racism in Germany in recent years – thus increasingly ending up in bestseller lists. The first important lesson: Racism doesn’t start with the neo-Nazis – and it doesn’t end with them.

Love, patience, anger and terror

In 2008, Bavarian artist and activist Noah Sue published Deutschland Schwarz Weiss, a critical book on everyday racism that has become the standard work of teaching and discussing structural racism in Germany. Updated in 2018 for its 10th anniversary, the book not only explores the topic in depth but also very humorously, yet without denying or downplaying the core of violent racism: “Racism is not about discrimination, for example because of an understanding or being ‘foreign'” the culture. Black does not mean immigrants or vice versa. The fact that black Germans are also affected by this distinction makes it clear that it is not a matter of ‘expatriation’ either.

Several journalists have been among the authors of recent years: Ann Chebo, from Nuremberg, published “Ananleitung zum Schwarzsein” (Instructions for Being Black) in 2014.

In 2020, Cologne journalist Alice Husters hit the bestseller list with the quote “What whites don’t want to hear about racism but should know.” Very personal, authoritative, but also without hiding anger and frustration, she identifies the sources of racism in everyday life: in language, at school, looking at the body, in the family and yes, also in love. A letter to her imaginary white friend says:Sometimes it will hit me easily. Sometimes, like you, I forget that you are white and that I am black. I will pass your neglect on to you and me whiteness take as a shield. With you by my side I will be taken more seriously, that I can even imagine with you traveling to Russia – or to Saxon Switzerland.”

Bestseller Alice Husters

Pioneering Afro-German Consciousness: Mai Ayim

One could sarcastically say that racism has a long tradition all over the world. Fortunately, racism is also criticized. In post-war Germany, this is partly due to the writer and poet Mai Ayim. Born in Hamburg in 1960 and raised in Münster, Aim found a new home in Berlin after completing his studies. Here, along with other activists, such as historian and poet Katharina Auguntoy, she founded the Initiative for Blacks in Germany (ISD), which is still active nationally today as a lobby for blacks in Germany.

Renaming the streets in Berlin

Appreciation in Berlin: in 2010 the name Gröbenufer was changed to Berlin

In “Bekennen Farb”, published by Ayim and Oguntoye with feminist Dagmar Schultz, Afro-German was introduced as a term and then taken up by society. Since the 1980s, identity formation, historical awareness and the exchange of experiences have created different platforms and forms in which Afro-Germans communicate in Germany.

Online and offline activity to raise awareness of anti-racism

Not only publications, but also activity via social networks is a central element in the struggle for greater awareness of racist structures and mechanisms. Aminata Bailey is another key player in Germany. Curator, fashion reporter and influencer from Schleswig-Holstein campaigns for the black community in Germany. He represents her, for example, as the face of a famous brand in the field of cosmetics.

Aminata Bailey, photo.

Present in advertising, media and the Internet: Journalist and facilitator Aminata Bailey

A large number of podcasts such as “Feuer & Brot” by Alice Husters and Maximilian Haack, “Halby Catoffel” with Berlin journalist Frank Jung or “Tupodcast” by Tupoka Ogette sometimes treat racism as a central topic, sometimes incidentally. There are always views that are often overlooked in many German media outlets. These are issues that concern a large percentage of the German population, because more than 25 percent in this country have a history of immigration.

Literature and politics

The work of British-German Ingeborg Bachmann Prize winner Sharon Duduwa Otto has attracted a lot of attention. Her literary works feature plenty of ambiguous intelligence and spirit – and a sense of subtle racism. Her first novel, “Adas Raum”, was published in 2021 and tells the stories of different women across centuries, continents, and narrative traditions. It campaigns against racism on several levels.

Cover of the book We Can Be More Than Aminata Touré.

Politician and author: Aminata Touré

One would think that 2021 is the year of black women in Germany. After all, the first black member of the Bundestag, Oet Tsphaissos, moved to the German parliament. Had it not been for the bitter aftertaste, 2021 seemed to be a bit later than that. Another important voice is the politician Aminata Toure. As Deputy Speaker of the Schleswig-Holstein Parliament, the 29-year-old presented a book on her family’s history in 2021. She is the first African-German and the youngest female deputy speaker of a German state parliament.

The long way to reduce racism

Tupoka Ogette’s new book “And Now You. Live Critically Against Racism” by Penguin Verlag was released in March 2022. In it, Ogette relives a few years of anti-racist training and education, and notes positive things, but also many loopholes. Ogette would like to provide answers to the question, what do you do.

Cover of the book And Now You by Tupoka Ogette.

Tupoka Ogette offers practical guidance on how to live a life that criticizes racism

The main conclusion is that racism is an issue for everyone, not just those who suffer from it. This treatment must take place at the structural and institutional level, but also at the individual level. In the book, Ogette gives many motivations about what each individual and organization can do. Essentially, white people should choose to look at their racism — and change it.

Diversity Theme Day: On Tuesday, May 31, 2022, from 08:00 UTC, the German TV program will tackle the topic of ‘Diversity’.

Leave a Comment