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Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

New study compares levels of prejudice, racism and discrimination in several European countries

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A new study by by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and University Bielefeld compared levels and nature of prejudice against immigrants, ethnic-cultural minorities, Jews, Muslims, women, gay men and lesbian women, homeless and disabled people in several European countries. Eight countries were selected for the study: Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Hungary. The results are alarming.

These are some results of the study:

50,4% of the Europeans somewhat or strongly agree that “there are too many immigrants” in their country. This statement indicates a generalized and blind rejection of immigrants.

24.5% supposes that “Jews have too much influence in [country]“. Here, a traditional facet of anti-Semitism appears that mirrors anti-Semitic conspiracy myths.

54.4% of the Europeans believe that “the Islam is a religion of intolerance.” This makes obvious that many Europeans share a generalized negative image of the Islam (and of Muslims as the agreement to additional statements reveals).

Nearly one third (31,3%) of the Europeans somewhat or strongly agree that “there is a natural hierarchy between black and white people”. Thus, they agree to a very blatant and direct statement indicating the belief in ethnic hierarchies legitimised by implied natural differences.

A majority of Europeans of 60.2% stick to traditional gender roles that result in economical and power gender inequality as they are demanding that “women should take their role as wives and mothers more seriously.”

42,6% deny equal value of gay men and lesbian women and judge homosexuality as ‘immoral’.

Download the press release and short report here.


Blackface Journalism

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In a new film, German investigative journalist Günther Wallraff “has a makeup artist cover him in dark brown makeup, he wears brown contact lenses and he dons an afro wig. Then, using the alias Kwami Ogonno, he takes a trip across Germany to discover for himself what it’s like to be black in Germany” (SpOn).

He apparently didn’t think it was more approriate to simply ask black Germans. Instead, he hired a make-up artist, a camera team, he dressed up as an “African” and  went on to release a book and a movie. Supported by predominantly positive media coverage, this concept is a box office hit. Germans seem to be startled: ‘Racism, here?’ – it’s something most people seem to be blatantly ignorant of, unless they are told by a white guy.

The international site of Spiegel Online reports citically:

There’s just one odd thing about the movie: If Wallraff really wanted to find out what it’s like to live as a black in Germany, why didn’t he take the time to let any blacks living in Germany answer the question? […]

Black Germans are on the fence about the film. “We find the mindset behind Mr. Wallraff’s film very problematic,” says Tahir Della, a spokeswoman from the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD). “As is so often the case, someone is speaking forrather than with us.” Noah Sow, an educator and musician associated with the media watchdog organization Der braune Mob (The Brown Mob), even goes so far as to accuse Wallraff of “making money from our suffering” regardless of whether he “really intends to combat (racism) or not.” […]

The main criticism levied against Wallraff’s film is that it fails to portray the debate about racism against blacks in Germany as being as advanced as it really is. For example, Della criticizes the film for “making absolutely no mention” of how much blacks in Germany have organized themselves. “We’re happy that racism is discussed,” he says, “but black groups have been doing the same thing for over 25 years.”

Sow has a similar criticism. “Wherever you look,” he [sic] says, “whether it’s in academia, publishing or the annual reports of anti-discrimination offices, knowledge about everyday racism is present — and accessible with the click of a mouse.” He adds that: “Whites just have to stop ignoring and doubting these findings.” As he sees it, the only reason Wallraff succeeds in drawing attention to the plight of Kwami Ogonno is that he is “privileged in the racist system (over) research results, publications and testimonials produced by blacks.”

Update: see Noah Sow trying to earn a buck by dressing up as Wallraff here.

Written by henrik

November 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Can Germany ‘afford’ a gay foreign minister? Or will it hurt relations with Muslim countries?

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– two often-debated questions in Germany after the recent federal elections. Following the victory of the conservative-liberal coalition, it is customary for the head of the smaller coalition party (the liberals) to become vice chancellor and foreign minister.

The head of the liberals is Guido Westerwelle. Now, in my opionion, there is a lot that is wrong with Westerwelle becoming FM: Be it his inexperience and previous indifference to international affairs, his political stance and style, as well as his apparent gaucheness on the international stage.

The more central question for many commentators, however, seems to be whether Westerwelle as an openly homosexual political can represent Germany as a Foreign Minister in Muslim countries.

Why wouldn’t he?

Diplomacy is probably the most pragmatic policy field. Quite regularly, countries or groups who are in the midst of the fiercest political conflicts, still maintain diplomatic relations. Just think of the close political contact of the US and the USSR throughout the Cold War, despite their existential ideological battle. You see the point: diplomacy is about interests and therefore mostly blind to ideology.

Why would that be any different with two countries that maintain friendly relations like, say, Germany and Saudi Arabia? Simply because of the sexual orientation of one country’s representative? Should the Saudi foreign minister be criticised at home for shaking the hand of a homosexual, his answer would simply be: do you want to jeopardize trade relations with one of our most important partners?

A statement from an official of the Turkish foreign ministry seems to confirm this. He told the Turkish paper Milliyet that, while there is no rule of protocol in case Westerwelle as German FM would bring his partner, “a middle way will be found”.

As much as I disagree with Westerwelle representing my country from a political point of view, I would love to see his appointment create some cracks the foundation of the alleged Gay/Muslim faultline.

You do NOT consider this racist?!

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Obama fingers” on sale in Germany

DEU Obama Fingers

The sales manager obviously didn’t get what’s wrong with this:

The idea, she claimed, was to get in on the Obama-mania which is continuing to grip Germany. The word “fingers” in the name refers to the fact that it is a finger food. “It’s like hotdogs,” Witting said. “No one would ever think they are actually from dogs.”

Full article here.

Written by henrik

March 18, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Germany, Racism

Gays against immigrants? – the ‘nationalisation’ of gay rights

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Darkmatter recenty had an excellent post on a topic that has interested me for a while: it is about how sexual tolerance is becoming a tool that is used to present immigrant groups in Germany as inferior.

Darkmatter picks up a report from the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on a report on the issue: 

According to Süddeutsche, the study showed that ‘migrant kids in particular strongly rejected homosexuality’, and that German kids were more likely to be weltoffen, that is, open minded or cosmopolitan. While on the one hand all migrant subjects are hereby constituted as a single category – that is, not German and hence not weltoffen – there is at the same time a hierarchy constructed within the migrant community through the problematization of religion.

and examines the report against the backgrop of the “integration discourse”

The question of open-mindedness (Weltoffenheit) is directly linked to the question of ‘integration’: those marked out by a religious identity are considered unable or unwilling to integrate. German values (symbolized, of course, by ‘cosmopolitan’ Berlin, the nation’s moral as well as political capital) are accordingly placed under threat by Islamic migrants. 

The conclusion is that

Homophobia is thus simultaneously nationalized and racialized. In an act of audacious historical revisionism, Germany becomes equated with gay rights (as an expression of its general regard for ‘human rights’), while Islam is constituted as homophobic (and thus outside a discourse of ‘human rights’). Gay rights are thus mobilized in anti-immigration discourse as a key signifier of European cultural superiority, as (white) gay Germans assert their membership of the national community through the construction of the figure of the homophobic Muslim.


As gay rights become articulated to the nation and used as markers of European, Western or ‘civilizational’ superiority, they are simultaneously becoming detached from their historical relation to a left-wing politics. Borders and battle lines that were once thought set and certain in our wars of position are suddenly revealed to be in flux, as political antagonisms are more than ever before ‘being formulated in terms of moral categories’, and the seductive lexicon of liberation struggles is mined by a variety of dubious social actors intent on providing for themselves a veneer of ethical legitimacy. As sexuality has come to play a major role in shaping dominant Western attitudes towards cultural difference, scholars and activists the world over are becoming starkly aware of the normative racial bias in hegemonic forms of sexual politics.

Darkmatter adds an extensive overview of the connection between postcolonialism and sexuality in the context of counterterrorism and national assertion against multiculturalism. It reveals the ‘whiteness’ of theories on sexuality and the implicit racism that comes with it. It worth reading.

It notable in this context that anti-immigrant discourses from the right seem to be quite pragmatic in incorporating rather leftist political issues and constituencies for the purpose of creating a national identity against immigrants or cultural difference – not only when it comes to sexuality. Another example is the  the sudden embracement of animal rights against halal Muslim practices of slaughtering, or also the conservative flirt with women’s rights and laicism used to alienate Muslims  – by a party that calls itself “Christian Democrats” (see Jytte Klausen‘s excellent book about it).

Immigrant Violence: Not ethnicity but social class is the issue

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One of the biggest media frenzies in Germany last year was created by the populist re-election campaign of conservative state governor Roland Koch. Back then, Koch said Germany was facing the problem of too many “criminal young foreigners.” He made his central campaign statement that “foreigners who don’t stick to our rules don’t belong here.”  

In the campaign, Koch tapped into longstanding xenophobic sentiments in Germany. He used latently racist language, using the word “Ausländer” (foreigner) as term generally referring to immigrants, and he argued that ethnic minorities need to accept and assimilate into the country’s predominant “Christian-Occidental culture.” (find an overview of the debate here)

While Koch was not successful with his campaign because he put off moderate conservatives with his overly right-wing tone, he did achieve one thing: for months, the issue of “violent young foreigners” made headlines and it became a truism in the public debate that “foreigner” or immigrant youths are more criminal than non-immigrant youths.

In a recent interview with the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Bernd Holzhausen from the German Youth Institute puts the debate into wider perspective, not only looking at the immediately visible aspect of race/ethnicity, but also taking gender and social class into account.

Holzhausen rejects the racial distinction between white non-immigrant youth and “foreigners” as useless. In a more differentiated analysis of ethnic background, male youths with a Turkish background are more prone to be involved in violent acts than others. This, according to Holzhausen, is due to masculine gender roles in Turkish immigrant families that legitimize violence.

Yet: The predominant finding is that most perpetrators have a low level of education and come from low-income families. Taking this factor into account, the level of violent offences levels out between “Germans” and “foreigners.”

This is not to deny that there is youth criminality and violence (on a steady level; not rising dramatically as suggested by the popular media in Germany). But looking at it from a wider angle relativises the “ethnic content” of the issue, and it fundamentally questions conclusions that demand cultural assertion, such as ‘being tough on immigration’, ‘asserting Christian-Orthodox German values’ or ‘deporting perpetrators’ (whereto anyway?). 

Instead it points to issues such as spatial segregation, social status of immigrants and the three-tiered school system that reinforces these divisions.

Interview with Holzhausen in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German)
Website of the
German Youth Institute (in English)

Written by henrik

January 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm