“I love Südländer men” was one of the most common messages I received while still on dating apps, often as the icing on the cake to complete the recipe. Apparently it was seen as a compliment to some, but to me it was downright offensive. It only showed how the lack of racial discourse in Germany failed to educate people that racial fetishization was not a suave thing and that it was blatant objectification. I was never part of the macho and aggressive stereotype of the Südländer they had in their fantasies and I never wanted to be, much to the disappointment of my suitors.
Conversations about race can be very difficult in Germany, even in our city which people consider to be one of the most open-minded and egalitarian places in the world. Self-defense reactions to discussions about race and the complete rejection of the conversation have led our society to define racism differently from other parts of the world, creating multiple misconceptions about it. Some of these experiences of racism in Berlin are recounted in a series of short video portraits titled DIRE-Logues by BlackBrownBerlin co-founder Chanel Knight. Established in 2018, BlackBrownBerlin aims to empower POC communities in Berlin and beyond, and to speak out against discrimination and misrepresentation. You can read our previous interview with them here to learn more about their history, mission and activities.
“…when i have had conversations about breed it is usually, the answer i got is a lot of defensiveness, “I’m a good person, I would never do that, I got holocaust education in school, we learned all about these things” and that they’re done, and that there hasn’t been a lot of continuing education on these things… ”says Yvette Robertson, a common reaction you would encounter in a conversation about breed. Either way, racial discourse is limited only to the atrocities of the Nazi era and there is no room for other means of racism or how to combat them.
There have been times when I have been left out of a racist experience because it would either be an exaggeration or my own misunderstanding of the situation when I am telling the story. Later, I discovered that I was not alone in my situation. This is mainly due to the fact that the definition of racism has evolved differently in Germany compared to other parts of the world, and non-aggressive forms of racism such as racial fetishization, racial compliments and “positive” generalizations that seem so innocuous. that they do not let the victim know how to respond, are not well known to society.
Faris Amin, Palestinian cellist and classical storyteller, talks about his experiences with racism in Berlin and how it can affect every part of your life;
“So racism is a problem in Berlin as much as it is a problem anywhere else, I would say the peculiarity of racism in Berlin is that it is very subtle, it can be quite visible and physical but most of the time it is is subtle and that’s what chokes me sometimes, makes me feel like I can’t breathe somehow because there is no respect, no recognition in the city, there is a general atmosphere of confusion that the city is going through, maybe a period of transition, where people are trying to understand who are these people who come to live in our country, in our space, for some it is maybe to be as if we are invading their space, then them, there are different reactions to that.
Racism does not have to be physical, verbal, or overtly aggressive. We experience it in very subtle ways when we take the train home, go to a store, or just go through a bureaucratic process. It can be found encoded in the way people interact with you, sometimes complete rejection of your existence in a queue, avoiding eye contact, rolling eyes for not speaking the language effectively enough, ignoring a question or just throw a passive aggressive “nein”. To attribute such behavior to a Berlin prototype or to the city in general would be an understatement. Long, friendly conversations and big smiles are not unheard of in the city, it all depends on where you are from and how you look.
Community organizer Vicky Truong explains how cultural integration and anti-racism progress work in Berlin.
“… They still see it as a term more anthropological than socio-political and we all know that, we live in a very racialized society, so for inclusion to happen my race absolutely needs to be recognized and more things need to be. done, for example in the program here today, the “Was Divers Macht” event that we are talking about, I think once in the program, racial profiling with the police and so on, but in the together there are still a lot of people who i think are perhaps too fragile to talk about it and if we really want to make sure that we move forward together as a community within berlin as a whole more people need to be involved and aware and ready to have difficult discussions, to engage and to unlearn. “
You can visit BlackBrownBerlin here to take a look at their Dire-logues series and the personal stories of other PoC Berliners.
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