Let´s talk about racism @ UniStuttgart

1. Definitions

Racism: There is not the one correct definition for it. Here are now three different definitions. All of them show that racism is not simply a distinction based on skin color, but rather an associated thought construct according to one group of people being superior to another.

Cambridge Dictionary:

  1. policies, behaviours, rules, etc. that result in a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race :
    The authorities are taking steps to combat/fight/tackle racism in schools.
    The report made it plain that institutional racism (= racism in all parts of an organization) is deep-rooted in this country.
     
  2. harmful or unfair things that people say, do, or think based on the belief that their own race makes them more intelligent, good, moral, etc. than people of other races :

The research found that half of the refugees had encountered racism since entering the country.
She said that she had experienced some overt racism first-hand.
He wanted to show what it felt like to be the subject of casual racism.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance defines racism as “the belief that a ground such as race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin justifies contempt for a person or a group of persons, or the notion of superiority of a person or a group of persons.”.

Sociologist Albert Memmi (general definition adopted in racism research)
“Racism is a generalising definition and valuation of differences, whether real or imaginary, to the advantage of the one defining or deploying them [accusateur], and to the detriment of the one subjugated to the act of definition [victime], whose purpose is to justify (social or physical) hostility and assault [aggression].”

  • Black people is a self-designation and describes a social position affected by racism. “Black is capitalized in order to make it clear that it is a constructed pattern of assignment and not a ‘real’ characteristic’, which is due to the colour of the skin. Thus, being black in this context does not mean being assigned to an actual or assumed ‘ethnic group’, but is also connected with the shared experience of racism, to be perceived in a certain way. https://www.amnesty.de/2017/3/1/glossar-fuer-diskriminierungssensible-sprache
  • Like “being black”, “white” and “whiteness” do not denote a biological characteristic or real skin colour, but rather a political and social construction. By whiteness is meant the dominant and privileged position within the power relationship racism, which otherwise remains mostly unspoken and unnamed. Whiteness encompasses an unconscious concept of self and identity that shapes white people in their self-perception and behaviour and refers them to a privileged place in society, e.g. in terms of access to resources. https://www.amnesty.de/2017/3/1/glossar-fuer-diskriminierungssensible-sprache
  • PoC: The term People of Colour (in the Singular Person of Colour) is a self-designation of people who experience racism. https://www.diversity-arts-culture.berlin/woerterbuch/poc-person-color

Of course it would be and rather, we would be already at a point, where, even if with the terms social groups, and no biological attributes are meant, we could manage completely without naming any Differences. But it is difficult to talk about racism without naming the problems that lead to racism.

2. History

The concept of racism is rather young. But what do we actually know about German colonial history or the racist ideologies in the Nazi era? To understand how our thought patterns are also shaped by racist motives it´s important to be aware of the historical context. The following contribution is intended to refresh and supplement history lessons at school:

https://www.youthreporter.eu/de/beitrag/racism-in-germany.14810/

3. Racism or ethnopluralism

By the way, biologically speaking, it is disproved that there exist races among humans. The differences in the genes are far too small for this to be true. The following contribution confirms this: 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-genetics-science-africa/

But new ideologies have long been developed to devalue people ideologically. Ethnicity and culture are used in the new right-wing scene as a reason for the exclusion and humiliation of people. This is summarized under the term ethnopluralism. Which new and old concepts are behind this will be explained in the following article:

https://www.dw.com/en/how-dangerous-is-the-identitarian-movement/a-49580233

4. Racism in Germany and other countries

Yes, Germany is not the USA and racism can manifest itself everywhere else. But what exactly are the differences? Is it due to Germany’s shorter colonial history in comparison to other european countries? Is it the structural racism that is different here? -for example, because the German police have better training for de-escalation. Or is it also because of the way racism is talked about in Germany?

The Federal Agency for Civic Education makes a good contribution to this topic:

https://www.bpb.de/politik/extremismus/rechtsextremismus/213691/warum-ist-es-so-schwer-von-rassismus-zu-sprechen (only in German)

5. Conclusion and why all of us should take racism personally

We make no claim to completeness with this collection of information. Racism is multifaceted in its manifestations. And it hurts the lives of those affected. Therefore, we should all be concerned of racism. Why we should even take racism personally is explained by the human rights organization Amnesty International on its website:

https://www.amnesty.de/2017/3/1/warum-wir-alle-rassismus-persoenlich-nehmen-sollten

A first step to fight racism is to talk about it. We would therefore like to give our students a voice. Under the motto “Let’s talk about Racism@Uni Stuttgart” we share their experiences with racism.

Other platforms are already doing this:

https://afrozensus.de/?lang=en

https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/rassismus-als-bildungsthema-niemand-will-darueber-reden.680.de.html?dram:article_id=478015

https://www.sueddeutsche.de/thema/Alltagsrassismus

https://www.amnesty.de/kampagne-gegen-rassismus-deutschland

6. The Question of a Critical Whiteness

In our e-mail to all students we tried to explain the concept of “white fragility” and talked about white being understood as the norm. This part was criticized by some. Therefore, we would like to explain the concept behind it in more detail and get involved in the discussion.

Here, we would like to share mainly journalistic contributions, as the topic is too complex to be examined from our point of view.

Accusation 1: by naming attributions of Black and white, racism is reproduced

First of all, here are the explanation of the terms Black and white, as defined for example by Amnesty International:

Black People is a self-designation and describes a social position affected by racism. “Black is capitalized in order to make it clear that it is a constructed pattern of association and not a ‘real’ characteristic’, which is due to the color of the skin. Thus, being Black in this context does not mean being assigned to an actual or assumed ‘ethnic group’, but is also connected with the shared experience of racism, to be perceived in a certain way.

“Just like “Black”, “White” and “Whiteness” do not denote a biological characteristic or real skin color, but rather a political and social construction. Being white refers to the dominant and privileged position within the power relationship racism, which otherwise remains mostly unspoken and unnamed. Whiteness stands for an unconscious concept of self and identity that shapes white people in their self-perception and behavior and gives them a privileged place in society, for example in terms of access to resources. A critical reflection of whiteness consists in the change of perspective on those structures and subjects that cause and profit from racism and established itself in the 1980s as a paradigm shift in English-speaking research on racism. The initiation for this was the political struggles and criticism of People of Color.

People of Color is an international self-designation by/for people who experienced racism. The term marks a political and social position and is understood as emancipatory and solidary. It positions itself against attempts at division through racism and culturalization as well as against discriminatory foreign designations by the white majority society.

People experience racism, as the posts of the last weeks have unfortunately shown. The posts have also shown that there are different attributions of ethnic origin in our society and that these attributions influence our position in society. How quickly can I find a job? How quickly can I find an apartment or a room in a shared flat? How well was I integrated into a team? Most people have not yet thought about these questions, or did not have to. After all, one of the privileges of being white is not to have to worry about it, while people who experience racism cannot choose to be confronted with it.

As a little help how to deal with different concepts: In the anti-racism workshop, “Decolonize us”, which was organized by stuvus and Greening, we learned that it is important to let people decide for themselves whether they would describe themselves as Black, POC or with another term. In addition, people should be given the chance to choose a self-designation, since foreign designations always carry the risk of assigning a person to a group (or assigning characteristics) with which he or she does not identify.

How do we deal with being white in a white majority society? This question is the focus of critical whiteness research. In this context, it can happen that the majority accepts whiteness as the norm and is therefore no longer perceived by this majority. Furthermore, a valuation can be added which presents this majority as normal. What happens to people who do not meet this norm can be read in the article “Whiteness as a Privilege” by Millay Hyatt on Deutschlandfunk (https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/critical-whiteness-weisssein-als-privileg.1184.de.html?dram:article_id=315084).

As the tip of the iceberg, the article openly names racist acts of violence, but the real problem lies deeper and broader, which means that all people have to deal with their own racist thought patterns. The controversial author Robin di Angelo, calls the defensive attitude of white people in dealing with possible own racist thought patterns White Fragility. This term is used to describe the fact that being white in many societies is not simply a given, but is associated with certain advantages and disadvantages. Structurally conditioned advantages can be described as privileges. You can find an interview with her in the Zeit.

Accusation 2: Trivialization of the actual racist crimes

How do we deal with this when we have become aware that we enjoy privileges or the exact opposite? And how do privileges occur or how can we avoid them?

Here, internalized racism and the trivialization of racist crimes is a big problem. A mail addressing our Instagram series criticizes that the debate about everyday racism would trivialize the real problem: racist acts of violence committed by Nazi-terrorists. Our goal with the posts on everyday racism is the opposite of that, we think it is important to point out that racism exists in Germany and should not be denied.

Sénouvo Agbota Zinsou, Togolese author and theatre producer from Bayreuth, writes about this in the article Weißsein als Privileg, “The (…) Neo-Nazi (…) represents in my opinion a lesser danger – if he limits himself to verbal attacks – than the intellectual, the artist or journalist who consciously or unconsciously conveys clichés (…)”. Here, as examples, are advertisements for development aid and many other examples that can stir up prejudice and provide a basis for widespread racism.

We can and should regularly examine the extent to which internalized evaluations and judgments regarding skin color and origin exist in our minds. We invite you to do so and refer you to another article on ZDF.

Your story

contribution No. 1

I’ve spent a lot of time researching about racism and eugenics. Since my father was born in Turkey, this is a part of my personal story. However my ancestry can only be recognized by my surname, and this is why only my surname is a target for racism and xenophobia.

I was born and grew up in a part of Esslingen. As a small remark on this: there was hardly any real foreign community, until 2015 a home for refugees was opened. Maybe also because of this, I hardly didn´t noticed racism in my community myself until 5 years ago.

But since that home exists, I have to accept that my childhood community is no exception.

Yes, it could be worse – but every single “Schwarzwälder” said is one too much.

And this word and the rumors that every crime in my community has been committed by one of the inhabitants of the home, I had to hear too often.

In this town, however, there are also a lot of people who help the refugees. The local sports club does an enormous amount, and so does the primary school. I would like to take this opportunity to thank these people for their dedication and effort, and I hope that we as a coummunity will find the courage to criticise words like the above-mentioned in public, because only then things can change.

About my personal experiences in my life the following:

I have never really realised racism in that specific moment as racism – or xenophobia. But this is also because my appearance does not allow for any xenophobic or racist attacks. I simply look the way people in Germany and abroad imagine a “German” to look like.

Not in the secondary school, where my class teacher, amusingly enough, wanted to attribute an apparent misconduct to my existing migration background, nor really when my religion teacher started to riot against Islam on a grand scale.  As a note for you: I am not a Muslim, so the failures of my former religion teacher were so bad that you could see through the nonsense even without much knowledge about this religion and feel it as shocking. As a child and also as an adolescent, I think, I didn’t really perceive the whole thing as what it is: racist and xenophobic.

The first time I experienced racism I was calm in the first moment, but in the second moment I realized what was behind it:

Besides my studies I work with customer contact, mainly by phone and e-mail. Recently we received an e-mail as an answer from a customer, in which he stated that he had spoken to a Mr. “Yandöner”.

My last name is Yandemir.

At first, I laughed about it, but then I realized that this person actually did nothing else than putting the biggest cliché about Turkish people in Germany into my name, a fact that made me contemplate. A fact, that in my opinion, can neither be an unfortunate coincident nor simple misunderstanding.

The whole thing happened half a year ago.

I don’t want to dramatize the whole thing, I think there are a lot of groups all over the world who have to experience much worse things because of this remnant of the early modern times.

But if we, as a society, can’t even manage to accept families that are part of our society in third, fourth or even soon fifth generation without maintaining such statements or views, how are we going to learn to accept people who are, in the opinion of many, “not like us”?

First Post from 2nd October 2020

contribution No. 2

I come from China. Racism against Chinese is not a new thing. A few weeks ago I met a racist in Stuttgart. He attacked me and the reason is simply “Corona”. He annoyed me a lot. But I held myself back. Fortunately, a boy helped me. He called the police and we stopped the racist together.

After this experience I ask myself, should I call the man a “German” and simply say that the Germans are all racists? No! The german boy helped me and a german lady volunteered as a witness. I think that exactly this kind of Self-asking makes a difference between me and racist.

People love prejudice, just as people love to do bad things. Beating people, ranting, smoking… is easy. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to be able to rant and rave.

It is the same with racism. You only need to know: ‘Chinese people eat dogs’, ‘All Chinese are sneaky’… Someone says ‘That’s how the Chinese are (etc.)’, others say ‘Yes, that´s how it is’ -a typical scene.

I believe that the key is ‘communication’. My first master semester in Germany was a pity last SoSe, so to say. I hope more courses will be possible in the next semester. It would also be nice if we students from different countries could talk openly about racism. At the very least you have to avoid racism at university as much as possible.

Post from 9th October 2020

contribution No. 3

What does it mean to grow up as a black girl in Germany?

This question can´t be explained in a short Instagram Post. One student took the time to write down her experiences in a small book.

Let us tell you: the university is experienced as a more diverse and open place than for example kindergarten or school by her. It is good to know we are not starting from nothing on our way to a university without racism. But read yourself.

Let´s talk about racism 16th October 2020: https://www.instagram.com/p/CGZ2UL_sdA6/

contribution No. 4

I was born in Stuttgart and grew up as a child of Jewish contingent refugees from the former Soviet Union.

In elementary school I was always one of the best. I also skipped one class. But in the fourth grade, my German class teacher didn’t want to recommend me to go to grammar school (Gymnasium), I would have it easier at secondary school (Realschule) and that would suit me better. My parents really had to fight for it.
At grammar school (Gymnasium) I was bullied a lot of times. There were no real reactions from the school. Only when my father put pressure on the school and pointed out that the word “Jew” was also used as an insult against me, my request was taken seriously. I think the school did not want to look anti-semitic.

Later, however, the word “Jew” was also used as a ‘jokeful’ insult among friends.

Let´s talk about racism 31th October 2020: https://www.instagram.com/p/CG-JOn3rquZ/

contribution No. 5

My parents are both from Vietnam.

Due to my Asian appearance I experienced racism as well. Though I will only mention the most significant experiences here:

Kindergarten:

I lived in a Christian very small village of around 100 people (Baden-Württemberg), where a crucifix in every room and the “Our Father” in the morning were common. As the only child who does not look western European, it was difficult to make friends with other children. To be more specific, when we played father-mother-child in the costume corner, I was the dog of the family. I had to crouch on the floor, eat from a bowl and had nothing to say. We always played the game in which I could be excluded or humiliated. Of course I was unhappy and did not want to go to kindergarten. For more than 1 year I cried every day and the teachers knew nothing better to do than to lock me into a room next door.

Fair 2019:

The more time went by, the more tolerant and aware my environment became on topics like sexism, racism, equality etcetera. Children can be cruel. However, a visit to the fair in 2019 in Cologne shocked me deeply. It was early in the morning, 7.00 o’clock. My brother and I stood at the train platform to make our way to the fair. A man, early-mid-30s with a Middle Eastern appearance, started insulting every woman at the track: “You dirty whore! Blond bitch!”. Many women didn’t react and left. Now it was my turn: “What are you looking at?”. I looked up and knew that I had fallen into his trap at that very moment. “Look away” he said and built himself up in front of me, “I said look away!”. He came closer and closer. But something in me did not want to give idiots like him any room in this society. I stood there and looked defiantly at him. He did not like that at all. He started a hate speech with all the word combinations he knew: “Slit-eyed bitch! Yellow cunt! Go back where you came from!”. It was both racist and sexist. And nobody helped me. I tried to make eye contact with the man across the street, who only watched the spectacle in shock. He registered my call for help, but he could only say: “But now…. So… You… Well, listen to me…”. I looked around for other people, but they were all paralyzed by the intensity of the situation. “I TOLD YOU TO LOOK AWAY!” In the meantime, he was already so close to my face that I could smell his breath. I thought to myself: “In a moment he’ll slap me and then I’ll have to cry.” Then suddenly I heard: “Hey!”. Far away, from the other end of the track. Some of the women, he had insulted before, now stood up for me! “What is with these curse words in the early morning? There are children present!” As if a hurdle had been cleared, a tall, young, athletic man stood between me and the “troublemaker”. “Everything’s fine,” he said to me, “Just look away, I’ll handle this.” The situation relaxed for a moment.

Then the train arrived. Unfortunately, all those present entered the same compartment. My “rescuer” stayed near me while the “troublemaker” continued to insult other women. Finally, all women in the compartment sought refuge with the “rescuer”. He decided to notify the police, whereupon the “troublemaker” complained: “Brother, why are you doing this to me? You are also Moroccan. I can see that. Why must you call the police now? You don’t need to call the police. They already know me.” The train entered the central station where the police were to pick up the “troublemaker”. As soon as the door was open, he jumped out and disappeared in the crowd.

Let´s talk about racism 6th November 2020

contribution No. 6

I come from Mexico and am really glad for the opportunity to be studying here in Stuttgart. I thank you for making a space for people to be heard. I would like to share the ways in which I’ve experienced racism:

Mensa, Kopierlädle, Uni Cafeterias and Frischemarkt (in order of intensity): when they notice you are international student and can’t understand everything at the first time, they get angry and treat you bad. They have yelled angrily several times to me. Most of the times the expression of rejection comes in the form of sighing, getting impatient and being rude, serving food in a less polite manner.*

*This is not exclusive from university. People at service jobs get desperate everywhere when they notice they have to switch from the beloved swabian to standard german, not even english.

Wasen 2019: a big group of international students, me included, were first in line for a tent. It is worth mentioning that there was a limited amount of tickets. Some minutes later a big group of german students arrived to the tent’s entrance, looked at us and positioned themselves in front of us. We explained we were first, they sighed, ignored the comment and one of them got tickets for the rest (leaving less remaining places for us). The guy at the counter also ignored us when we told him that was not fair. All of them went inside whereas not all people from our group could visit the tent.

Doctor: I got an extra charged because they made “extra effort” to check me. This “effort” was translating the name of a muscle and speaking one sentence in english, the rest was all german. I don’t consider that as “extra effort”, also I didn’t delayed the rest of the appointments. I don’t find a reasonable justification for the charge.

I considered the three previous experiences as racism, because even though they are not traumatic, I am confident they wouldn’t have happened were I a german woman.

I find it unfair that in Mexico and other tropical countries we welcome foreigners and treat europeans as “gods” (behaviour that I disapprove, just showing respect is more than enough). The point is we help foreigners in the adaptation process, even celebrating poor spanish level or bad words they know.

I don’t ask that much affection in return, not even help, only tolerance.

Let´s talk about racism @Uni Stuttgart

contribution No. 7

Here are some of my experiences. I have not only studied in Stuttgart. So some of these things do not apply to Stuttgart.

The last, last seat is free: In courses with few free seats, the last free seat is next to me.

Maximum distance: If I sit in front, everyone else sits further back. If I sit in the back, everyone else sits in the front. If I sit on the left, the rest is distributed to the right side. If I sit on the right side, the rest is on the left side, a U or O is formed around me with free places.

Social conventions do not apply: one is noticed, but nothing more. There are no conversations. One is avoided as good as possible. You can approach people to talk to them, but the other way round it is not the case. People do not talk to me because it would be humanly appropriate, but only if they feel like it. When people are asked to make room for you, nothing happens or they make a fuss. It is noticeable: the more the students resemble each other, the more successful the communication. There is a tendency towards homogeneity. It can happen, on a long day, that you do not change a word for about 8 hours.

Exceptions:

1. the persons are dependent on cooperation.

2. one has an authority.

3. one is entertaining.

Worst of all: group work in which everyone is responsible to form teams themselves. You get the worst partner. In the end, you are also the weakest group with the biggest hurdles. Teachers who are asked for help or who notice something react with ignorance or incomprehension. It seems to me that lecturers are not aware of the problem.

In one case I had to repeat a course due to such circumstances. The teacher simply assumed that there were no problems.

In projects that are not advertised, it can happen that everyone but you is integrated into the social structures. Grades and semesters do not play a role in the selection. In general, when it comes to career, it comes down to you being at the bottom of the list: you are the last one to be asked and may be the first to be replaced.

I made these observations especially at universities. Not in public transport, with public authorities or the sports club. Students are especially affected by this. If there are problems, I classify teachers as little sensitized or uninterested.

Lat´s talk about racism@Uni Stuttgart

contribution No. 8

Spanish is my native language. I was lucky to work with someone that also spoke spanish. I was shocked as a Doctoral student to have 2 of my colleagues in my institute to stop me and my spanish speaking friend. They told us they felt uncomfortable with us speaking spanish, that it was rude, and that we should stop immediately. We tried to explain that speaking spanish was easier for us, and we were expressing difficult feelings and frustrations from being away from home. We offered to speak in english, to wish they said “this is germany, and in germany you speak german”. We stopped speaking in public in spanish, and all communication to the 2 guys.

After a colleague left to the U.S., one of the two german colleagues came to me and said “this is what people from abroad do to this country. We educate them, use resources on them, and they just leave afterwards. They are just ungrateful”. Bringing sweets as a gift from my home country was interesting, specially when some people thought I wanted to give them drugs and get them addicted. I stopped doing that.

A third person from the institute would get really mad with doctoral students from abroad, because we were paid more than him and could ask him to do tasks for us. He stopped doing any work for us. If we wanted to have something done, he would only do if I cc my boss in the email with the instructions.

After some months, the chair divided in 2 parts. Germans and a small multicultural group of people from abroad, almost 50% – 50%. I left the university without finishing my doctoral studies.  It was extremely sad to see the state of xenophobia seen in everyday life in the institute. The level of discontent and aggression. Best decision of my life.

Lat´s talk about racism@Uni Stuttgart

contribution No. 9

In the following I would like to tell my story, as well as my first experience with racism at the University of Stuttgart. 
As a native Ukrainian, I came to Germany in 2011 and completed my high school diploma in 2017 to dedicate myself to the challenges of my studies. In this way, I was always helped to integrate myself into the already diverse society of Germany. The values of tolerance, acceptance and helpfulness were also assigned to me by the above-mentioned society – even back then, but also until today, I always attach great importance to treating everyone equally and not reducing anyone to skin color, religion, political views or sexuality. Now I had to realize that the department for gender equality and diversity at the University of Stuttgart is obviously not up to these values, which I was able to acquire as a native foreigner. This is exactly what my first personal encounter with discrimination in the public sphere relates to, which I would like to address with this email. 
I had always been convinced that the personality and values of this one person are what make up the person. I have carried this thought with me through my life to finally realize that it is not lived in the Stuvus in this way. Thus, the term “white fragility”, which can be found in both of Stuvus’ mails, brought to light a kind of discrimination that I am encountering in this form for the very first time in my life. In your mail you speak of structural racism, which for me has only taken shape through this mail. 
You ask me, as well as other students of the university, to rethink my own thought patterns and behavior – then it might be worth considering for you as well, in the fight against racism and for equality to stop accusing members of our society of racism because of their white skin color. My experience has shown that racism as a thought pattern does not apply to a majority or minority, but only individual people of any skin color or ethnicity. 
In my future life I will continue to try to pass on my values of tolerance and equality to other members of society. It is only unpleasant to realize that the institution created for this purpose at the university has already crowned me as its enemy because of my skin color. At this point I am grateful to the society in which this wonderful kind of “equality” has not been established. It enables me to take action against racism – and to do so without the prejudices that Stuvus wants to impose on me in its alleged fight against a common enemy. 
I ask you to make this writing public just like other experiences with racism. In doing so, I invoke freedom of opinion and am open to an objective discussion, should the Stuvus be able to rethink its own “fragility” and move away from the thinking patterns of the evil white population. 

Lat´s talk about racism@Uni Stuttgart