The White Man’s Burden

I am sorry, but if you are a white man, you don’t get to define what racism is.”

adichieNot everyone would agree with Chimamanda Adichie’s statement in a video circulated on social media recently. Who gets to define what racism is? How far away from ‘white’ should you be to have a say? How much discrimination do you have to experience for your opinion to be valid?

Don’t try to answer any of these questions, because they are total nonsense. The real question is: why are people even arguing about what is and is not racism? I often come across highly emotional discussions about whether or not racism – and other types of discrimination – are widespread problems or not. Mostly, these arguments involve a white or otherwise privileged person trying to assert that they are not part of the problem, or that things really aren’t that bad after all.

The last time I witnessed this, was at Amnesty International’s panel discussion on racism in Germany. I attended the event to learn more about institutional racism and the rise of openly xenophobic positions in German society. I had expected all participants to agree on the fact that a problem existed in the first place.

Not Stephan Mayer of the CDU/CSU. He confused the panel discussion with a platform for political campaigning. Sure, he said, there is right-wing extremism in this country… but there is also left-wing extremism! And Islamist extremism! “Germany is a pluralist country! Germany has proven to be very cosmopolitan and tolerant!” Empty phrases. It immediately became clear that Stephan Mayer had a very limited understanding of racism – and he had no interest in expanding it.

Racism is not just the fact that there were more than 1000 attacks on German refugee camps in 2015. Racism also means feeling less safe when passing by an Arab looking man on the street at night; being kind of surprised that your doctor is black; asking a German citizen where they are really from, just because they have a darker complexion; calling a Roma ‘gypsy’, because “for me that is not a negative word”; assuming that Chinese have a different understanding of hygiene than we do. Continue reading

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Conspiring Against Conspiracy Theorists?

Bin Laden’s death has led to a debate about whether or not it was right to kill him, why he was not arrested instead and even whether or not he was actually killed. But not only that; it has also led to a debate about whether debating these questions is reasonable or just a pastime for conspiracy theorists. It seems that some German broadcasters have declared war on conspiracy theories. The German daily newspaper „Nordbayerische Nachrichten“ spent half a column quoting the Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri, who compares conspiracy theorists to cockroaches, saying that the main difference between cockroaches and conspiracy theorists is that cockroaches can be eliminated with bug spray. Okay, you can dislike those paranoiacs but mentioning it in a context that puts everyone who expresses doubts about so-called facts on the same page with them is just not fair. German state TV published an interview ridiculing those, who question groundbreaking events, in a similar way. I find those journalistic statements quite an insult to sanity and reason. It sounds as if they are proud of taking everything they hear and see as a fact.

First of all, not every person who doesn’t believe every single piece of information just like that is a conspiracy theorist. It is a natural result of incomplete news coverage that people think of ways to fill those logical gaps themselves. Instead of making fun of those who search for further answers, the media should be responsible for providing so much information that any further theories would become unnecessary. Continue reading

No Human Rights for Bin Laden?

„And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.“ Those were Obama’s words after announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden, who has for many been a symbol of anti-Western terrorism in the last years. But has justice really been done? I am definitely not a supporter of Bin Laden, nor do I want to participate in any conspiracy theories about his death, but after reading more and more about the topic I just see so many questions that have to be asked. One of them is: why is there no evidence? Continue reading