What leads to xenophobia against immigrants

racism : "Anyone who says' xenophobia 'takes on the perpetrators' point of view"


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Why do so many conversations about racism fail? "The Answer" spoke to the journalist Ferda Ataman about problematic terms and alternatives to them, to the trainer and activist Tupoka Ogette about strategies for how best to address racism - and to the British author Reni Eddo-Lodge about the question of whether there are discussions about discrimination that it is better not to have.

"Root-free existence is a privilege of white Germans"

Racism in language doesn't just begin with swear words like the N-word, says journalist Ferda Ataman.

"We are obsessed with roots in Germany. At every opportunity we talk about what origins people have or what tribes they belong to. For example, when it is said that someone has 'Korean roots' or is 'of Turkish origin'. Myself - born in Stuttgart , grew up in Nuremberg - is often presented on panels like this: Ferda Ataman is a journalist with a Turkish migration background. A Michael Müller next to me is not presented with roots or backgrounds, but only with his profession and his competencies. The root-free existence is a privilege of white Germans. Many apparently still believe that a person's foreign ancestors say a lot about him. And that they can tell by their looks or names who is German and who is a foreigner. I think that's backward.

Ferda Ataman

Ferda Ataman has been writing about migration and integration as a journalist for many years. She is the chair of the New German Media Makers Initiative, in which media workers from immigrant families have organized. Her book "I'm from here. Stop asking!" has been published by S. Fischer.

I would therefore recommend moderators to avoid external attribution and simply ask the guests: How would you like to be introduced? And also advise you to question yourself: For whom do I use terms like 'roots'? Who do I ask about their origin and who don't? Why don't I treat everyone the same?

Racism in language is often hidden and not only when someone uses racist swear words like the N-word. As New German Media Makers, we want to raise awareness: Language can be exclusive, even without consciously wanting to exclude anyone. We have published a glossary with wording aids in which we explain terms and make suggestions for reporting. For example, 'migrants' as a synonym for 'people with a migrant background' is wrong, because not all migrant backgrounds have immigrated. What is also often done wrong are linguistic comparisons such as 'Muslims and Germans' or 'Migrants and Germans'. Strictly speaking, these are not opposites, because many people are both at the same time. With such formulations, however, Muslims and migrants are citizenship across the board. Correctly it should read 'Muslims and non-Muslims' or 'Migrants and people without migration experience'.

When we talk about racism, we should call the child by name and also say 'racism' - 'xenophobia' or 'xenophobia' are not synonymous and are problematic terms. To be on the safe side, no neo-Nazi asks before striking whether you are really a stranger or whether you live in Germany. In addition, the rejection is not directed against all people from abroad: white Dutch, Americans or Swiss are generally not targets of attack. Therefore: Anyone who says 'racism' names the problem. Anyone who says 'xenophobia' takes the point of view of the perpetrator.


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Often terms like 'foreign' and 'foreign cultures' are used without thinking about it very much. But mostly it is a racist category that has nothing to do with 'foreign' in the true sense of the word. 'Foreign infiltration', which was used in a very inflationary manner in the last year, is an absolute nonsense. I'm sorry, but that sounds like a code for 'Germany the Germans' to me.

But conversations are not just about terminology. The racism often shines through in the statements. Anyone who says across the board that 'Muslims' are not capable of democracy and are against equality between men and women is expressing an anti-Muslim prejudice. Even a supposedly nice utterance such as 'You Asians are always so polite' is an expression of a racist worldview because it attributes certain characteristics to people based on certain characteristics. Racism is not about how it is meant, but what effect it has. Generalizations and generalizations about certain groups of people are always questionable. "