Do you know someone who is racist?

Moving Image and Political Education

The topic of racism is also discussed in the series "Cologne 50667". But what exactly is racism anyway? Where does it take place and how widespread is it? Here is the most important information at a glance.

Racists divide people who are individual and different into supposedly uniform groups. In this way, racists construct groups whose members they see as basically the same. On the personal level, racism then has such an effect that the behavior, thoughts or ideas of a person no longer play a role, but rather judges and condemns a person on the basis of their ascribed origin, skin color or migration history, language, religion or culture becomes.

Alleged or actual differences between people summarize racist people to seemingly unchangeable and "natural" group characteristics and explain these to the culturally, religiously or biologically determined "essence" of this group. Racists differentiate between an "ingroup", to which they belong to themselves, and one or more "outgroups", which they devalue and exclude. In addition to a simplistic attitude and a feeling of superiority, racism also has something to do with positions of power, for example the power to decide how certain groups are talked about and how these groups are included or excluded from society. But racism can also be institutionalized and find expression in rules and laws. In this respect, behavior can also be racist if it benefits from exclusion, discrimination and disadvantage and does nothing to counteract such injustices.

Racial theory

Where did the idea of ​​dividing people into groups come from?

The idea that there are groups of people with different and apparently "natural" characteristics - which are also worth different amounts - originated in Europe in the 15th century. When Europeans conquered what is now Latin America, they had to find a way to justify to themselves the exploitation, enslavement and murder of the people living there. The thesis of the fundamental difference between different groups of people, the division of people into groups and the devaluation of groups to which the Europeans themselves did not belong, served them as a justification for their actions.

From the middle of the 18th century, such theses were also supported with the help of the science of that time. The Swedish natural scientist Carl von Linné invented a system that divided mankind on the basis of, among other things, their origin and skin color. He arbitrarily assigned properties to each group and declared these properties to be innate without having a scientific basis for them. Linnaeus, for example, described some groups as inherently "stubborn" and "happy", others as "melancholy" and "strict". The idea that there were "races" and that these could be differentiated into "higher quality" or "lower quality" stems from this time. In the 19th century several European scientists took up this idea and declared the "race" of the Europeans to be superior to the other "races". Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain were among the best-known representatives.

The ideology of National Socialism was linked to this set of ideas. National Socialists considered the so-called "Nordic race" - to which they attributed themselves - to be more valuable than what they saw as "inferior races", to which they counted, for example, Jewish and Slavic people or the groups of Sinti and Roma. Under the pretext of having to protect its own "race" from "pollution" by other groups, the National Socialist regime systematically murdered millions of people who did not conform to their "racial ideal".

Biologists and geneticists have long since shown that people cannot be divided into "human races" - we are much too similar biologically and genetically.

Racists today often no longer speak of "race" when they want to devalue other people - but of "cultures" and "ethnic groups". However, they still advocate an ideology of inequality: They claim that there are different immutable "cultures", "cultures" or "ethnic groups" that do not fit together and should ideally live separately from one another. Here, too, racists exclude people, differentiate them according to "cultures", "cultural groups" or "ethnic groups" and arbitrarily assign characteristics to them. When racist people talk about themselves and the group they belong to, they are positive; and negative when they talk about people they want to distance themselves from. A typical racist prejudice, for example, is the view that the so-called "Islamic culture" does not fit in with a Christian "dominant culture" because the two "cultures" are too different from one another and are not compatible with one another. The prejudice is wrong, because Islam and Christianity certainly share a lot in common. This clearly shows a way of thinking that is characterized by exclusion and devaluation, generalization and generalization. Racism is still there - it's just being disguised here by new terms.



Where does racism take place?

Everyday racism permeates our entire society. In Germany, people are disadvantaged or excluded every day because of their appearance, their religion or their origin. This happens in public, for example on the bus or in a restaurant, at school or university, when looking for a flat or job, or at a party on the weekend or in front of clubs and discos. Racism can be expressed in personal prejudices as well as in verbal abuse or acts of violence, but also in structural discrimination, for example by authorities and institutions.

Everyday racism

Where we encounter racism everywhere

Patrick | Cologne 50667 (& copy RTL2)
"Before, when I worked as a bouncer, I also had a few colleagues who would not let people in if they didn't look" typically German "or check them harder." (Patrick, Cologne 50667)

We encounter racism and discrimination everywhere in our everyday life. Sometimes very obvious, sometimes hidden and only recognizable at second glance.

It starts with the language: Everyday terms or expressions such as "It's all fooled" are offensive because - sometimes regardless of their original meaning - they associate some people with a certain migration history, nationality or skin color with negative characteristics bring. In some cases, these expressions are already so common that many no longer question them. Racist prejudice can also be found in many jokes. Many are probably familiar with jokes that are supposed to make people laugh at the expense of a certain group or ethnic minority. It is often forgotten or ignored that this massively violates the dignity of these people. So it's not funny at all for those affected.

Racist prejudices are also repeatedly conveyed in the media and in advertising. Just one example: some media often speak of "foreign crime" and thus create the impression that there is an automatic connection between crime and foreigners. But that is wrong. In addition, it remains unclear which people are actually meant by the word "foreigners". "Ausländerin" or "Ausländer" in the strict sense of the word are people who do not have German citizenship. The police crime statistics (PKS) quoted by the media do not differentiate between people who live in Germany, are at home here but do not have a German passport and people without German citizenship who only stay in Germany for a short time and commit a criminal offense. In addition, these statistics only show suspects, not the number of those actually convicted. Also due to persistent racist prejudice, "foreigners" may end up on the list of potential perpetrators more quickly than alleged "residents". Last but not least, there are offenses that can only be committed by people without German citizenship. These include reporting offenses, violations of the residence obligation or unauthorized border crossings.

In everyday life, in the media and in advertising, many people are racially discriminated against in very different areas and situations. This can be when looking for a job, when an applicant is sorted out whose names sound "not German enough", in the pedestrian zone, when the headscarf is worn, or when the application for a flat fails because the landlord does not wants to rent to "foreigners".

In institutions, too, for example in schools, there is racist discrimination every day. Some parents want their child to be taught only by white teachers or by teachers without a headscarf. Sometimes pupils get worse grades because their teachers assume that they are doing worse because of their origin, migration history or religion.

For some people, exclusion begins in everyday life when they get to know new people: They then have to repeatedly ask "Where are you from?" answer, even if you were born and raised in Germany. Perhaps those affected then sometimes feel like Tim from "Köln 50667": although Tim has, as the father of his girlfriend Patricia says, "a really German name" - but in the father's opinion Tim does not look like he does " real Germans ". With this behavior he excludes Tim and tells him: "You are not normal - you are a stranger here - you do not belong" - and that is racism, which can affect many people in everyday life.



Racism is also widespread in the virtual world. In 2013, the number of criminally racist content online reached a new high. This was shown by a study by The study also found that social media in particular - Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter - play an important role in the dissemination of racist content because they ensure a very high reach.

Right-wing propaganda on the net

How is racism noticeable on the internet?

For right-wing extremists, the social networks Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter are an important means of addressing people on the Internet with racist and right-wing extremist propaganda.

When Tim and Patricia from "Köln 50667" are attacked by neo-Nazis, the attackers film their attack and post the video on Facebook. Through the video they humiliate Tim again, but it's also about conquering Facebook as a space where racism is possible. Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis often do not openly identify themselves on the internet, but appear, for example, as "concerned" citizens who petition against the establishment of accommodation for asylum seekers, as supposed nature conservationists or as apparently completely apolitical "Pranksters" who spread racist jokes on the internet. In all of these cases, misanthropic, racist and right-wing extremist propaganda is distributed with the aim of gaining approval for its content.

Whether online or offline, a popular strategy used by racist and right-wing extremists is to launch campaigns against, for example, the building of mosques or the accommodation of asylum seekers. Such groups on Facebook sometimes have countless members. This shows how far racism and right-wing extremist attitudes are still widespread in the middle of our society - even if some of the members are not aware that they are supporting a racist or right-wing extremist campaign. Because racists, right-wing extremists and right-wing extremists usually do not spread their agitation in these groups openly, but instead pretend to work for the good of the community. It only helps to read exactly who is behind the campaign in the group description and in the imprint. The choice of words also provides information about the real motives: If, for example, posts are made of "asylum fraudsters" instead of refugees, one should be puzzled: the authors are more concerned with spreading their racist ideas than theirs Expressing concerns.

Racist and right-wing extremists often dock on social media to topics that are particularly emotional or that are discussed by many people. They collect topics such as the concern about child abuse or the commitment to environmental protection in order to get into conversation and get involved. For example, they take part in discussions in Facebook groups that oppose the construction of nuclear power plants or the clearing of forests. The fact that right-wing propaganda is at stake can only be recognized by those who look closely and read: Then it becomes apparent that environmental protection means above all the protection of the German homeland and German nature.

There are also many groups and sites on social media and networks that spread racist jokes. These are sold as "harmless" humor and so justified. But those who share racist jokes let people become victims of racism, rob them of their dignity, marginalize them and humiliate them. So there is nothing funny about inhuman jokes and this can be made clear to the authors, for example by asking Facebook to block this page or group.



Problems dealing with racism

One problem with dealing with racism is that it is often pretended that only right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis are racist. But that is not the case: Racism comes in different forms and in all social groups and classes. Those who are affected by racism often have to listen to appeasement: a behavior, a comment or a certain statement was not racist at all, or at least not meant that way. Whether behaviors or statements are racist, injure or insult dignity, is always decided by the people affected by racism. So your perceptions and sensations cannot simply be swept under the table. They have to be taken seriously in order to identify and address racism.

Power of definition

Who decides what is racist?

Tim | Cologne 50667 (& copy RTL2)
"Hey, I could really puke how deep the prejudices are in people's heads. And most of them don't even check it out." (Tim, Cologne 50667)

"It's not racist, or at least not meant to be!" - Some people have heard this phrase very often. Sometimes supplemented by "Don't be so foolish" or "Don't be so overly sensitive". But who can actually decide what is racist and what is not? Who can judge whether and how much an injury hurts? If you hit your head, you hurt yourself. If you just watch, you don't know how much the bump really hurts. Why should it be different with racism? Because in principle it is exactly the same: whether and to what extent someone is affected by racism is always decided by those who are affected by racism.

In order to describe the power relations that exist between the majority society and the discriminated minority, those affected by racism have introduced the self-designation "People of Color" (PoC) as well as the terms "white" and "black". These expressions refer not only to skin color, but to the social affiliation and the associated position of power of people who either benefit from racism as members of the majority society or are disadvantaged by racism as members of the minority. The expression "People of Color" or "Person of Color" is a self-designation of people who do not define themselves as white and who use the term to defend themselves against external attributions by the majority society. By choosing the terms and terms with which they speak about themselves and with which they are talked about on their own initiative, members of minority societies strengthen their own position in the discourse on racism. It must be noted, however, that the terms presented here are not used in this way by everyone who deals with racism scientifically or in civil society, or even people who are affected by racism.

It can be uncomfortable for the white majority society to grapple with the issue of racism. Because those who belong to the majority society are often not affected by racism. Sometimes then there is a lack of sensitivity to the fact that a behavior or a statement is racist. It is much less the case that members of the majority society are disadvantaged when looking for work or accommodation, that language skills are questioned or commented on, or that they are asked about their supposed origin or migration history.

Those who belong to the white majority society often have more power - for example, to determine who is considered to belong to a society. This power also extends to the use and assessment of language: Members of the majority society can more easily determine that racist utterances are only meant "jokingly" and that there is therefore no reason to take action against them. For members of the majority society it is often easier in many ways: They have privileges and benefit from society as it is today - in contrast to members of minority society, who often have to struggle for participation and equality.



Another problem in dealing with racism is that we in Germany often speak of "xenophobia", even though we actually mean racism. The term "xenophobia" is misleading: it suggests that people with German citizenship and migration history who are affected by racism are "foreigners". That's not the case. On the other hand, not all foreigners are victims of racist attacks, especially if they belong to the white majority society. For example, white British people in Germany are generally not affected by racism, in contrast to people with a German passport such as black Germans or Germans with Turkish or Arab parents or grandparents. The capitalization of the terms "black" and "white" is intended to make it clear that the ascription of a skin color is always accompanied by an ascription of a societal, social and political power status and that these factors play a role in the definition of "black" and "white" can play.

Civil courage against racism

It also happens in Germany that people are insulted or even physically attacked because of their migration history or origin, skin color, religion or language. Racist attacks and attacks can happen at the bus stop or in the train, at a party, at school or in a pub, at the supermarket checkout or in the pedestrian zone. In such situations, our moral courage is required, because we can counter racism with small acts. Those who are affected need our support - therefore it is important not to leave people affected by racism alone. We have to point out to perpetrators that their behavior is not okay. Sometimes a few words or negative gestures are enough to show solidarity and to show clearly that racism does not go unchallenged.

Moral courage

What can be done against racism?

Patricia | Cologne 50667 (& copy RTL2)
"You have to accept people for who they are. It doesn't give a shit what their origins are." (Patricia, Cologne 50667)

Unfortunately, there are always racist remarks and attacks in everyday life in Germany. You can defend yourself against this. But how can I react if I am affected by racism or if someone is racially insulted or attacked in my presence?

Commitment is sometimes important in situations that some might not even find bad. But anyone who, for example, sees an advertisement or a post that plays with racist clichés, or reads an entry or article that spreads racist prejudice, can well consider whether it should be left uncommented. A protest mail or a post can be written quickly, so you can clearly show that you do not agree with racist representations. You can also take a stand against racist slogans and comments and make it clear that you don't think they're okay. In order to suppress racism in everyday life, you have to keep pointing out that you don't accept it.

Obviously, witnessing or being affected by a racist assault are two completely different situations, and it is difficult to fight back against racism when you are affected by it. The person always decides for himself whether or not to contradict racist slogans. However, it can play a role who is with you in this situation. If someone is alone and feels like they're getting stuck, it may help to reach out to others and get support from them. But if you get the impression that you are losing control of the situation, the first thing to try is to be safe. It can help to speak to others, show them clearly that you need their help, and then withdraw with them.

Anyone who realizes that someone is being racially addressed or attacked must not leave that person alone. For those affected by racism, the situation becomes even worse when everyone looks the other way - and the perpetrator gets the feeling that racist behavior is tolerated and that there are no consequences. It is important that you step in here and say that you do not agree with racist statements and racist behavior. This shows the person affected: I will not leave you alone, I will stand by you!

When a situation threatens to escalate, it is important to be attentive and careful, to try not to put yourself in danger and to call for help: make others aware of the situation, team up with several people, call the police - all of this is frightening from. If a racist attack nevertheless occurs, legal action can be taken: the perpetrators can only be prosecuted and brought to justice if a complaint is filed against the perpetrators and you make yourself available as a witness. This is an important signal to show them that their behavior has consequences and does not go unpunished. In this way you can support those who have become victims of racism: by showing that they do not have to defend themselves against racism on their own.