Everyday Racism in Germany

Read in: Deutsch (German)

Disturbing: the exceptional Chinese artist Ai Weiwei experiences racism, and even Fascism and Nazism, in his everyday life in Berlin:

“Fascism means that you put one ideology above others and declare this ideology pure by devaluing other ways of thinking”, he said. “This is Nazism. And this Nazism exists in everyday German life today.”

Now, you can put that down to a very opinionated dissident artist speaking his mind. But it is also clearly food for thought.

I found this comment by reader “Heidewachtel” enlightening:

“As a German who has lived in the USA, Belgium and France, who has travelled three quarters of the world on business, I can only agree with Ai Weiwei. Without reservation. If you live here, you only notice this Nazism of the Germans if you always pay close attention, but from the outside it is immediately noticeable. There is racism and xenophobia everywhere in the world, but this massive devaluation of other ways of thinking combined with one’s own self-assessment as pure (showing attitude) is typically German (highlight A.H.). Klaus Kleber’s “Rettet die Wahrheit” (Save the truth, a defense of the supposed lack of bias of the German press corps by a newscaster, A.H.) shows the tip of the iceberg on the subject. Extremely embarrassing when seen from outside. The protagonists are constantly celebrating themselves as great democrats. Tolerance is a strenuous exercise in this country. It is not easy for us. That’s why we fail to recognize when tolerance hits a wall and when self-interest and self-protection are required. Germans are far more uptight about this than other nationals.
As a person of Chinese ethnicity, I would also prefer London as a place to live, without thinking about it for a second.” (transl. A.H.)

There is a lot to unpack in that comment. But this comes to mind from my communication training practice:

If you don’t show me explicit respect and I think and live differently from you, I will be apt to denote that you actually disrespect me and that you consider others like me to be less valuable than you.

I often hear from German participants that they perceive indirectness in polite contact as “dishonest” and “insincere”, i.e. as “deceitful”. They tend to suspect a difference between “what is said (friendly)” and “what is thought (unfriendly)”, and they cannot stand that suspected difference. Not saying what you think is considered inauthentic, even possibly impure.

Could it be that presuming hostility to be inherent in diversity is ultimately a projection of a judgemental, pejorative attitude?

Oi vey vey!

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Trainer/ coach from Washington, D.C. based in Berlin. Enthusiastic gardener, sailor, reader.

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