A colleague asked yesterday if I would like to get involved in the debate on racism in Germany. I thought: rather not. I want others to speak. Affected people who can convey from their own perspective what it means to feel like a human being in Germany with reservations. However, I might make it too easy for myself. The black author Tarik Tesfu wrote to the media: "Personally, I no longer feel like stopping by when the racism hut is on fire - and before and after that, ghosting is the order of the day." Unfortunately, this is a fairly accurate description of the German media handling of racism in Germany. And silence is perhaps the wrong thing for a journalist at this point.
Are we really already experiencing a real social debate about racism in Germany? It is true that black people name and complain - by the way for a long time - of widespread everyday racism. There are also more whites than before who are shocked and reacted with sympathy. There are academics and researchers who research and publish and media that - as always after particularly violent acts of racism - report on the subject.
But there is still that part of the public that turns away after the murder of George Floyd, who appeases, relativizes suffering or reverses guilt, as if nothing had happened in the past years (and centuries). White journalists like Sandra Maischberger, who only fill talk shows with whites, even when it comes to racism, and react without understanding to criticism. German conservatives who spread the counter-narrative of Antifa. Right-wing MPs claim that racist hatred in the United States is the result of what they miserably call "immigration." And countless others who, with the belief that Germany is not affected, look down on the USA and "its" problem with moral superiority.
No, the majority society does not experience a real debate about racism. The reaction to George Floyd's murder is more like what we saw after the NSU was uncovered, after the Lübcke murder, after Halle and Hanau. These are white German worlds of thought that assess the reality of racism in different empathy and yet penetrate each other. The result is this peculiar German "It's bad, but ...". This juxtaposition of individual sympathy and political consequences.
Black people are supposed to speak now, it is said everywhere, but that will not change the bitter reality that in the authorities, parliaments and editorial offices there are almost only white people without a migration background. And therefore the chances are good that the incredible number of 7,900 racist offenses in 2019 will really trigger something. There are more than 21 crimes per day, and those are just the ones reported. How high will the number of unreported cases be? And what about the non-punishable racism, the unsaved jobs and apartments, the derogatory comments and subtle threats that those affected experience?
It should always be made clear that racism is also an existential danger for German majority society and German democracy. But at least as important today is the question of why people repeatedly question openly or covertly what people tell us about racism that it affects. People like the journalists Stephan Anpalagan, Alice Hasters and Malcolm Ohanwe, the Schleswig-Holstein vice-state president Aminata Touré, the activist Tahir Della, the education experts Saraya Gomis and Daniel Gyamerah and so many others.
How can it be that so many white people share the hashtag #blackouttuesday these days, but there is hardly any political pressure to implement at least some of the demands that are on the table - to appoint a federal commissioner for racism or to delete the word race from the Basic Law and instead anchor anti-racism as a state goal. To create a fund for the victims of hate crime or priority public prosecutors for right-wing extremism, as Farhad Dilmaghani demands, among others. And above all: that the fight against racism becomes a political goal of the first priority.
Instead, some white politician or white journalist will soon say or write that the constant accusation of racism divides society. One should reconcile and people with a racist world view should not be marginalized. I already recommend these politicians or journalists an interview passage from the black US writer James Baldwin from the 1980s. "What should I reconcile with?" He asked back then. "You always told me it took time. You claimed my father's, my mother's, my uncle's, my brother's and my sister's, my niece's and my nephew's time. How much time do you want for your progress?"
How much time do we need - we, the white Germans? How much time will pass before racism in Germany is combated at all levels, like a deadly virus that it is? Discussing when it will be over and not whether the problem even exists - that would be a German racism debate. One that deserves this name.