Hey everybody and welcome back!
In my previous blog I announced to describe the everyday racism in Germany and how it led to the current state of mind of Black people in Germany and so now I’ll try to.
Many Black people in Germany live very isolated lives, or are organized into smaller local, mostly African, communities. In comparison to for example the USA or the UK, Black people here seldom live in segregated groups. This has advantages, but also disadvantages. The advantage is probably, that many of us had at least theoretically the same access to white structures at the latest after 1945. But this does not change the fact, that we experienced and experience to this day massive racist discrimination in public institutions. But in comparison to for example South Africa or the USA the access to those structures were not prohibited by law. This means as a Black person most German institutions were not trained in the same excessive way to keep Black people away from the public life or education. This is an advantage. The only exception are Germany’s immigration laws and the police. It is not enough that the police harasses Black people in Germany in general but with the immigration laws Germany has, it’s police practically have permission to mistreat African refugees as much as they want in “the name of the law”. Black African refugees are the group of Black people, who experience the most intentional racism from all institutions as well as from the average mostly white citizens. The government does everything to deport them – throwing the most vulnerable of us out of the country and once again keeping Black lives away from Germany.
As Black children in Germany the greatest problems we had growing up in mostly white areas were, that we often lived very isolated lives and had nobody to exchange our experiences with . Many Black people here don’t know that they are Black. Sisters,* and brothers from the US or the UK ask us how one could not know, that one is Black? Because you have nobody to exchange your experience with . For many of our people don’t know that their experiences of discrimination are not individual but are instead collective, institutionalized and global. And of course white people try to talk them out of such truths instead of sharing Black knowledge. Most of us (sometimes including myself) are still struggling to understand, that racism is not predominantly about color but much more about power. Also many of our people still believe, that racism works both ways including “reverse racism”. They define themselves with racist slurs or prefer to not recognize the fact, that race matters. It is widely believed by every person in Germany, that racism only happens in the USA – as if the cities of Hamburg and Bremen did not get incredibly rich from colonialism and much of Berlin’s museum culture did not only exists because of the stolen art during colonialism. AS if the German state of Brandenburg was not once one of the most frequented trading places for enslaved Africans and like the ministry of justice of Germany is not on a street, which has the racist name “Mohrenstrasse” – street of the moors while “Mohr” is a German slur for Black people. This is by the way also why some of us growing up in Germany get a stomach ache when we see Black Americans speaking of the glorious empire of the “moors”. The similar sounding word “Mohr” is probably best translated into “Coon” for Americans.
Germany does not want to see racism and denies its very existence to the fullest. Even when isolated Black children between the age of 8 and 10 try to commit suicide because of the racist bullying at school the teachers rather try to help play the tragedy down. The parents, weather they’re Black or white, for the most part don’t know how to deal with the situation since only in bigger cities do you have even a tiny handful of Black people to exchange with. You don’t have to be neurodiverse to get into psychological extreme situations as a Black individual in Germany. Whenever racism happens the county always tries to reduce it to “a single tragic incident,” denying that those “single incidents” are the everyday life for each of us.
… when I told my white mother for the first time that I didn’t want to live anymore when I was about 11 or 12 she was very alarmed and sent me to a (white) therapist. It was a good decision. Though it didn’t really change my feelings at least I felt as if I was taken serious. I think it was my mother’s intervention, that prevented me from seriously thinking about ending my life. I know I didn’t say that to gain attention, but rather to say how I honestly felt and her reaction was right on a very basic level. And I didn’t really know why I felt like I felt. As a person with an ADHD and Aspergers it is easy for me to feel, but much more complicated to put these feelings in an order or to really know which feeling came from which situation. I just knew the school played a major role in the way I felt.
Compared to many sisters,* and brothers I had a lot of material luxury. But even with this I had and still have no words for the bullying I experienced at school, no words for the terror my soul was running from at school but also in my mind and in my dreams. In some of my dreams I got haunted by zombies in a post apocalyptic world being totally on my own. In my case they didn’t call me racist slurs at my school in Switzerland – at least not in primary school. They were “just bullying”. In comparison to sisters,* and brothers in east Germany I was lucky I didn’t get chased through the streets by a mob. Switzerland was too rich for its citizens to carry that much frustration in themselves so they’d unleash all of it on me in comparison to East Germany. Also nobody told me that they’d love to see me dead or that I am a n***** – at least not in prime school. But even if they didn’t voice it in so many words my time as a Black child in primary school was horrible. There was one white boy (I’d call him a sociopath ), who was intelligent and knew it. His intelligence made him much worse than the openly racist but stupid idiots I faced at secondary school. He barely used racist slurs but managed turned half of the class and many young people of our tiny village against me. He was sensitive and got bullied too when he was younger. But when he became older he was the bully and he knew how to do it. He recently tried to add me on Facebook. When I saw it I asked myself how small one can still to be? – petty and pathetic **********! It is like in every system of oppression: The oppressor needs the oppressed to be in his life, to maintain his unjust status of power, while the oppressed can live perfectly without the oppressor, and would find greater joy in life without them. I decided to live without his smile emoticon.
When I came in secondary school the words became more obvious and it became more clear what the bullying was all (or very much) about. The word n****** ( or the German colonial equivalent word “Neger”) became part of my everyday life. There I was one of two Blacks at the entire much larger school. But the white people there using these slurs were stupid so I could fight back – something I usually don’t do because I’m highly sensitive and a horribly bad fighter, though I’m very tall and I work out. People with autism or also ADHD will understand me. I tried so many martial arts but they’re useless when your much more likely to start crying because you’re so overwhelmed by impressions of violent emotions instead of remembering what you’ve learned. Starting to cry is a no go for a Black man in the province, who “has to be strong and male”. But at secondary school many white boys, who bullied me were so dull, that I could simply hit some of them and run away before they could fight back. In secondary school white boys had fun comparing me with shit. This is why I believe the American slur “piece of shit” comes from slavery and is a racist one, but that’s just my outside perspective. They also constantly made the gesture of whipping me as a parallel to the whipping during slavery. When I think back, I think I should have hit them much harder!
I haven’t spoken about this with anyone. I have not even my therapist about my childhood. I feel right now, that it might be time but I simply don’t know if I want to unfold my childhood in front of white therapist. In Berlin – a city with nearly 4 million people living in it, I know only about 4 psychologists, of which 2 are working as therapist. It is not easy to acknowledge, that you might have had a hard childhood, while on the meantime you grew up in the safest and wealthiest country on earth in a upper middle-class family. But I have to acknowledge it. Otherwise I’ll never heal.
I processed much of my experiences in the wars my toys were leading – desperate wars of defense against an always unknown and terribly supreme enemy, while most other children were building peaceful cities, drew pictures of animals or played soccer outside. I stayed inside my room and played wars – my everyday inner and outer wars. When I look back I think my toys were probably defending themselves and therefore simply did what I couldn’t in school. And the enemy was always unknown because I had no real words for my experiences and sometimes still don’t have them today. I didn’t understand how the other children were connected through their whiteness and their neurotypic being. Some Black people can channel the everyday aggression they experience in sport but when you have an ADHD/Aspergers intersectionality every ball becomes a terribly complicated object in your hands and between your legs.
If I had to summarize the experience of Black people in Germany in one word I’d choose “isolation”. And if I had to summarize the experience of Black ADHD/Aspie people in Germany in 2 words then I’d choose “TOTAL isolation”.
Me being Black and becoming conscious in all white Germany, while at the same time being neurodiverse in such a childhood needed much time, much self love, a lot of patience from many of the beloved Black people around me. The willingness to face the history from a Black perspective, to my past and current traumas and a thirst to understand, and to BE and STAY Black aware in Germany means for me to acknowledge, that as soon as I leave my flat I’m in a battle zone , a battlefield – post apocalyptic world. Like in my dreams. In a post apocalyptic world, post colonial, but also post world war two, I find myself in as soon as I leave my flat , leading desperate wars of self defense while being surrounded by zombies – brain dead creatures trying to invade my beautiful Black body and my beautiful Black hair. They’re hungry for my Black flesh, to eat my body, to infect me with their colonialism and their Nazi race theories, to turn me in one of them: Brain dead (without memory and Black perspective and Black knowledge) and lifeless. This is, what my reality feels like being a Black man in Germany.
But I didn’t come so far to loose myself in self pity or grief! I did not sharpen my eye to all the dangers around me, acknowledging in what colonial world I am living in to spend my life in frustration. I’ve cultivated my Black neurodiverse self love far too well for that . Since I see the danger and the challenges I don’t just want to continue the bare survival. I want to live, to build and create, to love and to fight – to honor all our fellow sisters,* and brothers, who fought before me and to leave all sisters,* and brothers coming after me a better world to live in. Also for this I write, I speak, I think and I dream!
By Noah Hofmann