Reflecting light skin privilege and why I reject the terms “mixed race” and “multi racial”
Colorism is a racist hierarchy, of which I can rarely speak concerning my concrete experience of discrimination, because I’m a light skinned ( as also an able bodied cis man). I’m at least inside the Black community in many privileged positions. I speak about it, because I belong to the group, who profits from this hierarchy and I also believe it is always the job of the privileged or oppressors to remove the problem they create, maintain and/or profit from. Also most of my knowledge I share and summarize here is based on knowledge of dark skinned sisters,* and brothers, who were generous and shared it with with me.
But since I’m in the privileged position, that though I most carefully reflect my position the risc remains, that the things I’m saying in here might be wrong simply because I’m not the expert. So dear light skinned sisters,* and brothers what ever you read in here: Sisters,* and brothers with dark skin always have a veto, since they are the experts on how colorism shows itself most.
I understand colorism as a hierarchy caused through racism – a hierarchy inside the Black community as also in other communities of color, in which light skinned people get structurally and socially predominantly privileged. In this and further blogs in the future I want to understand this hieararchy better and start deconstructing it. I want to remove it not only because it is an at least self preserved and unjust hierarchy, but also, because I think, that in countries, which have a very establisht colorist hierarchy it is much more complicated to remove racism in general. I believe, to effectively fight racism it is inevitable to effectively fight colorism as well, since I belive colorism grew out of racism and therefore thouse hierarchies are connected. And I think we’ll never get to the roots of racism as long as colorism keeps us divided. But I also believe in comparison to the relations between Black and white people, where white people are the ones creating the problem racism and maintain it I believe the colorist hierarchy got predominantly forced from outside towards the Black community by white people. Though I personally doubt, that we light skinned people are the main creators of the problem, I though think for sure, that we’re the first ones having accepted it and if we don’t actively contribute in the removal of this hierarchy we become / remain oppressors as also foot soldiers and defenders of white supremacy.
Though we’re all equally Black one has recognize, that skin color matters, inside and outside the Black community. I also believe, that it is a privilege especially for light skinned men like me, that after having realized, that we’re all equally Black most of the struggle and the oppression concerning skin color inside the Black community is over. We don’t have to ask ourselves in the same way, if we make negative experiences inside the Black community because of the skin color like dark skinned people do. And we have to watch, that we don’t unleash all our internalized racism towards dark skin people. We have to watch ourselves, that we don’t behave towards them with the same conscious and unconscious aggressions or feelings and beliefs of superiority like white people do towards all Black people. Why are we at risk to do that? Because all Black people have internalized racism. So having internalized racism every light skinned person becomes a potential predator or threat for unleashing racial aggressions towards our own people – not just like all Black people, but also in an oppressive colorist way because white people defined this unspoken but often performed rule “The lighter you are, the less will whites mistreat you”.
And light skin Blacks have been tricked by this too often and we also close our eyes in front of this problem if we believe, that it wouldn’t concern us . It is a very effective method of letting oppressed people hating each other instead of the oppressor since everybody is aking for a release of the oppression and many of us light skinned people delightfully embraced the parts of release of the oppression, embraced those privileges misinterpreting it as progress, not realizing on whose backs this “progress” happened and how effectively these privileges of “being the better Blacks” or house slaves divide us. And by not reflecting it we light skin Blacks maintain the system of oppression and sabotage the resistance against racism and Black empowerment.
So how do we fight it? One way might be to for example actively identify, resist and reject the privileges given to us right in the moment when they’re given to us or in moments when we realize, that only light skinned people get advantages. Our mantra should be: Touch one, touch all! We have to confront white people (but also people in general) from who we feel, that they treat us better then dark skinned sisters,* and brothers. As an example: When the national geographic released a prognosis about how the future humans would look like there weren’t any dark skinned people in their prognoses. Once more they communicate us: In the future there won’t exist any dark skinned people. The German version of national geographic did exactly the same, calling us light skinned Black the “new Germans”. Despite the fact, that no Black person is “new” in Germany and that the country ignores its history of genocide and extermination of Black people there have always been hundreds of thousands if not millions of dark skinned Black people. I immediatelly ranted on their facebook page.
In Germany many ligh skinned Blacks, with (in the following always biological) one Black and one white parent see themselves as “somewhere in between” – like dark skinned sisters,* and brothers, who are born and raised here are not in the same cultural struggle between their African culture and their European culture they grew up in. Like one could partially have white privileges, like white supremacy would not call us the n-bomb too. White supremacy tells me as a light skin person alwas, that I’m Black. The only time white people tell me, that I’m not Black is, when I myself refer to me as a Black man. There white supremacy shows once more its true face by showing, that it was never about neutral classifications but about the power – the power to label everybody as it benefits the hierarchy. On one hand they communicate me very clear, that I’m Black on the other had they come and tell me “But your’re not really Black” . They try to connect my identity as precisely as possible to my skin tone. And what happens there is a very sneaky thing: They’re not only constantly telling me,that I don’t belong to them because I’m Black. They also tell me, that I don’t belong to Black people either – and divide me from my people, the people I belong with and keep me seperated – keep us seperated.
Whhite supremacy never divided us by telling us “Listen, please hate each other”, since there would be no reason for us to accept this extra work of hating each other. But by giving some of us privileges they had success. Light skin privileges – surprising and unspoken false signs of care and fake love, that they denied others. When I recently made a stand towards colorism on the facebook page of a white owned magazin and identified myself as a Black man a white man just wrote the following things:
This is their strategy. We were never meant to be partially white, half – white. But as soon as we light skin Blacks cut our chains and team up with our people like we always should have in the past people white people try to keep the division upright by “charming” us (in this case also in a pretty racist way).
Needless to say: This seperation is dangerous.
If we would assume, that the two groups white and Black are violence free neutral classifications and we light skinned Blacks MIGHT be in between (despite of the “tiny” fact, that those groups and racism probably would not exist, because it was always predominantly about power) and would maybe just not know who to associate with (which is also a stereotype: I know, where I belong to). But since white is on top and Black is on the very bottom, which was the very purpose of racism the racial “in between” means we’d position us under white people and over Black people. And this position “in between” turns us into perfect foot soldiers for white supremacy. We get the orders and the violence from the top and unleash everything downwards in the hierarchy and violate our own people for white people while white people can lean back. And in the case of an uprising most of us would probably be stupid enough to stand up against our own and defend the white masters.So the concept of being “half” or “in between” makes no sense. We have to break this system. We must not allow, that white peoples classifications of skin color once more divide us even inside our communities. I believe we should unite!
In my school they already started to indoctrinate colorism into me by saying that everything in my exterior, that they didnt label as African would be something, that “makes me better”. We light skinned people have to reject those compliments they make us about eurocentric features and if you ask me push them down their throat! Those compliments are not neutral. They are racist and enforce racism, colorism and self hate. Also their labels were scientifically inaccurate, since there are millions of East Africans, who have my facial features.
There are also further reasons why I reject the term mixed race. First I reject it because races don’t exist but racism. The term m** r*** maintains the believe, that there are races. Additional: From a Black perspective and therefore from the perspective of one of the most hated racialized groups on earth m**** r***, or biracial no matter who you are “mixed” with also always means “better”. It lifts us in the oppressive position of being “in between”again. My view might be controversial but at least from a Black perspective I consider the debate about multiraciality as colorism covered as “something neutral” , covered as something “unproblematic and worth to discover and talk about” and as “an identity worth to establish”.
In France light skinned children got called “enfant sauvee (=saved children)” because of their complexion. My personal opinion is, that Black people should get rid of the term mmixed race because it is used to divide us with the criteria of color and shade.
To show it in another example how “mixed race” is misused: There was recently an article in the online magazine “mic”, with a title sounding like:””How mixed race also looks like”, featuring only people of color, who had serious chances to pass as white. Dark skin sisters,* and brothers did not get seen, nor treated as mixed race, though many of them are just as “mixed” as their light counter parts, but dark skin is not what mixed race is associated with. I shitstormed their facebook page as well.
Additionally the term “mixed race” is in its every day use connected to skincolor and would be used inaccurately as well because there are peoples in North Africa, who have a light skin and who sometimes get labeled as mixed race though they have only Black parents. And to consider some people in Ethiopia mixed race and therefore also maybe as less Black concerning their skin color would not just be divisive but also hurtful concerning the people and their glorious history in fighting back the European colonizers. In this way colorism also hurts the privileged: Because of our skin tone our Blackness sometimes gets questioned and therefore also many of the traumatic experiences we make as well. But making this painful experience does not even the colorist hierarchy at all.
To summarize it: I see the terms “biracial”, “multiracial”, “mixed race” or “being Black and white” only as a way to fine grain the power hierarchy between those, who are not white.
So how do I identify myself against all these divisive labels? I identify as a Black man. When it comes to colorism,there is no language in Germany as it isn’t for racism in general. I identify as Black man, and when it comes to colorism, I’d identify as “heller Schwarzer” – translated “light Black man”. But this is just me and not the social consens. I also don’t know if I will or have to change my identity again because of further knowledge I get in the future.
Sometimes people tell me, that with rejecting the mixed race identity I’d “reject my white side”. To me they ignore, that the identity of whiteness is exclusive and defined by power, including the power to decide who is white (meaning who belongs) and who isn’t. Whiteness is not a culture, that one can be part of or not, like for example being partially Tanzanian, partially German and partially Swiss . It is a construct, that decides in itself, that people like me must not be part of and get labeled as different and less. Whiteness defines itself through being racially in the absolute power position. Enslaved Africans were enslaved Africans. As far as I know did the color of the skin sometimes matter in the question of who is overseer or who is the slave in the house or on the field but as far as I know once one got labeled Black it was not such a strict seperation as it was between Black and white, enslaved and owner. So we are all Black and were all enslaved because of our Blackness.
Whiteness had also to be exclusive so there were enough non-whites to exploit and to secure the wealth of the whites.
So I believe there might be a European side in me through my socialization, but there is no white side and never was, since the exclusive definition of whiteness itself never allowed one to be white and something else like it is quite difficult to be partially dead, since being alive mostly excludes being dead.
I love my white family. I also love my white friends. And in comparison to many white people I’m so nice to distinguish between white people, which the majority of them doesn’t with Blacks. But as much as I love my white family I don’t have a white side because of my complexion. To me one can discuss about how “white” I was because of how I was raised, but in this case a dark skinned sister,* or brother would face the same discussions. I have to add to this remark, that I think in the US it is seen quite as problematic, that some things are associated as white while others are not. I think in Germany we (still?) dont have those strong labels as either the probable stigma connected with it.
And I learned, that colorism also creates stereotypes inside the Black community. I don’t want to reproduce them here since I don’t want to spread violence, but for example the DARK SKIN activist Rashida Strober speaks on her facebook news feed much and very personal about her experiences and views as a DARK SKIN woman and activist. She publicized the book “A dark skinned womans revenge” as also “How to be the hottest dark skin girl in the world”.I value many of her perspectives, since they show me perspectives and conclusions I barely hear and her personal commitment is very strong and her writings are moving. But I can also enjoy her feed, because I’m a man and I can deal with occasional queer- and/or light skin shaming ( as long it comes from other Black people , which does not make it much better, but concerning my own I’m tolerant since I see it at least for light skinned men sometimes really justified).
How do I close this blog? I wanted to encourage conversations about colorism as also to share the tiny bits of knowledge I have so I can contribute in deconstructing it where it has established. Since Germany does not yet speak enough about anti Black racism it makes it even harder to talk about it and to learn. But on the other hand there is a chance to awake light skinned sisters,* and brother, so when the conversations about race are spreading they already have more sensitivity for this specific hierarchy and we can stifle it immediately where ever it comes up. For me as a light skin dude people like Jidennah or Jessie Williams are interesting role models. Jessie Williams promotes the “m*** r*** idenity, where I already don’t agree with him but though he often shows, that he tries to deal with his light skin privilege in a responsible way, which is more important to me as how he identifies himself. I’m looking forward to learn from your experiences and your ways of handling the situation or from your expectations you have from us light skin Blacks, maybe also specific light skin Black cis-men!
Have a great new year! 🙂
P.S. I REALLY promise to make the next blogs a little bit shorter! 😀
Relations between Black people and non-Black people of color in the German context
Hello and welcome back!
In this blog I want to describe how I personally see and experience the relations between Black people in Germany and non-Black people of color.
One of the biggest communities of color in Germany are Turkish communities. As Black people do the Turkish community experience a big amount of discrimination and racism. For example a former finance senator of Berlin (T. Sarrazin) wrote a book in which he shames and “scientifically proves”, why Turkish people should have a lower IQ and that this is connected to Islam and their culture. Germany got internationally criticized for this waste of paper and the fact, that this was one of the bestselling books after World War II truly exposes the average white German mind. Also Germany showed itself totally incapable to manage the racist debates, which erupted right afterwards, though it were Turkish and Arab immigrants, who rebuilt all the German cities after the war. The PEGIDA demonstrations in 2014/2015, in which ten thousands of angry white men (and I have to admit: a tiny group of self hating Blacks as well ) “protested” against Islam and against the people they label as Muslims were a new climax on anti Islamic (and therefore mostly anti brown) racism in Germany. To summarize: non-Black people of color experience a lot of racism in Germany.
And though to a certain point I envy them for their position. How can I envy a group of people, who also so often even get shamed in the media? It’s simple: They’re visible – and also feared. And as most of them probably would not understand my envy: When you’re visible you get recognized, sometimes feared and therefore to some (limited) point even respected. Black people know what it means when you’re kept invisible. When you’re invisible nothing of your struggles gets seen, recognized and respected in the public – and nothing of you matters. People can do what they want with you. The police or average racist white men can do what ever violence they want to do with you since if you’re Black in Germany you probably won’t even find someone to exchange your experience with. White people don’t identify with you or your problems and if you’re Black in this situation you probably dónt find the strength, to fight against a state, who claims, that your experience is a most individual and unique one and especially your own fault. When a German official institution wrote a report about racism, Jews, Roma, Arab and Turkish people were mentioned as victims, but not Black people as we don’t get mentioned as inmates in the concentration camps either, though thousands of us have been killed during the nazi regime. So even if the picture of Turkish and Arab people and Islam created in the media is bad, it exists, as also voices, who speak up for them.
From my non Jewish perspective I think Germanies institutions are sensitive concerning the hate towards jews – maybe not as sensitive as they should, but they do. The politicians as also the government learned from the German history in this case and show a sensitivity towards jews, they don’t show for brown, not to mention Black people. This does not mean, that the average people are sensitive concerning the hate towards jews (which they call anti semitism, like only jews are semits) in the same way but officials and media react quite alarmed, when a case of hate towards jews gets reported.
Many non-Black and Black people of color in Germany are still desperately trying to become recognised as Germans. Though many of them have a German passport they though get discriminated and they don’t understand, that racism and the problem of not belonging in a society is not only bound to only passports. So like it is with everybody who desperately tries to become loved and liked by the oppressor they don’t have a critical eye for the mistreatement and racism they experience and they internalize it again and again – and from my experience non-Black people of color unleash much of this internalized racism towards us Blacks and pass the aggression and violence down in the unsaid racial hierarchy. Also non-Black people of color steal Black culture. The hip-hop culture in Germany is not halfway as big as in the US, but it exists and it is dominated by non-Black people of color, while the music itself and all the fashion trends connected to it are (or at least were for decades) predominantly elements taken out of Black cultures in the US like clothing brands (FUBU), wide colorful clothing, sagging pants, etc. Yes, there are also Black German hip-hop legends like AfroB, Samy Deluxe, Matondo, D-Flame or Torch but except for Samy Deluxe they hardly dominated the German hip hop, especially financially. To me non-Black people of color stole Black culture and got successful with it at least inside Germany. Also the expression “brother” – which is an expression of connection and solidarity in resistance is often used by nonblack people of color towards Black people and between them, though it is a Black expression of solidarity. When they use the term sister,* or brother for Black people they behave like we are all the same. This would be great, but on the meantime with these expressions they simply deny and don’t take responsability for the racial hierarchy, which definitely exists between us and them. On the other hand: When it comes to Black issues I hardly see non-Black people of color on demonstrations or actions for Black people.
I make about between 30 and 50% of all the racist experiences with non-Black people of color. This percentage is on one side so high, because I live in the more diverse areas of Berlin, on the other hand because the majority of non-Black people of color don’t reflect racism but rather tends to kick down in the racial hierarchy, while they steal our culture. Yes, there are activists and scholars like Mutlu Ergün-Hamaz or the one member of the German parliament Özcan Mutlu, who seem to have understood much about their position in the racial hierarchy and show solidarity for Black issues, but like with white people they are a small minority inside of the racist non-Black people of color group. When I leave my house and go on the street the only difference in my personal experience with non-Black people of color and white people is, that if non-Black people of color are nice, they are much nicer then white people, but if they are bad, they can also be much worse. Especially Black women have it really hard because of the street harassment not only from white men, but also from a high percentage non-Black men of color (but shamefully also Black men).
I see this racist division between Blacks and non-Black people of color as implemented by white Germany itself and it becomes most obvious in the current incapability of a decent treatment of the incoming hundreds of thousands of refugees. While there suddenly is a huge wave of solidarity for the Syrian refugees, container villages are suddenly built out of nowhere , empty buildings are suddenly prepared to host people and the German government suddenly thinks even about changing its constitution to the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria it’s on the meantime though planning to build its deportation camps right in Libya – the country, where the refugees are predominantly African refugees, and where Germany still pays money to deport or keep African the refugees out of Europe – money for people like in colonialism and the enslavement. African refugees have tried to reach Europe for decades and Europe let them drown in the middle sea for decades and they were kept invisible or only seen as a problem. One of the biggest and political refugee protests at Oranienplatz (Berlin) was led by predominantly African refugees to break their invisibility and nobody except a tiny handful of radical left-wing activist thought about actually helping and supporting them. Now suddenly, when the refugees are not Black any more Germany discovers it’s solidarity. A picture from the Syrian toddler created an outcry around the world, while nobody reports about all the dead Black toddlers and people on Italys and Lybias coasts who get found there since decades. Germany itself creates and maintains this division between the value of the lives and of course non-Black people of colour immediately understand nonverbally what their position in this racial hierarchy is. They would not treat us the way they do if white people would not just tolerate but confirm it.
In the younger generations between 15 and 20 years there sometimes there sometimes seem to form some alliances between Blacks and non-Black poc, but I don’t think they reflect the general relations between Black people and non-Black poc as I also don’t believe, that those alliance are free of hierarchies.
To summarise the racism in Germany I’d like to rise a simple example, of which I recognize , that it might get seen as controversial and might not reflect the opinion of the majority of Black people or non-Black poc in Germany, but to me it illustrates very clear as I see the situation:
- If a white man in Germany gets murdered, it is immediately recognised as murder and the police also immediately investigates in all directions with full commitment.The murderer could have been anyone.
- When a non-Black person of color , for example a member of the Turkish community gets murdered the police only investigates inside the Turkish community, because they deny the very high probability, that it could have been a racist murder. This is one of the reasons, why the NSU scandal could have happened. There a neo nazi trio murdered 10 non-Black men of color in Germany over a long time period and the police did not investigate outside of the Turkish communities, but rather criminalized them, until the whole thing got uncovered, lead to many bad surprises and revealed much of Germanies unwillingness to investigate concerning white terrorism.
- If a Black person gets murdered they even deny the fact, that it was a murder like in the case of the brothers Oury Jalloh or Khaled Idris Bahray, but label it as suicide or accident. In the case of Oury Jalloh even the highest German court still believes, that a Black refugee, who was unconscious and fixed on arms and feet set himself on fire on a fireproof mattress without a fire lighter. Germany…
So, the hierarchy exists and gets poorly deconstructed and analysed by anyone. For my self protection does this lead to my three mandatory requirements for seeing non-Black people of color as potential allies:
- If a non-Black person, white or of color wants to team up with me or be a friend of mine the person needs to prove, that the person is not anti-Black racist and that the person has critically reflected their position in the racist hierarchy. Most Non-Black people of color would claim to not be anti-Black racist, but my experience teaches me otherwise.
- Non-Black people of color must give back the stolen (hip hop-) cultures, refer in a respectful way to their Black origins and create their own subculture of resistance, instead of appropriating ours.
- (Important:) Non-Black people of color also need to critically reflect the relations between their original cultures and Black people (Arab slave trade, Chinas neo colonial behaviour,…) and deconstruct this as well it in their own communities to be safe allies for Black people.
These are my core demands, before I am willing to ally on a general basis and we are far away from that state. I have no resentments or prejudices towards non-Black people of color, nor do I have special feelings towards them as a group as diverse as totally diverse as this group is. But I care most about myself and my people – the people who are for me the most beautiful, most powerful and therefore also the most hated people on earth.
I am sorry if this blog somehow became again a long list of negative aspects, but to give a ruthless analysis of the situation of Black people inGermany one needs to address the problems without hesitating. What are my priorities after the fact, that non-Black people of color nearly treat us like white people treat us? My personal priorities are only my people, Africans and/or Black people all over the world. Though I also have a small bunch of white friends and mates Black people are the only people, that matter to me as a group and here the Black German communities are the people, who are great for me and good for my soul. We are not a paradise, but to me our small safe space seems like little paradises to me with only beautiful people in it. In the very tiny but quite political communities in Berlin I can think free, talk open, be stupid and learn on a much more dignified base, because the people I learn from are the most loving teachers in my life.
I finished this blog after having had two wonderful evenings with a blast of conversations with Black friends – healing conversations! Especially as an ADHD/ Aspie it took me very long time to find some good people in Berlin but right at this moment it seems like I have found some. *feels good and happy* 🙂
Grrowing up in German speaking Europe
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!
A story of Black people in Germany
Hello and welcome to my second blog post!
In this blog I want to briefly summarize the history of the Black German movement from my perspective. I think it is important to understand the current situation and the current state (of mind) of Black people in Germany. For more detailed information about the history I also want to refer to the other great blogs on the “Arriving in the future” website, which greatly describe and summarize many chapters of Black history in Germany.
We’ve always been a part of this country, and sometimes even a significant one. Until now we know, that the earliest mentions of Black people in Germany were Saint Maurice and his Theban legion, which were Black Egyptians around 200 ad. If you ask me I personally believe the common picture of Christian saints with a golden halo around their heads standing on a mountain is the sun shining through the Black African hair and the white Celts and Germans saw the sun shining through our hair, because they had to look up and they had to look up because we sat on moving gray mountains – elephants, when people like Hannibal or earlier African queens,* and kings rode through the European mountains. But these are so far only my personal conclusions.
We make a little jump until the 18th century, where the enslavement and colonialism were going on. The German state Brandenburg was one of the most significant trading place for enslaved Black people in whole Europe but nowadays nobody knows about it. Why this is the case I’ll explain later. The German philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo was an enslaved African himself. As a child he was sent as a gift to a German aristocrat in the 1700’s, who decided to see how far a (insert colonial slur for Black people) could make his way in the German education system. Amo got two PhD’s, became a lecturer at a German university and wrote wonderful texts that shattered the capitalistic system down to its foundations, which was responsible for the enslavement and colonialism. But after his death Germany did, what it did best since colonialism and still does best until today: It burned his works and made Black German work, history and people invisible.
Before World War I Germany committed the first genocide in the twentieth century by killing between ten thousands if not hundred thousands of the people of the Herero and Nama tribes in Namibia. Briefly summarized, millions of Africans died of the direct or indirect influence of German colonialism. Germans often try to claim, that their ruling was not that bad because they themselves “only” shot hundreds of thousands out of a few millions of Africans, while the British and the French killed dozens of millions. But the German invaders manifested the already existing hierarchy between the Tutsi and the Hutu – a hierarchy, that already existed before, but never had this incredible tension and hate in it until both people experienced the German oppression. The genocide of the Tutsi was, if you ask me, an aftershock, which would have never been possible without the huge trauma of colonialism. But all of this happened in Africa, not in Germany and therefore it was much easier for Germans at home to deny their history.
During World War I Black French soldiers were stationed in Europe and had children with white German women. These kids were the so-called “Rheinland bastards”. The Rheinland was the German region, where these kids were born. But Germany eradicated this evidence of Black people and Black history too according to its race theories and because they believed their white race would not be upgraded but made more impure through the existence of mixed race children. Most of these children were sterilized by force when they were still young and/or were killed as adults during the Nazi regime. There is a wonderful project from Mokoari street productions where they’re shooting a film right now about these children. The film itself is called “Rheinland” and is made by predominantly Black filmmakers! So even today we ourselves are still the ones who have to arduously uncover our own history.
During the Nazi time many Black people in Germany were killed or imprisoned in the concentration camps. Only a few people like Gert Schramm (judge), Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi (later and in the magazine “Ebony” in the U.S. ) or Theodor Wonja Michael (actor) survived the horror and later wrote books about their lives in Nazi Germany. Germany mentions Jews, Sinti, Roma and homosexuals as victims of their crimes – but until today it never mentions Black people. We were invisible then and are kept invisible until today.
During the 80’s tiny groups of Black people all over Germany started to form and organize. I can only assume that the U.S. civil rights movements had also activated Black people in Germany. During this time Audre Lorde came to Berlin and spoke with Black German women. She gave us THE initiating kick and is also the reason the core of the small Black German movement always consists and consisted of feminist, academic and modern thinking Black women and not patriarch Black men. Through Lorde’s encouragement and influence two young Black German women Katharina Oguntoye and May Ayim wrote one of the first and most important Black literary milestones in Black German history – the book “Showing our colors: Afro-German women speak out (1986)”.
Also at this time the “ISD – Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland” (Initiative of Black people in Germany) was founded, which by the way celebrate its 30th birthday this year! The organization “Adefra” (Black women in Germany) was also founded at this time. These initiatives did and still do until today again and again continue the work of making us visible and giving us a voice. A project, which incorporates this idea really well is the exhibition “Homestory Deutschland”. It was launched 10 years ago and still travels through the world and shows beautiful portraits of Black people in Germany who have lived and/or still live in Germany together with short and wonderfully biographies.
So when I speak of Black people making themselves visible, many people am I speaking of? We don’t know, since Germany still doesn’t talk about race, but it is estimated we’re roughly about 1 Million out of around 83 million people living in Germany. I think the fact that we still are so few in number adds to the fight for our rights and our recognition.
But brave as we Black people are all over the world, in the last decade we have become LOOOUUDEEER! Which is a wonderful thing.
In my next blog I will try describe the everyday racism one faces as a Black person in Germany and will try to describe common states of minds of Black people in Germany. I will also articulate a little bit more from my neurodiverse perspective. Thanks for reading this post and I would love to welcome you on my next one.
Hello and feel warmly welcomed to my blog
Who am I? I am a Black German in his early 30’s living in Berlin. To be more exact: I am a light skinned queer but until now mostly straight performing feminist cis-man – and I am neurodiverse. Being neurodiverse means, that I am blessed with in my case even two mental dispositions that are unluckily marked as illnesses by society. I am a highly sensitive Asperger autist having an ADHD on the meantime. While both dispositions are not that strongly distinct, their presence in society creates an interesting and challenging intersectional reality I don’t want to exclude from future blog posts. Concerning my exterior: I don’t challenge the Eurocentric beauty ideal by having the privileges of being thin, tall and by trying to work out my body, but I do it by being Black and wearing my natural curly hair, which since winter 2011 has become quite a big kinky (I call it ) crown. By having a face, that rather matches Eurocentric beauty I often got asked in the past whether I have been in the tanner for very long since I have some tan, but people didn’t immediately associate my parents with East Africa, from which one of my two fathers is. But since I have my hair all questions concerning my tan seem to be answered.
Why do I describe myself this meticulously? Because I think every single feature makes a difference in the experiences one makes in (German) society.
I was born and raised in Switzerland in a privileged, complicated but very loving, all white upper middle-class German family; which is probably the main reason, why an actually more or less average (or slightly over the average) intelligent Black man with an ADHD and Aspergers autism is not dead, in jail or homeless but can reflect about racism and about being Black and neurodiverse in Germany.
I also speak as someone coming from a specific group of Black Germans, sharing the circumstance, that many of our fathers are African academics or US GIs, who came to Germany, got together with white German women and often went back to Africa or the US afterwards for various reasons (I can only assume, that visas ran out, they didn’t find a job for racist reasons, couldn’t take the amount of racism in general, some probably didn’t plan to stay anyway and I’m sure some were simply scared from becoming a father). So many of us grew up without any Black parents in all white environments. In later blog posts I will get more detailed about this experience. Though Blacks like me are a significant percentage inside the tiny Black community in Germany I though don’t believe we’re the majority. But I can only guess, since I don’t even know how many of us, Black people in Germany, there are. This is because there are no statistics. Because of Germany’s colonial history Blacks were kept as silent and as invisible as possible for centuries, though some of us have been writing and creating art for centuries and blogging for decades.
As our existence was and partly still is denied so to is the language for our reality. We don’t even have a working word that is used like the English term ‘race’ in German, because the translation of ‘race’ is the same word for ‘breed’ in German. This is one of the reasons why many Black Germans including me reject the term mixed race or race in general: Nobody wants to be associated with a certain ‘breed’. I simply define myself as a Black person and in matters of shade I describe myself as (still) light skinned while recognizing the privileges connected with it. I also mostly speak and exchange with Black people from the US or the UK, so if I try to take a distance from Germany and reflect about things in the German context I will be mostly comparing the situations with the US or the UK, but I’m looking forward to get more especially non western perspectives!
This is roughly who I AM and how I’m positioned in the hierarchies of race, class , gender, disability and body. And what I WANT in this blog is to articulate my Black German reality, share my neurodiverse perspective while being another Black voice breaking the silence inside and outside of Germany. I want to continue the work of my predecessors analyzing racist realities, showing opportunities of empowerment and maybe even generating tiny pieces of knowledge
You’re most invited to join me on this journey!
2 thoughts on “Aioon”
Very interesting article. I can relate in a way as I’m afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome and am very introverted.
Looking forward to reading and learning about other experiences of black Germans.