Part 2: Lack of Education about Everyday Racism and DiscriminationWe have a Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (Anti-Diskriminerungsstelle des Bundes (ADS) http://www.antidiskriminierungsstelle.de/DE/Home/home_node.html) in Germany only since the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeine Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG)) came into effect in 2006. Over 81 million people today are represented by a handful people in the ADS office in Berlin. The Agency was established due to pressure by the EU. In spite of a critical need for the agency, the body is underfunded, unpopular, and very controversial.
The General Equal Treatment Act offers little protection. However, given that discrimination has historically been ignored in our country, the act has had made a reasonable impact since its coming into effect. There currently is a discussion to extend the law to offer more protection. However, subsequent to the general attitude toward the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, a wide-spread support is lacking, along with financial and educational Resources.Due to the higher anti-discrimination standards in the EU, some positive changes are inevitable, no matter what our position may be. However, since changes imposed on from “outside” are less effective, it may take a very long time before anti-discrimination sensitivity becomes more evident. In the meantime, minorities in our country are destined to continue living their lives facing loss in earnings, lack of visibility, lack of self-determination, lack of representation, unable to live up to their potential, marginalized and looked down on.
What is the reason for the outcry against the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency in the first place? Given our history, don’t we have the moral obligation to be the leading country in the fight against racism?The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is rejected because it stands for something that the dominant culture is not willing to recognize.
Here is how we fight racism: by “pretending” that it is the same as right extremism. That way, the attention is drawn away from institutions to another group: the “right extremists.” How well we deal with right extremism, can be studied at the example of the “Döner-Morde” (Turkish Döner means Gyros. German Morde is the plural for murder/killings)—a racist term that was used during the investigation of the killings of 8 Turkish and a Greek man by a right extremist group between 2000 and 2006. In connection with these killings, a female German police officer was also killed. Due to its extent, this event and the disturbing official dealings with it (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/world/europe/german-woman-charged-in-neo-nazi-crime-rampage.html?pagewanted=all) will not be further discussed in this article.Because of a wide-spread denial that discrimination exists, a proper language for discrimination and related issues has not been established. People interested in an honest discussion are left with only one choice: to use English-language terms. English-language terms however, are not very popular in Germany; especially if a connection to the USA is suspected. Therefore, the usage of English-language terms often immediately leads to a defensive reaction and a limited discussion of the pressing issues. A translation of the English terms into German is not very effective, because of a lack of association with such translated new terms. A strong, established language for discrimination is the key to an effective discussion. The lack of such language means that no wide-ranging effective discussion is taking place.
Here are some examples for the limited anti-discrimination and diversity language: in Germany, words “diversity” and “inclusion” are used. However most people do not know what the words or the phrase entails. Both, diversity and inclusion are usually approached from limited perspectives that are preferably not controversial. Diversity is generally used in context of diversity management in organizations. Ethnic and racial diversity are very controversial topics, therefore, diversity management efforts are over proportionately represented by gender or age diversity efforts. Discrimination, in general, is not a preferred topic for diversity discussions. According to a situation, few aspects of diversity are taken at a time and dealt with.
Under inclusion, most of us understand the inclusion of disabled persons only; turning inclusion also into a very limited discussion, inappropriate for what the term should address. These and many more examples explain the “confusion” about diversity and inclusion in Germany. A broad perspective is missing.
Besides the lack of proper language, most organizations, including the government, do not have internally established contemporary anti-discrimination procedures. Among other reasons, they do not have the know-how to establish such procedures even if they wanted to. Given that the existence of discrimination and racism has been rejected by a majority of people, and still is, know-how to do the job was never developed. Therefore, a victim of a possible discrimination has to consider that during a complaint procedure, she most likely will end up dealing with people who are not educated about discrimination, don’t know how to respond and even react with hostility.Unlike i.e., in the USA, moving forward with an anti-discrimination complaint in Germany is most certainly associated with attorney fees. The burden of proof is on the organization that allegedly discriminated. However, the initial cost of a possible law suit is the responsibility of the person who feels discriminated against; discouraging someone with limited financial means from pursuing her rights. Another discouraging factor may be that the financial reward for detecting discrimination is very nominal. The fact that the effort and resources put into detecting discrimination does not return appropriate financial reward makes pursuing a complaint even more difficult. It is common that law suits in Germany don’t yield as much reward as they do i.e. in the USA. Compared to what it may cost to pursue a lawsuit, one needs to consider if it is "worth" pursuing it in the first place.
The status quo of anti-discrimination is striking, given our status in Europe and the rest of the world. Germany claims to be the leader in many disciplines, but why are we so backward when it comes to dealing with discrimination and racism?The idea of equal treatment is not new in Germany. It has been anchored in the German Constitution (Basic Law) (Article 3, Paragraph 3) since 1949, however has had little to no public attention until recently. For example, practices such as racial profiling at clubs have been standard procedure and continue to take place, in spite of the General Equal Treatment Act as many club owners either don’t know that racial profiling for entry to a club is illegal or don’t care that it is because the number of complaints are very limited and the fines for breaking the law are nominal.
As late as end of October 2012, an upper administrative court in Koblenz overruled a decision that was made beginning of the year, that racial profiling by the police was a lawful measure (http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/racial-profiling-german-court-forbids-police-checks-based-on-skin-color-a-864455.html). Today, due to the lack of a formal ruling, racial profiling remains a grey area (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/13/germany-neo-nazi-investigation-institutional-racism).Regardless of the resistance and lack of education about discrimination, there is one aspect of “diversity” that is a popular discussion topic in Germany: “integration.” Integration is non-controversial and comfortable way to discuss the lack of diversity and representation of minorities. This discussion revolves around “blaming” minorities and their lack of language and other skills for the missing representation in the society.
As opposed to the severe lack of studies and education about discrimination there is an over-supply of studies related to integration. Studies which document that the minorities, especially the “Turks” are unable to integrate into our society (). Usually, these studies lack explanation that discrimination, ethnocentrism, oppression, lack of cultural sensitivity and lack of diversity are some of the major causes of the problem.On the one hand, we have inadequate anti-discrimination strategies, policies and procedures, but on the other, we have a Minister of Integration Migration and Refugees (Beauftragte für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration). The existence of this position signifies the importance of integration versus anti-discrimination efforts. Similar to most decision makers, this Minister too, is (a) white (woman).
As to the question why minorities are not represented in public institutions and offices, the official claim is that minorities are difficult to recruit, because they do not speak German well enough. The language requirement is usually that one speaks “perfect” German; apparently, something that our minorities are not capable of, but the “real” Germans are. There is also a claim that minorities simply do not meet the educational and other qualification-requirements to be hired.In this context, it is important to mention that many minorities that are also put into the category of immigrants/people with migration backgrounds were born and raised in Germany, have a German passport. They are Germans. The question here is: why would Germans born and raised in Germany not speak German as well as other Germans?
Our society communicates over and over on a daily bases that discrimination is a given. Racist jokes are made with little or no hesitation. Stereotypes are communicated as a given.Due to the denial that discrimination, every day-, and institutional racism exists, minorities are left to deal with the severe impact of different forms of exclusion and hurt on their own. The lack of encouragement, education, standard operating procedures, and resources to detect and deal with discrimination and racism sends a clear message that if minorities want to continue to live in our country they are going to have to put up with the status quo, until the EU forces us to comply with higher standards.