Samstag, 9. Februar 2013

Barriers to Inclusion, Diversity and Integration in Germany:

Part 3: the Culture of Superiority—Little Prospect for Establishing a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion

A culture of appreciation for diversity and inclusion will most likely not be established in Germany any time soon.

Why is Germany having such a difficulty with the concept of diversity and inclusion?

One of the main obstacles to diversity and inclusion in Germany is the culture of superiority, the belief in the European supremacy. Anything German or European that is of significance such as technology, culture, art, literature, way of life, is often regarded as better, or more superior to anything that is not. Even the questionable German education system, that operates based on simplistic categorizations of students, is considered superior. A school system that reflects little respect for diversity. Degrees from other countries, even from top universities in the USA, are looked down on. How outdated the school system in Germany really is, shows the following example: as late as 1991 books were used in German schools teaching students about the alleged different types of human races ( A knowledge that is officially believed to be outdated in Germany ( “Die Einteilung des Menschen in Rassen entspricht damit nicht mehr dem Stand der Wissenschaft.“ Apparently that does not stop the information from being disseminated in schools. Given Germany’s history and the lack of representation of diversity, it may be a good idea to resolve at least this very question and agree on what the view on the existence of alleged different races of human beings should be.

It comes as no surprise that the belief in the own superiority leads to expecting “others” to assimilate into our culture instead of respecting each other’s differences. The so called integration that we often talk about in Germany is in reality an expectation of assimilation unmet. Since assimilation, is not taking place the way we would have liked, we go as far as attempt to force it. For example, by prohibiting diverse children in schools from speaking another language besides German. ( Instead of wondering why children—also German children—who grow up in Germany would prefer to speak another language, we choose to forbid them to speak the "language of their choice." With that, we are targeting a “symptom”instead of the “cause” of a problem. Consequently, we are making the situation worse. Who wants to be told how to communicate, after all?

What are the causes for the superiority belief?

The culture of superiority today is a “left over” of the thinking patterns and ideas that shaped German and European history over centuries.“European superiority” was established in connection with the construct of racism and is still around today. Countries like Germany, France and Great Britain have worked hard to create this paradigm of superiority by oppressing other cultures and peoples, coming up with theories to justify their actions.

Today, racism is often discussed in Germany as if it was a short-term problem that rose and fell with the Third Reich. A perception that is overly inaccurate. In Germany there is, for example, also an effort to create an image, projecting that we are successfully and honestly processing the events related to the holocaust. The reality is we are not. We are doing a great job, having “controlled”discussions about the Third Reich and the holocaust. But we, for example, fail to draw the appropriate parallels between our past and the present time. Racism that we experience today is tightly connected to our history; on a much bigger scale than we would want to admit. Our history with racism is clearly not limited to the 20th century. Why would it be?

We have one strategy that we obviously feel comfortable with using to deal with racism: we tie racism closely together with right-extremism, to a point where the line between racism and right-extremism almost disappears. With that, we are creating a false picture that draws the attention away from the society as a whole, to a smaller group. The right-extremists in Germany are the top of a“dangerous iceberg;” a symptom of a serious illness in many European countries. By focusing on right-extremists, we are able to avoid having serious discussions about i.e. institutional racism and don’t have to deal with the problem of racism in its entirety.

Culture of Superiority and Racism—Historic Example: Age of “Enlightment”and the Construction of Racist Paradigms

Let us have a closer look at the alleged superior European history at the example of Kant and Voltaire; philosophers of the age of enlightment, the period of the “highlight” of European morality.

Kant: („In den heißen Ländern reift der Mensch in allen Stücken früher, erreicht aber nicht die Vollkommenheit der temperirten Zonen. Die Menschheit ist in ihrer größten Vollkommenheit in der Race der Weißen. Die gelben Indianer haben schon ein geringeres Talent. Die N[…] sind weit tiefer, und am tiefsten steht ein Theil der amerikanischen Völkerschaften.“)

„In warmer climates, the human being matures earlier in all things, but does not reach the perfection of the temperate zones. Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the white race. The yellow Indians have a smaller talent. The N [...] are lower, and the lowest are a part of the American peoples”.

Voltaire: („Es gibt in jeder Menschenrasse wie bei den Pflanzen ein Prinzip, das sie differenziert. Diesem Prinzip hat die Natur die verschiedenen Grade von Intelligenz und Charakter untergeordnet, die sich so selten ändern. Deshalb sind die N[…] Sklaven der anderen Menschen.“)

“There is a principle that differentiates people in every race as in plants. Nature has subordinated the various degrees of intelligence and character to this principle, which changes so rarely. Therefore, the N [...] are the slaves of other people.

Cited from: Zerger, J. (1997). Was ist Rassismus? Göttingen: Lamuv Verlag. (p. 22 and 24).

Even today, we celebrate people like Kant, Voltaire, Locke, Marx who participated in spreading racist ideas, as great minds, geniuses. We celebrate them for their contributions to an alleged superior European history and culture. In schools, we teach about these geniuses, by presenting them from an inaccurately limited, positive perspective. Their racist remarks are quoted very rarely. Even worse, these individuals are used as examples to demonstrate European superiority. They are celebrated as people who made major contributions to the development of humanity.

One cannot use today’s standards to judge a person who lived centuries ago, but one can discuss both sides of these people’s “contributions” to humanity and culture. When discussing them in class, it would be appropriate to emphasize that these “great thinkers” helped construct racist paradigms.

If these were the ideas that were generated when Europe reached the highlight of its morality, one wonders what the many “low-points” may have looked like, besides the holocaust.

What happened after the Third Reich fell? Did the racist attitudes “vanish”? Where did the racist paradigms go?

Racist paradigms obviously did not vanish after Germany lost WWII.

Many of the thinking patterns are still in our midst today. They live on in our belief that we are superior to most people and that our way of life is the better one. The thinking patterns are present in our daily interactions with each other. Not necessarily in the form that Voltaire and Kant expressed it. But in more subtle forms and shapes; often in our subconsciousness that influences our actions.

An attitude of superiority that is a part of a culture over centuries does not vanish by itself, especially not that quickly. However, science and education can make a big difference. A difference that we are obviously not ready for, yet.


Our culture of superiority stands in the way of establishing a culture of diversity and inclusion. The alleged integration that we are discussing day in, day out, is in reality a need and hope for “others” to assimilate into the dominant culture in Germany. This assimilation is not taking place the way we believe it should. Therefore, we have been “talking around the bush” for decades; trying to make it happen after all. We are using words and terms that no one seems to know the definition of, miscommunicating or not communicating at all. We have no leadership and no vision in the diversity debate. Our (subconscious) attitudes stand in the way of a true multi-cultural society based on equality and respect.

Most people that we interact with today have high standards in regard to how they want to be treated. No one wants to be looked down on or talked down to. We don’t seem to know what to do with that information while we continue to believe that “our way is the better way.”

There is no indication as of yet that the status-quo of lack of diversity and inclusion in Germany is going to change to make a real difference any time soon.

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