TRIGGERWARNING: racist violence
„The prejudice I experienced had more to do with me not being a native rather than my race or ethnicity“
In this interview, a person who has chosen to remain anonymous talks about her experiences with racism and how often she has been confronted with it in her life. By recounting these experiences, she opens a space for empathy and understanding and shows that racism and xenophobia can still be encountered in social change. She also emphasizes the importance of taking action to fight racism and promote equality.
You can read more here.
Feel free to tell something about yourself.
Hi my name is ____. I would like to say I’m a writer since that mode of communication offers the comfort of expression without the pressure of an audience, perfect for an introverted extrovert or ambivert. However, I try not to define myself too much with roles I take on. Currently I am a student, which is a nice way of saying unemployed and I live in Ilmenau
How many times have you faced racism in your life?
So many times that I have lost count. When I was younger at times I was unaware that what I’m experiencing is racism. I just thought that person isn’t very nice.
Tell us about a few cases.
One incident that still infuriates me was when my babysitter who is a POC, was walking home a large group of us kids, including me my friends and other neighborhood kids, that she would babysit. There was a man that was following us and was yelling something at us. She tried to rush us away because I guess she wanted to shield us from that negatively. However, we still managed to hear him use racial slurs, some choice words, and demean her over birth control. At the time I didn’t understand why he was saying those things about my her and us. Later realizing it’s because she is a POC from a community that is hounded by “single mother stigma”.
Then there is also intra-community racism when you are not “ethnic enough” to identity with a group and people want you to prove your identity to them. Racism stemming from ideals of racial purity is just as much a problem.
Did you have to make racist experiences in Ilmenau?
I am unsure if I should dub my experiences in Ilmenau as racism or just xenophobia. Whether it’s people not allowing their dog to play with your dog. Cashiers refusing to say hi back to you because you obviously sound different. The prejudice I experienced had more to do with me not being a native rather than my race or ethnicity.
How did you feel in these situations?
I felt like they wanted me to feel bad about “intruding” I definitely felt unwelcomed. However, having dealt with this all my life, I know I should not allow that to prevent me from persevering in such circumstances. As a human I am entitled to occupy spaces to, even with people that exude hostility over me just being there.
Did you do anything or did people come to your aid in these situations?
Depends on the situation. If it’s men catcalling you people are just as puzzled at as I am as to the tenacity of people to do that. When it’s in a social setting where there are mutual associates and friends, my friends have always stood up for me.
Have people in your environment made you feel that you do not belong to this society?
I did experience prejudice for not being German. To be specific when this volunteer space that I was elected to made en effort to alienate me over that. I particularly felt like a token POC in that setting. They would probably argue this as a language barrier. However, it made no sense that when a friend tried to include me in that environment by translating parts I don’t understand and repeating things, they were reprimanded for doing so. So there was also the peer pressure they subjected my friend to in order to make me feel more excluded and emphasize that I am unwelcome when I was stubborn about the fact that “well I’m already here”, and I’m not obligated to react to someone’s xenophobia and validate that kind of behavior.
Have you been stopped and checked by the police because of your appearance?
I was only stopped by the police once for walking on the wrong side of a road. I truly feel that it wasn’t fueled by prejudice of any kind.
Have you been physically attacked because of your appearance?
In Ilmenau? Not yet, in other places, yes. One of the incidents that still bother me is how there was a group of boys at school who would bully kids with an immigrant background. Their behavior went from a range of mean comments in class to attacking people after school. Usually if my brother and I managed to, we would walk with a group of friends who took the same way home. That day not many kids went to school after a blizzard and this group attacked me and my brother. When I started screaming to get the attention of people living on that street they went away. Some of the people in the group weren’t even participating in the physical assault but I never understood why they associated with that group. I remember most people didn’t want to complain for fear of being “uncool” and “too weak” to handle the real world. I didn’t care about that, I only had a few friends anyway, so I did complain to the school admin and principal. They got a warning. Later they did the same to a friend of mine and when he complained after I encouraged him to, they were just suspended for a week or so. I never understood how suspension was a consequence because it was just time off school.
What do you think society could do to help fight racism?
Curb casual racism. Don’t hold back your opinions about racism being not okay when a group you socialize with throws around casual racist jokes, comments, etc. Call them out, even when it’s just you against the whole group. Your silence just emboldens their stance that it’s all in good fun and acceptable.
Do you think the government could do things to actively fight racism?
Diversity and sensitivity training in schools and public spaces would help. Much like the emphasis on national history helps people have humility when it comes to nationalism and national history, sensitivity and diversity education would help people be more accepting towards cultural differences and different people.
If you feel like X or you felt addressed by some passages of this text, then have a look at this website: