ANALYSIS - Racism is more dangerous than ever in Germany
Unless German politicians take immediate preventive measures, not just minorities but also Germans would face serious difficulties in the near future
The writer is a Ph.D. candidate at Chemnitz University of Technology, Institute of Political Science.
Racism is an omnipresent problem in Germany. Racist views have grown increasingly prevalent in politics after the 2015 migration crisis. As a result, in 2017, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) became the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag as the largest opposition party since 1949. Despite the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war that have dominated German politics in recent years, racism continues to be a persistent phenomenon.
DeZIM report raises concerns
The German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM- Institute) has published a comprehensive report titled "Racist realities-how does Germany deal with racism?" on everyday racism in Germany. The institution examined numerous aspects of Germany's racism problem in the report. According to the findings, 22% of the population has faced racism in their everyday lives, while 35% have not.
Although a large number of Germans reject this view, 49% believe that individuals can be split into so-called "races." One-third of respondents support the thesis that certain ethnic groups are naturally more industrious than others and that certain cultures are superior.
Furthermore, 27% of respondents believe that socioeconomic disparity can be justified in a society. For a group at the top and another at the bottom, a hierarchical structure is required for them. Although 90% of the population are aware that racism exists, only 60% believe that racism is solely perpetrated by right-wing extremists.
Likewise, the survey demonstrates that racial awareness in the German public differs among different categories. While approximately 60% of the population agree that racism against Jews and people of color exists in Germany, only 44.5% believe that anti-Muslim racism exists. It also suggests that the German public does not believe racism is a widespread social problem. 33% of respondents think that those affected by racism are actually oversensitive, while 52% believe they are fearful. More than half of the respondents consider that criticizing racism is a form of oppression of their freedom of expression.
Double standards in racist rhetoric
Germany's racism problem has been closely linked to the AfD's election to the Bundestag, Angela Merkel's resignation as chancellor, and the growing instability inside the EU. The political discourse was drastically altered by COVID-19, and the Russia-Ukraine war shifted the focus to security-related issues. In previous years, it was Muslim refugees who posed a threat to Germany as well as the EU, but today it is the Russians who have a negative image in the country.
Several million Ukrainian refugees left the war and sought refuge in Europe, primarily in Poland. Here, even discrimination between Ukrainian refugees and those from the global south might be easily seen. Several media outlets reported that these refugees were not allowed to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border, although refugees of Ukrainian origin were allowed to enter. The fact that "people with blond hair and blue eyes" are still escaping violence in today's world "surprised" the Western media. This demonstrates how racism is both structural and media-driven in Western nations.
The situation is alarming
It would be naive to believe that everyday racism is no longer an issue in Germany under the pressure of other issues from the pandemic to the economy and the war. Racism still persists in German society, as seen by the attacks in Hanau two years ago, on mosques in Chemnitz and Halle, and the desecration of graves in Iserlohn. Although some politicians like the new Interior Minister Nancy Faeser -- in contrast to her conservative predecessor Horst Seehofer -- repeatedly stated that Islam belongs to Germany, these examples and the DeZIM-Institute’s report show how deeply rooted racism still is in the country. In this regard, it should be noted that the success of AfD in the 2017 election was not a one-time event. Despite a minor decline, it maintains a double-digit vote percentage. This demonstrates how the far-right has solid support in society.
The newly released report by the DeZIM-Institute is now considered among the most comprehensive reports on racism in Germany. It is alarming because it demonstrates how racism, mainly against Muslims, can be normalized in the political arena. Even though the current German coalition government's declarations highlight that Islam and Muslim citizens are welcome in Germany, these comments must be backed up by deeds. Thus, German politicians must immediately take preventive measures. Otherwise, not just minorities but also Germans would face serious difficulties in the near future.
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