Is there racism in the afterlife

Since 1966, by ratifying the Anti-Racism Convention (ICERD), the Federal Republic of Germany has been obliged to protect all people on its territory from all forms of racial discrimination. But the investigations and the processing of the NSU complex have shown particularly clearly how big the problem with institutional racism is in Germany. This structurally anchored racism in Germany is also one of the central points of criticism in all parallel reports to the UN Anti-Racism Committee in 2015.

In order to make this topic more present in a university and academic context, the Humboldt Law Clinic dealt with institutional racism for the second time on October 22nd, 2019. After the first event focused on institutional racism using the example of the NSU process, Joschua Kwesi Aikins (political scientist), Saraya Gomis (teacher and former anti-discrimination officer) and Prof. Dr. Juliane Karakayali (sociologist) and Maryam Haschemi Yekani (lawyer and coordinator of the Berlin Network Against Discrimination in Schools and Daycare Centers (BeNeDiSK) this time with institutional racism in the education system. In addition to dealing with institutional racism in the education system, the focus was on where it was There is an overlap with racism within legal institutions and in what way the existing research from the educational sector can be transferred to legal institutions.

What was the aim of the event?

The fight against institutional racism is an important part of the elimination of racial discrimination. The fight against institutional racism is a complex issue that has not been adequately dealt with scientifically until now. Rather, more practice-related research is required in this area.

In the education sector, in contrast to legal institutions and law, the first empirical research results on the subject are already available. The main aim of the event was to learn from these experiences. In order to facilitate further research, it is particularly interesting to look at how the researchers define the term institutional racism and what research methods they use.

What is institutional racism?

Prof. Dr. According to Juliane Karakayali, the first question has to be split into two sub-questions: What is an institution? And how is racism defined? Sociology regards the term “institution” as social relations congealed in the structure in the form of an organization that fundamentally determines the actions of people.

Article 1 of the Anti-Racism Convention defines racial discrimination as "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, skin color, origin, national origin or ethnicity, which has as its aim or result a equal recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in political, economic, social, cultural or any other area of ​​public life is thwarted or impaired ”. According to this definition, racist discrimination also exists if an act only results in a differentiation, exclusion, restriction or preference based on racist categories and characteristics. This definition of racism therefore also includes formally neutral acts that nonetheless, whether consciously or unconsciously, result in racist discrimination. Germany, too, has signed the UN Anti-Racism Convention, thereby undertaking to fight racial discrimination on the basis of this definition.

An example of an institution is the school system, which is formed jointly by all schools. Another example of the existing racist discrimination in the school system is a North Rhine-Westphalian school law, which requires a valid residence permit for admission to school. As a result, compulsory schooling is being superseded by asylum law, so that asylum-seeking children often almost miss a school year. In addition, knowledge of German is compulsory for admission to a regular class. International students who have recently arrived in Germany are assigned to preparatory classes in order to learn German. However, according to Prof. Karakayali, the preparatory classes would have significantly less qualified teachers. Thus, the groups of people in question are distinguished from the school system on the basis of their origin and are disadvantaged.

In addition, the podium guests stated that there is a racist segregation of classes and schools in Berlin based on the term “ndH‘ ‘(“ students of non-German language of origin ”) introduced in Berlin in 1995.

Separate racism from intentions!

These examples show symptomatically, as all participants in the discussion unanimously confirmed, that the discussion of institutional racism in Germany is inadequate. When asked about the reasons, the obvious and in principle correct answer is that the discussion about racism in Germany is generally insufficient. Joshua Kwesi Aikins also focused on the fact that racism is still often only negotiated on the basis of individual statements, actions and intentions. This coupling of racism to individual behavior often makes it difficult in social discourses to talk about the structural and institutional anchoring of racism.

Saraya Gomis also described from her experience as a teacher and former anti-discrimination officer that there are major problems communicating institutional racism as a problem within the school, as the decisive analytical competence is often under white Responsible person is missing. For example, the teaching staff in schools are not sufficiently aware of discrimination. Some teachers would use racially discriminatory words such as the N-word or the racist term for Sinti * zze and Rom * nja in school lessons.

Even at the school aid conferences, the issue of institutional racism would be reflexively rejected. In addition, certain incidents are only discussed on a case-by-case basis in the analysis rounds without discussing the problem of institutional racism.

This phenomenon of discussing social and structural problems exclusively on an individual level also finds its counterpart in the German legal system, which is predominantly based on the conception of individual guilt and imputation. As a result, even in cases in which institutional racism is so evident as in the context of the investigation into the NSU complex, it is not tried in court or, as was most recently in the case of the murder of Oury Jalloh, one legal processing is completely prevented.

As a lawyer, Maryam Haschemi Yekani has also made the experience that racism is only treated and negotiated as a problem in court if it is an "open" racism. As a result, it remains unquestioned, for example, that in disputes in the schoolyard in which racialized young people are involved, the police are called to carry out so-called disruptive approaches to 11-year-olds. A practice opposite white Schoolchildren would be hard to imagine. But there is a lack - as Saraya Gomis also pointed out - the expertise and the willingness to recognize how this incident fits into the colonial and racist image of racialized people as a threat, danger and criminals. An image that results, among other things, in the different practices of “over-policing” black people and people of color, such as “racial profiling”.

If only “open” racism is recognized as racism by institutions, this shows that the relevant and unquestioned perspective for assessing racism in Germany is still one white Perspective is. For PoC and black people in Germany, the supposedly “hidden” or “subtle” racist mechanisms just described are part of everyday life and have not only been known for a long time, but are also continuously brought to the public. Examples include the parallel reports, in which Joshua Kwesi Aikins was also involved, the work of the campaign for victims of racist police violence and the NSU Complex Dissolving Tribunal. The fact that these reports and experiences of PoCs and black people are hardly noticed is in turn part of the problem of a structurally racist society and of institutions in which non-white Perspectives are virtually non-existent.

Broaden your perspective!

The discussion participants repeatedly made it clear that reducing racism to individual behavior does not do justice to the problem, again referring to the UN Anti-Racism Convention. It is more than overdue that Germany actually uses their definition of racism as a basis for dealing with institutional racism. It is time for the knowledge and expertise of people with racism experiences to be recognized and for this to be financially supported. It is time that, on the basis of this expertise, racist concepts such as the categorization “ndH” and laws and regulations that enable “racial profiling” are abolished. It is time, as Saraya Gomis called, that regulators, such as the school inspectorate, develop the analytical skills necessary to identify racism. But - and this also became clear during the panel discussion - it is also necessary that white People who work in these institutions deal with their racism and the racist system in which their institution is embedded.

Tagged: education, discrimination, research, institutional racism, NSU complex, racial profiling, racism, school, segregation