Handed to me at the BLM Protest in #Mannheim , Germany.
So there’s good news and bad news. And I’m going to make the kind of stereotypical presumption this letter is supposed to be protesting against, by saying that knowing you the way I do, you’ll want to hear the bad news first.
Your worst nightmares have come true. It’s official. You are racist. The good news is : so is the rest of the world.
(I know; not really good news).
And yet here we are, pointing at you. Again. And between the soreness of your skin thats barely recovered from the trauma of carrying the weight of a national monument that is apology to the entire world, and the moving on everyone else seems to have done since, racism, and that which qualifies as the same has evolved.
All the while you were rebuilding an anatomy of an injured soul conveniently held up by the western world as the ultimate representation of evil.
But you didn’t know did you?
You were too busy keeping your head down offering it in apt German, measured correctness to the rest of your western brethren, so the shiver down the rest of the worlds spine could remain the name that begins with H. The H who masterminded the H.
Even though many other letters of the alphabet could’ve qualified with equal ease, had the names they had led belonged to those moronic enough to have commited their atrocities within the peripheral vision of the western world.
But no, Mr H didnt discriminate between Europe and the ‘others’. Africa. Americas. Indies.
So while civilizations in the above mentioned were wiped out much to the nonchalance of Europes self-proclaimed progressive genteelness, Mr H showed zero qualms about unleashing his darker side in complete visibility of the latter.
The rest as they say, is history. Another H word.
And now, three quarters of a century after you thought it was all over, a ghost has risen from the ashes. Or atleast threatens to. Palms have been met with fists.
The Far Right are back inside the parliament. The POC have spoken.
And here I am. Clueless as to where I fit into all of this. A well-to-do, brown, ‘Hochschul-educated’ award-nominated, German citizen (by invitation) of South-asian ancestry raised in four countries grappling with guilt and confusion as he oscillates between two polar voices inside his head going:
1) ‘Why bother. Enjoy your privileges and make the best of things. The world has been never yours to change in the first place.’
And / Or :
2) ’’You might actually make a difference if you addressed this issue openly’’.
I have a confession.
Well, many really. But this particular one happens to be about the ramble you’re reading.
It’s been on the disk for a few years now.
And keeps growing incrementally everytime the time-bomb inside my heart ticks a little louder. And even as I write this I am not sure if this is the moment when it’ll choose to explode.
For now though, a time when the worlds second-largest anti-racism protests for #blacklivesmatter occur on this soil seems to be as good a contender as any other. Even though I’d be lying if I said I know for sure that this will be the final version that goes online.
I don’t even know where I’m supposed to start.
So here are some random options.
Being called ‘Apu’ by my friends cos they thought I spoke with the proverbial cornershop accent.
The 20 + plus years of being asked where I am ‘really’ from.
The anxiety I grapple with everytime I’m at an airport inspite of bearing one of the worlds strongest passports.
The time the employee of your reputed airline refused to speak German to me while holding the same in her hand 30 seconds after the white gentleman was treated as ‘one of her own’ during check-in.
The fragility, judgement and reprimand my friend and co-employee of the same airline responded with when I ranted about it online.
The time two policemen randomly stopped and interrogated me and my brown lady-friend literally 20 minutes after she’d landed to visit me after receving an award a day earlier at one of the worlds most prestigious film-festivals, insinuiating questionable paperwork.
The time I found myself to be the only coloured person inside a hall of 300 something Germans listening to a Danish ‘Llama’ proclaim Buddha to be a blue-eyed white man, people born in Africa and their sufferings being ‘a choice’ and how white people should have more kids.
The time someone asked me why I look like ‘black-african’ and how I should dress more appropriately after I got offstage playing a concert.
The time my mixed-heritage Afro-Deutsch lunch-date born and brought up in Germany kept repeatedly getting asked ‘what her nationality is’ by the owner of a restaurant before our order was taken.
The time a random white dude came and spat at me after racial slurs for no reason in front of my doorstep cos I couldnt give him a cigarette.
The time my white ex-girlfriend said I ‘live like an immigrant’.
The time a receptionist started throwing a random fit at me with to get out at the school I teach at for trying to access my folder.
The time my college friend declared it was the ‘Indian’ in me for not being clean enough at a New Years Party. (Apparently all white people love to do dishes).
Or maybe we should just start with the German Citizenship Test I took which does a great job of explaining racism by asking how ‘people of colour applying for a job AT A RESTAURANT’ need to be treated ‘fairly’ on a multiple choice questionnaire.
‘..war ja nicht böse gemeint’. (They didn’t mean ill).
The standard German dissmisive explanation for passive racism and micro-aggressions. Micro-aggressions plaguing upto two generations of coloured Germans still waiting to be accepted for who they are. Wondering if ‘Auslaender’ is the destiny they are to be labelled forever.
‘’They didn’t mean ill’.
So why do I feel so ill?
Is it cos the constant judgement and categorisation of being the oversensitive, trouble-making whiner who ought to be grateful for the privileges his otherwise ‘backward’ ancestral country/ies wouldn’t give him in the first place might have some truth to it?
Or maybe I’m making it all up? Cos I certainly feel like it on many an occasion.
Wow. For someone who didn’t know where to start, I don’t seem to be doing a great job of stopping now.
And I haven’t been very good at figuring out why I keep tearing up randomly all week either.
Is it rage? Sorrow? Hope? Acknowledgement? Helplessness? Realising it took a George Floyd for the German POC’s to finally be heard on an international platform while thousands take to the street to show their solidarity?
All of the above?
Descending farther down that (what sometimes feels like rabbithole) doesn’t seem to be helping either.
Which brings me to the my point.
My relationship with the Vaterland.
The fact that it feels severely abusive.
Abusive in a manner quintissentially reflective of the toxic masculinity so many of my white feminist friends seem so passionate about addressing.
It’s true. I am privileged AF. I can walk down these streets usually confident I won’t be murdered for being coloured by men in uniform.
I usually get treated well in buildings aware of my education and background.
Heck I even have a group of friends (of all skin tones, by the way) who are very much on my side and seem willing to take this dark monster on together with me at these protest marches.
Let there be no mistake. I AM privileged AF.
And here’s the thing.
Not a day goes by when the Vater fails to remind me.
‘Hard love’, he says. ‘Man up’.
I give you ‘shelter’.
I give you ‘privileges’.
I give you ‘freedom’.
Now get yourself together and be a good soldier. March with me in stoic denial.
‘Pass Dich an’. (Blend in).
And I turn to the Vater and wonder if I’ll ever muster up enough courage to ask him,
‘....but will you ever figure out how to love me? Accept me for who I am? The way I chose to love you when I swore on your constitution with my hand on my heart?’.
Which is when I notice the scars his skin. Still bleeding. Still sore.
And realise that he’s not quite ready to reply yet.
#blacklivesmatter #racism #germany #diaspora #thirdculturekid
(An excerpt from this article was published on The Local, one of Europes leading global Blogs.