The organisers of the first online anti-Black racism demonstration in Germany have called on people of African descent in the country to make their resistance to racism and discrimination more visible.
Speaking on Saturday during the digital protest action, tagged ‘Racism in the Era of Coronavirus’ and anchored on YouTube, the moderators said only in making cases of discrimination more visible would society be made more aware of them thereby eliciting action.
The moderators – Emilene Wopana Mudimu and Phyllis Quartey, talked about racist incidents in which the N-word was used against them.
“Racism is real even in the era of corona, said Ms Mudimu, a social worker, activist, education officer and poet from Aachen. “Resistance to racism must be made more visible,” she added.
Ms Quartey, an activist and feminist who works for the empowerment of African refugees, narrated the experience of her son who was racially abused in school in Düren by fellow pupils and the refusal of the teachers and school administrators to intervene to protect him and her efforts that made the issue a national news.
The 2-hour long event featured speeches by activists, including Charlotte Nzimiro, who last December launched an online signature campaign for the legal classification of N-word as a racist word in Germany.
In her moving speech, Nzimiro talked about the motivation for launching her petition, which was the scandalous verdict of a court in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania last December, which said the N-word could only be described as insulting depending on the context in which it’s employed. “The N-word is always insulting; it’s denigrating of people of African descent,” Nzimiro said.
The Hamburg-based activist said the roots of the word lay in the history of dehumanisation of Africans during the more than 500 years of the slave trade and colonialism.
Nzimiro cited many words and expressions that are still being used today and which continue to dehumanise Black people. She singled out the word “Mischling” (half-cast) to describe persons of Afro-European parentage.
“I am not a Mischling, I am not a dog,” the activist who is of Nigerian-German parental heritage said. “I am Charlotte,” she declared, insisting that people of African descent must insist on their right to self-description.
“In our fight against racism, we have to vehemently fight racist language,” she said. “Society must become more sensitive in the choice words used to describe Black people,” she concluded.
Organised by the Cologne-based group N-Wort Stoppen Initiative, a collaboration of Sonnenblumen Community Development Group e.V, Bündnis14 Afrika and ISD Köln, the digital protest action also addressed the situation of African refugees in Europe, anti-Black racism in China and other topical issues affecting people of African descent.
Sarah, a Bonn-based theatre actress, said it was inhuman and criminal to allow migrants to die in the Mediterranean. “To withhold help from people in distress is a crime,” she asserted.
Her friend, Yaw, addressed social inequality in Germany where the wealth of the country is unequally shared with most Black people at the bottom of the social ladder, among the most marginalised.
Sarah and Yaw also talked about the appalling situation of hostels for asylum-seekers and refugees where inmates have become especially susceptible to infection by the new coronavirus. They say the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important to decentralise refugees’ housing. Activists have been calling for refugees and asylum-seekers to be accommodated in apartments and not in mass dormitories which violate their dignity even before COVID-19 outbreak.
The moderators said the corona crisis was being instrumentalised to further discriminate Black people across the world.
Videos showing racist incidents involving Black people in China were screened, such as where Africans were disallowed from entering supermarkets, refused service at food stalls or ordered to vacate their apartments. The moderators made it clear that while they condemned the appalling treatment of Africans in China, they also disapproved the stereotyping of Asians as a result of the pandemic.
The racist advertising spot of Volkswagen was dealt with, which they said showed the insensitivity of the powers that be to the feeling of Black people.
The 2-hour long event was interspersed with music performances by Shavi and Rose, Molley etc.
The event, originally planned as a physical gathering of Black people and rights activists, was moved online because of the anti-coronavirus lockdown measures still in effect.