Konrad Werner: Racism is built into Germany's school system



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They need the US Dept of Education...

...to take over their schools.

Then they would certainly be on the fast track to bottom of the world rankings.

Joe Smith more than 2 years ago

Please help me

Ok I clearly see it's racist to sing "Drei Chinesen" while pulling the corner of your eyes or with a fake "Chinese" accent. But why is it racist to just sing it? This is a serious question, I'm not trolling here. Please help me understand it. Why are Chinese offended by this song? Are there more verses of it that I do not know? Would it be also wrong to sing "Drei Franzosen"? I thought this to be a more or less random text, used just to have fun with language (similar to "Auf der Mauer, auf der Lauer") and maybe to teach something about vowels. Sorry for being off-topic, but I really would like to get an answer.

Chris Topf more than 2 years ago

I have checked

...with a German friend who is a Racism Expert and he says 3 Chinesen isn't racist, just dodgy & Coffee song is dead racist.

Jacinta Nandi more than 2 years ago

Please take more responsibility for your journalist work

My comment means no denial of existing racism. I am asking for more care in how facts and research and headlines are presented!
I am absolutely shocked by Ex-Berliner to post an article like that. Non researched, stereotyping, accusing and by no means any help to a racism discussion - not a good example of journalism responsibility.
I agree that the mentioned games are not appropriate. Also agree that teachers need more intercultural education. But I also wonder why we have to move from racism into the other extreme of reverse racism. Will we need another 50 years to finally be able to deal with different cultures with a healthy confidence??
We will never build a tolerant society if we start taking every culture related comment as an assault. Singing "three chinese" or "dancing lederhosen style" should be allowed and not seen as an racism attack. The difference is the package and message that comes along with it.

Anja more than 2 years ago

3 Chinesen

C'mon - that drei Chinesen song is dodgy as. Das wird man doch noch sagen dürfen. My son goes to a bilingual private school but you should still see the Indianer stuff he gets up to, grauenvoll

Jacinta more than 2 years ago

this is interesting


Jacinta more than 2 years ago

Don't understand...

... how this article is an "extreme of reverse racism." Just wanted to point out a report that said the German school system creates too many segregated classes, and that there's evidence they are segregated by religion as well as class. In other words, racism is built into the German school system. Obviously I haven't been to these schools. I just wrote this blog cos I was sent the report and cos only three German papers reported on it (TAZ, Berliner Zeitung, and Neues Deutschland). Don't think that's political correctness gone mad.

Ben Knight more than 2 years ago

Yeah I think

somejow kind of like it's something oppressors like accusing people of, being unhelpful or "by no means any help to a racism discussion" & I think it's all about being obedient and knowing your place and yar-di-dar-di-da. Like, you're not allowed to have honest opinions, they have to be "helpful" too - this is because you're only being tolerated in society, not truly accepted. White men are allowed to say what the fuck they want, everyone-else has to be "helpful" i.e. grateful that we're not being AS OPPRESSED as we previously were. I think the Drei Chinesen song is dodgy as and imagine being the only kid in the class who's Chinese whilst it's being sung....but even if it isn't, even if it really genuinely isn't racist like if it is scientifically non-racist, there is nothing wrong with the one Chinese kid in the class saying it feels racist for them even if that is "unhelpful."

Jacinta more than 2 years ago


When we were kids we used to play "Wer fürchtet sich vorm schwarzen Mann" and we never thought it referred to somebody whose skin was darker than our own, we always thought this was about mean chimneysweep that caught children. Did anybody else play this? What do you think it meant?

Susan more than 2 years ago

Played it too

...and yes, I am sure there could be other perspectives to it.

Nancy more than 2 years ago


As far as I remember, the cofffee song is by J. S. Bach and is often sung in schools because it is not too difficult and not one of his dour religious songs ("Oh head full of blood and wounds"/"When I will have to die, leave me not all alone"), which might not be a jolly experience, either. When Bach wrote it, coffee was THE novelty drink and the whole culture of the "Muselmann" was supposed to be exotic and chic. So it's by Bach, that's why the song is sung, it's NOT to put down muslims.
I think the problem of the German school system is less racism than the massive influence of students' socioeconomic backgrounds. I work at a Gymnasium that is in a "nice" area, parents middle-class to upper-middle class professionals. We have lots of expat children but racism is not an issue, as far as I can see. If we get a kid called "Kevin" whose parents are on Hartz 4, that might subtly influence teachers' perceptions of the kid than, say, an Iranian doctor's kid or a Japanese manager's kid.

Susan more than 2 years ago

I had a different experience

I was born in Berlin in 1983 and I attended school in two different neighbourhoods. While I started out in Tempelhof with probably 90% of my fellow students being of non-migration background, my parents moved to Charlottenburg when I was 11 and I attended a school with a roughly 50-50 mix. I went to school with kids whose parents came from Turkey, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Croatia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Finland and Uganda. All of my teachers made sure to treat all students in the same way and when some children sang "Zehn kleine Negerlein" to make fun of the boy from Uganda, the whole class was put in detention and our teachers were very clear about why this can never happen ever again. All those who sang had to say sorry and shake his hand.

When I grew older and went to a Gymnasium, I still had a lot of friends whose parents were not German and I actually don't remember any racist remarks by teachers or administrators. Sexist remarks yes (To girls in physics class...), but racist incidents simply did not occur. We actually spoke to one of our friends about it, whose dad came from Senegal, but she denied that she ever had any problems with teachers.

So, I don't think that it is the system per se but the people. As always. And even though I don't think that racism is "built into the German school system", I do believe that many Germans don't understand the concept very well. Those speaking out against racism are labelled "too sensitive" or "have no sense of humor" etc. I still wonder why that is but I think most white Germans have never felt racism or discrimination and thus think it is an evil leftist invention to take something away from them. What that something is - again I'm clueless.

Chris W. more than 2 years ago

For Guava

Ha! Lazy journalism ahoy. Apologies. Here's my summary of what the report says:

1) Language skills are often used to group children together. In practice, that means non-German children are more likely to end up in lower streams.
2) Teachers and administrators often make decisions based on class background and religion - so children from "uneducated" families tend to be put in lower classes. This also affects children of immigrants disproportionately, and the tiered system obviously encourages this.
3) Schools often advertise "all-German-speaking" classes to try and attract German parents, and the tiering system provides them with a structure to segregate children.

While this could be "solved" by teaching teachers to be less racist (which is also happening), in all these cases the tiered system provides them an excuse.

Ben Knight more than 2 years ago

So how exactly is racism caused by the tiered structure of the German school system?

I do not what to deny that there are those problems, but the way the article is titled as well as its link "Germany's shameful school system" kind of had me expecting a more detailed explanation within the blog instead of just links to the study.You could've done a better job presenting the actual finding of how institutional racism in Germany actually is.

Guava more than 2 years ago

Schwarzer Mann and Drei Chinesen

I taught English at a summer language school on the outskirts of Berlin. During the pauses between class, my group of German 8-10 year olds often played the typical German game called "Schwarzer Mann" (Black Man), which is basically a game of tag where everyone has to run away from the bad guy. Every day, they argued that the single black student attending the school had to be "it" because he was the "Schwarzer Mann". I tried to figure out how to stop them playing this game and to explain why, even without the issue of the black student, it was offensive, but when even the German teachers could not understand that the game was problematic (and said this in front of the students and me), it was a near impossible battle. I find this instance to be typical of my experiences of even the most educated German adults, who often tell me, in wonderment at my consternation over something I clearly see as racist, that "But, there aren't any racism problems in Germany!" And then they will lean over to their grandchildren and slant their eyes, singing Drei Chinesen mit dem Kontrabass in a faux-Chinese accent. Or go to a theatre play with an actor in black face. Or stop my black friend at the entrance to my house when she is visiting with her baby, suspiciously questioning why she is trying to enter the building, telling her that "she might be in the wrong neighborhood." For example. I firmly believe that this is not just about individuals; it is systemic. So I can also imagine that dealing with it in schools is a good start, although one will also first have to get the teachers and educators to reach a level of understanding on the topic as well. Because one of my German relatives is an educational principle, a wonderful person, who doesn't understand why I find the Drei Chinesen song offensive. So the education of educators is perhaps an even a better starting place.

Becky C. more than 2 years ago

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