I meet up with my white German friend Nina two days after the Hanau attacks. I deliberately avoid the topic of the Hanau murders because I have fallen out with Nina over the question of is Germany a racist country before. So we’re just making mummy small talk about doctors and stuff.
“The German healthcare system is much better than the NHS, obviously,” I say to my German friend Nina. “But I don’t understand why all the kids aren’t just automatically insured for free, like over the Gesundheitsamt? Because it’s a bit annoying for divorced or separated parents swapping the cards back and forth, you know.”
“You just hate Germany so much Jacinta!” She says.
“No, I don’t,” I say, slightly surprised. “I hate Germany a completely normal amount now.”
“All you ever do is criticise Germany. And you know you’ll get away with it too! Because we Germans have such low self-esteem!”
“What are you like,” I say, smiling affectionately. “You’re really arrogant. You’re totally arrogant and you always think you know best. I actually quite like this about you.”
“You know what I mean. As a NATION. We have low self-esteem as a NATION.”
“Oh,” I say, sighing sadly. “I wish that were true. I think it used to be true. A tiny bit. Actually – that was one of the things I used to quite like about you. In the olden days.”
Of course I hate Germany a bit – is hate even the right word? I’m not even sure if hate is the right word for the way I feel. I don’t hate Germany in an angry way anymore. I don’t hate Germany in a hateful way. I hate Germany, I think, in a normal, sad, subdued, healthy kind of a way. I hate Germany A NORMAL AMOUNT.
I hate Germany like a German hates Germany now.
And I can’t help but feel like it’s a sign of how fascism is spreading across our globe like an invisible fart-like virus, that right now, right here, after Brexit, after the NSU murders, after the Hanau deaths, which I don’t even mention, right here, on my balcony, making small talk, when I hate Germany both the least I ever have and the least you possibly can – my friend Nina accuses me of hating Germany “so much”.
“Germany is a racist country. That doesn’t mean everyone’s a Nazi. It means that a lot of Germans, probably the majority, are casually racist.”
Of course, Germany’s a racist country. Come on, man. It amazes me that white people get shocked by this statement, but grow up, seriously, of course it is.
The problem for white Germans is: I have a good memory.
I literally arrived here in October 2000, just in time to read about Friedrich Merz rejecting multiculturalism in favour of “Leitkultur” – the idea that German culture should “lead” immigrants, the idea that German culture is morally and intellectually superior.
I remember when I’d been here five years and Hatun Aynur Sürücü was murdered by her little brother Ayhan Sürücü in a so-called “Ehrenmord” (honour killing) at a bus stop in Tempelhof, how a friend told me she thought the entire Turkish family should be deported.
I remember how I felt back in 2010, when Thilo Sarrazin published his book, Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab, basically a manifesto about Germany going under because of the lazy Muslim Ausländer.
The weirdest bit about Sarrazin’s Muslim-hate was how he went all Old Skool Nazi about it:
“Ganze Clans haben eine lange Tradition von Inzucht und entsprechend viele Behinderungen. Es ist bekannt, dass der Anteil der angeborenen Behinderungen unter den türkischen und kurdischen Migranten weit überdurchschnittlich ist. Aber das Thema wird gern totgeschwiegen. Man könnte ja auf die Idee kommen, dass auch Erbfaktoren für das Versagen von Teilen der türkischen Bevölkerung im deutschen Schulsystem verantwortlich sind.”
(Entire clans have a long tradition of incest, and because of this, many disabilities. It is an established fact that the percentages of babies born with disabilities is much higher amongst Turkish and Kurdish immigrants than amongst the population as a whole. But nobody dares to speak about this. One could easily come to the conclusion, that genetic factors are responsible for the fact that many students from the Turkish population fail within the German school system.)
I remember when the NSU murders happened and the reason it hadn’t come to light sooner was because the German police had assumed the murdered must be criminals, and the murders actually gang violence. I remember speaking to a German friend about it afterward and saying to her, “You must think Germany is a racist country now?” and her face, blank, white, unfeeling, passive: “What do you mean, Jacinta? It’s not racist for the police to assume Turkish people are criminals, if a lot of the criminals they deal with on a daily basis are Turkish?”
I remember the Pegida demos, how nice everyone looked, so nice and friendly and calm and reasonable.
I remember 2013, when Germany’s Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Philipp Rösler, got asked a load of personal, borderline racist questions by the taz, about his adoption, and he agreed to answer them but then refused to authorise them. I remember the way his right to privacy – something white Germans value so deeply – was sneered at and dismissed.
I remember the Kinderbuchdebatte in 2013, which was basically the most annoying thing that has ever happened ever, when an unimportant, fairly nice kids’ book got republished without the N-word in it, so that you know, black five-year-olds could read it without being totally confused and insulted and Germany as a whole lost its fucking shit and said that art was holy and black five-year-olds nothing. Let me remind you, that in Bridget Jones’s Diary the dubbed German version exchanges the word Auschwitz for “a funeral” so that grown Germans won’t feel confused and insulted – but apparently books aimed at five-year-olds are “true art” and updating them ever is absolute censorship.
I remember one time, and God I wish I believed in karma, but unfortunately I don’t, and some cunt from my son’s Kita had stolen our buggy (I KNOW I WISH I BELIEVED IN KARMA) and I had to carry my son on my hip around Friedrichshain. This was back in 2006, the part of Friedrichshain between Alex and Strausberger Platz. A guy came up to me and spat in my face and called me a Schlampe. I didn’t realise back then that he thought I was a Roma, I thought maybe he recognised me from MySpace.
AND I remember one time, on a train, saying to my son, “Oh we are going to arrive planmäßig after all,” and a guy saying to me, cheerfully, loudly, jovially: “You sound worse than a Turk!” Of course it’s a racist country. That doesn’t mean everyone’s a Nazi. It means that a lot of Germans, probably the majority, are casually racist. And that Germany, as a whole, is institutionally racist. The army, the police, the education system, the healthcare system to a certain extent and the political system are all institutionally racist.
This is the thing: I feel like I belong here now. In fact, I do belong here now. But it hasn’t stopped my ability to see and criticise. And by God, when I see this country – this Wahlheimat of mine, of ours, fucking up, I will speak up.
I actually feel more like I belong here than I belong to Brexit Britain, to be honest.
And it’s because I belong here that I have the right and the duty to hate things about Germany that are fundamentally crap.
And I’ll speak up about trivial stuff – it really doesn’t make sense you can’t use your AB Einzelfahrschein on the way back, like it literally defies logic! And I’ll speak up, too, about hugely important problems. It’s unfair that Hartz-IV (social welfare) recipients get their child benefit payments docked. And, of course, most importantly of all, I think Germany is a racist country and I think we have a huge problem with far-right terror.
People of colour, both Germans and non-Germans, shouldn’t live in fear of their lives.
I will say what I see and I will say what I hate. It’s my duty as a quasi-German. Yours too. Be honest. Be negative. Be critical. Be brave. There are things that are wrong here. We can speak about them.
“I mean there’s bigger problems in Germany than the healthcare system,” I say. Nina flinches, her pink German skin looks whiter than ever.
“Germany is a racist country,” I say. She nods and looks really upset, but I know she can take it. She has to take it. We have to do better.