Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Question Over Racism

This past week.....the FDP (Germany's pro-business political party) had a significant player who stood up and made the comment that the party's top leader.....Phillip Rösler....has a racial problem, and is one of the big reasons why the party is losing support.

Course, this triggered a fair amount of discussion, and criticism over the comment.

For the record....Phillip Rösler was born in Vietnam, and adopted by his German parents.  He's led a pretty good life so far.  He's a graduate of the Hanover Medical School (heart and chest surgeon).  He is a recognized doctor.  He's been the Minister of Economics.  And at the age of thirty-nine....he's one step down from Chancellor Merkel at present....which shows that she has confidence in him.

From an American's viewpoint....he is a good about average when you consider dynamics....and is scandal free (the worst you might put on him is that he does like to discuss medical talk more than political chat).

I suspect that the Bundestag has been waiting around for some dramatic moment when someone comes back in from a hot spicy lunch, and has a heat attack....with Phillip running up and doing some heroic efforts to bring the guy back to life, and then counsel him later on proper nutrition and weight loss.

Racism in Germany?'s an interesting topic to view as an American.

After years in Germany.....I'd feel comfortable in saying that seventy-five percent of all Germans are racist in some fashion.

There's the general dislike of White-Russians who have immigrated back into Germany after a couple hundred years.  Their families were German originally, and some would like to adapt back to the old country of Germany.  Germans....probably more than sixty percent of society....don't have positive feelings over the Russians coming home.  Generally, Russians are seen as mafia-types, heavy drinkers, and not of the same standings.  The humble truth?  Most are honest and hard-working guys, with families, and would readily help their German neighbors when asked.

There's the general dislike of most Africans who have found ways to establish residency and citizenship in Germany.  The odd thing, from my prospective, is that almost all Africans make a huge effort to learn the language and have a pro-business attitude.  I'd make a guess that roughly sixty percent of German society aren't exactly happy about having Africans around their neighborhood or their office.  The German TV guys always try to put up positive feelings and good reasons for the Africans being in Germany.

Then, there's the general dislike of the Poles.  I'd make a guess that roughly seventy percent of German society see Poles as folks who sneak in, work off on the "black", doing two weeks of work, and then sneaking back in Poland.  Smuggling will also be laid back on Poles.

The British?  I'd make a guess that ninety percent of the over-forty German society....are anti-British.  They hate the royalty   They dislike the British drinking habits.  They still have memories of WW II or the aftermath of those years.  The odd thing is probably a million Germans a year (mostly of the 18 to 30 year olds)....take Ryan Air or the Ferry, over to England.

The French?  Yeah.....there's still some dislike of the French.  I'd take a humble guess that twenty percent of the German society have problems with the French.

After that....comes the eastern European crowd, the anti-Italy folks, and to some lesser degree....the anti-Dutch folks.  The Netherlands crowd have problem as being readily identified as 'bad-drivers', which for an American, is an odd factor to consider on racism.

Around Berlin, there's a fair number of Vietnam folks left over from the DDR years.  Yeah, there's some negativity over their society and culture.  I'd say it's minor in numbers though.

Americans?  Germans can think of two hundred negative things to generally say.  I don't know if you'd put these in a racist category, or just a category of just getting us noticed.  Just an American driving a Ford SUV would get a negative comment....but if we drove a Audi SUV....we'd be OK.  Don't ask the logic on that one.

A friend of mine was leaving out of San Francisco one night, on a flight to Frankfurt....coming to notice a moment of German racism.  There was a large number of gay guys (dressed in black leather, which made them kinda stand out in the crowd), and some older Germans were returning back to Germany.  Course, there were numerous negative comments made by the Germans over the gay crowd.  My associate made the comment that the same group of American gays in leather could have walked into a Frankfurt night-club and just been seen as the regular crowd.

So I will end this note with my own observation.  Most Germans won't readily say much that you'd take for a racist comment.  There might be a look or a shaking of the head, or some minor verbal comment that they will let slip.  Some Germans....if they really get to know you....will probably speak volumes over their racial views of society, and maybe surprising on occasion.

Germans want to present a happy positive view of all visitors.  They always make this strong attempt to show they are better people than those who condemn various social groups.  They really don't want to have any label placed on them....that makes them look racist.

The problem is....for each one that is working to have a pleasant happy view of oddball visitors and foreign societies.....there's another German working in the opposite direction.

The Phillip Rösler issue?  I suspect that Phillip will be around for a while.  The election in the fall will bring Chancellor Merkel back for one more four-year period (my humble opinion), and she will likely call it quits in 2016.  If the FDP can survive with five to seven percent of the vote....they might be included in the next leadership arrangement (the Greens might have the upper hand, if you ask me).

I suspect Phillip will step down by 2016, walk back into the medical establishment for six to eight years, and then return to a better environment by 2024.  He's young enough to wait out his big opportunity in life, and might be more acceptable by that point.


David said...

See, i´ve been following your blog for a year now, being disturbed by your "guesses" and assumptions sometimes, but this really hits it hard. There are countless pieces of research about racism in germany, and while i see that a blog is a blog is a blog, and that you may of course have this or that opinion, i just feel that this time, you´ve gone a lil too far.
With claims like x% being racist towards one group without any ANY foundation or argument, i just feel offended by your lack of research, your resentment, your subjective hear say, and your incomplete picture of society itself. Not only as a German, but also as a social scientist.
I coult really emphasize with many thing you say about Germany, especially about the hidden arrogance towards Americans (i like that piece about guns etc), but spreading these completely fictional number just doesnt feel right. You may look upon me as sulking German who just wants the world to love him, as you pointed out several times, which is a really clever and true observation, but you may also just consider the rude falseness of your arbitrary number game when when talking about stats for such a sensitive topic as racism.
by just googling "assissmus in deutschland", you could have avoided this, and as a (i assume) german speaker, you´d have found lots of stats to justify things so you wouldnt have to lean over the keyboard think about the numbers yourself.
now i dont really wanna rant, although it´s prolly impossible to claim that at this point, but maybe you should fill your often really "to the spot" observations about this country with a little empiric data instead of "hmmm, lets just say number x, that feels right".
sincerely, David

Letters from Ripley said...

I generally hate polls and surveys...because people tend to answer with the right answer, and avoid any thinking. Added to that is that fact that over fifty percent of Americans believe in Bigfoot and Nessie.

So let's start with how reality works in Germany. Example one, you go and tell you German neighbor that the house across the street finally got a Russian family. You will note the angst in the neighbor's face. Then you confirm that he has teenage kids, and you can sense the frustration. He doesn't want to say much. Over the next few weeks...he mentions that Russians carry knives and neighborhoods with Russians have more crime....course, not statistically proven.

Example two: you walk upstairs and let the apartment neighbor know that a new Turkish family moved into the floor. The guy's wife wears a burka, and so does his daughter. The German neighbor tries to avoid saying anything, but you can sense angst in his facial expressions. Over the next few weeks...he kind of lets you know that this kind of Turk is a problem....but not like the Turks with no connection to regular Islam.

Example three: you drive home, and notice at the outskirts of the village that four RV trailers are pulled up on the fest parking lot of the village....all Gypsy-related. You tell your neighbor, and he gets all antsy....noting that it's best to call the police now and get them to 'push' the Gypsy crowd out of the village as soon as possible. He avoids saying negative things, but generally....nothing good can come out of Gypsies in your village.

So here is a true story related to Bitburg back in the early 1990s. A German pub owner had a place on the outskirts of town, next to a farm that had sheep. The pub had a loft apartment that he wanted to rent out. After weeks and weeks...two African guys came up to rent the place. Things were good for several issues. Then one day, the pub owner went into the basement and noticed red stains on the wall. Odd. He followed the stains, and it went to the loft area. He knocks and wants entry. The two African guys had dragged up a dead sheep, and were slaughtering it. That's one of those one hundred things that you just can't do in a rented apartment. He kicked them out. The story got out, and for several was practically impossible for any African to get a rental in the area because of the sheep episode. Racism? You can call anything you want, but this episode tended to put a different focus on folks.