You would like to participate in the discussion about racism - but you are missing important basics and terms? Then you are at the right place.
Racism is a historically developed way of thinking. Those who think in racist terms make a permanent distinction between "us" and "them". This distinction from one another serves to place oneself above the "others" and to use this as a power advantage. According to this way of thinking, "others" can be treated in ways that would be considered cruel or unjust if members of one's own group were affected. Racism is thus an expression of social power relations and is man-made. It is anything but a law of nature. Rather, it is used to justify a system of exclusion, restriction and favouritism. A racist classification system is created.
In everyday life or at work, this means: racism leads to people being prevented from participating in social or private life without restrictions - and this in all areas of life: whether political, social, economic, legal cultural or any other area. The result: in racist structures, not everyone can live their basic freedoms without restriction or fully exercise their human rights. They are either impaired or even not granted at all. There are people with privileges and people without. Society is thus characterised by social inequalities, securing privileges and stabilising relations of domination.
Racist structures are often deeply - partly unconsciously - anchored and consolidated in societies - due to centuries-old generalisations, stereotypes and prejudices as well as on the basis of supposed physical or (imagined) cultural attributions. The latter in particular serve to demarcate and determine who belongs and who does not, or which way of life is supposedly incompatible.
If we look at Germany, it is mostly non-white people who are affected by racism - those who are seen as non-German, i.e. as not really belonging. Racism can be found openly or hidden in German society: in talk shows, news or newspapers, when people talk and write condescendingly about groups of people; in the search for housing and apprenticeships, when people with German-sounding names are much more likely to get a place than others; in racial profiling, in children's books, in the schoolyard or in racist memes on Facebook and Instagram. The understanding of racism in Germany is strongly linked to National Socialism. But racism is not a synonym for right-wing extremism.
The word "everyday racism" is used to describe everyday forms of disadvantage and exclusion that many people experience in many situations in everyday life because of their actual or perceived origin or religion, their appearance or other attributions. Whether on the street, in the underground, in a café, when looking for a flat or in a sports club - in addition to very openly displayed racist behaviour, everyday racism can sometimes be barely perceptible, recognisable or even tangible for others. People without experience of racism sometimes also do not perceive such actions as racism, e.g. in situations where a supposedly non-malicious statement is made or people with "non-German" names are (un)consciously, but not openly, excluded in certain everyday situations. This does not always happen consciously or intentionally. Unconscious biases play a role here. Often, however, people also act within existing structures that (possibly unintentionally) reinforce racism.
Those who find themselves in a privileged and powerful position (intentionally or unintentionally) can practice allyship. This means: to actively and consistently practice unlearning and re-evaluating one's own stereotypes, prejudices and privileges. An ally also acts in solidarity with people who have experienced racism or other discrimination. An Ally is also self-motivated to work for a society that enables equal participation for all.
But beware: allyship is not an identity - it is a lifelong process. It involves building relationships with people who have experienced discrimination over and over again. Thus, allyship is also not a self-definition - the work and efforts of allies must be recognized by the people with whom they choose to ally.
BIPoC is the acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color to explicitly include Black people and Indigenous people to the acronym PoC to name different positions within experiences of racism. This term comes from the English-speaking world and is a self-designation across those boundaries.
Often the term Black is assumed to be about skin color. There is no reason to refer to a person by their skin color. However, in order to be able to openly present racist experiences of Black people, the politically correct term "Black" is used when necessary. Black is a proper designation used by many people of African or afrodiasporic origin and their initiatives. The term has its roots in the discussion of racism in the English-speaking world and is capitalized as a political self-designation.
The term (translated into German: Schwarzes Leben zählt) stands for a protest movement that formed in the United States of America in 2013 to oppose racist police violence. What began as an online social media campaign to mobilize against police violence, the "prison industry," and the injustices of the U.S. justice system evolved into a national protest movement beginning in August 2014. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020, marked a sad culmination and sparked the largest wave of protests in the U.S., lasting several weeks, which quickly spread to cities and towns in all 50 U.S. states, as well as countries in other continents.
The Basic Law already enshrines the principle that all people are equal and that discrimination on the basis of gender, race, origin, disability, faith, religion or political opinion is not permitted. Initially, this protection existed only in the relationship of citizens against state action. Due to directives of the European Union, the federal government was instructed to anchor this principle in civil law as well, and to develop it specifically in labor law.
The result is the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), which came into force in 2006 and is often colloquially referred to as the Anti-Discrimination Act. It contains provisions that oblige employers to treat employees equally and, in the event of a violation, give rise to claims for damages. The AGG only covers the sphere of life of work (labour law) and services (civil law) to a certain extent.
Critical whiteness is a line of research that foregrounds white people, quite the opposite of mainstream racism research, which focuses on people who have experienced racism. Critical whiteness research seeks to draw attention to hierarchies and privileges-for example, the power to decide whether to keep a racist word in a children's book. Such special rights - consciously, but often also unconsciously perceived - should be questioned.
Basically, privileged people should become aware that their outer appearance is not invisible either, but has just as much impact on their life situation as it does for People of Color. With one fundamental difference: some are discriminated against because of their appearance or their supposed ethnicity, while others experience privileges.
Discrimination refers to unequal treatment of a person or groups of people on the basis of certain characteristics. It takes place on different levels:
Individual/everyday: attitudes, feelings and prejudices lead to discriminatory statements or actions on the personal level between individuals.
Institutional: Institutionalized processes and structural barriers, which are often invisible, lead to discrimination.
Structural: Inequality is created by the social system with its norms and its political and economic structures and has an impact on organizations. Often these are ingrained habits and proven maxims of action, which already occur in kindergarten.
Scientific: Discriminations arise from societal values and norms as well as from thinking and talking about "Us" and the "Others" in science, literature, the media, politics or in private circles. They are repeated and consolidated.
The term can be translated into German as "Selbstermächtigung". People with experience of racism, or communities of such people, independently develop strategies for taking action against racist discrimination. This happens in "protected" spaces, where experienced things are not repeated as much as possible. Those affected strengthen each other and themselves. It is important to note that empowerment processes against discrimination are always designed by people who have been affected by racist discrimination themselves and who have the relevant experience.
Germans are people with German citizenship. The term says nothing about the ethnicity of these people. This means that how a person appears or is read on the outside does not indicate whether he or she is German.
The term intersectionality can be explained by use of the metaphor of a crossroads ("intersection") where traffic comes from all four directions. It is meant to make clear that the different diversity dimensions cannot be considered separately from each other. Rather, they often overlap. This means that everyone has several identities - be it ethnic/national or social origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion or mental and physical condition. For example, a woman wearing a headscarf can experience discrimination based on sexism or racism, and at the same time experience the intersection of racism and sexism in this specific form. In this case, the categories of gender, (ascribed) origin and religious affiliation converge. The specific experiences of discrimination that (can) result from this constellation are not made by Muslim men or cannot be made by them at all.
The development and dissemination of the concept can be traced back primarily to US-American Black feminists who pointed out that their (racism) experiences differed from those of Black men or the feminism of white middle-class women. The lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw eventually developed the concept of intersectionality.
The term "majority society" is used by many when referring to that segment of society's population
that does not have a migration background,
is numerically the most strongly represented and
and therefore has a decisive influence on social norms.
However, the term is misleading. Germany is a country of immigration. Therefore, there is no such thing as one German society. Rather, different influences and experiences shape the way people live together and coexist. It would be better to speak of the majority population. Because the term majority society cannot be used exclusively to describe the "standard German" society.
The term means immigrants and emigrants and refers to people who move from one country to another. In Germany, people who were born abroad and immigrated to Germany are considered migrants. They thus have their own migration experience and are also referred to as "first generation" migrants. Often, the term is mistakenly used for people with a migration background, who, however, do not have their own migration experience, but are descendants of migrants.
Anyone who assumes that a person has a migration background - regardless of whether this is true or not - is "migrantizing". In doing so, we turn people into strangers and assign them to a different origin and "homeland" outside Germany or Europe. Another paraphrase for such action is the English term Othering.
The German self-designation "migrantisch" must be distinguished from this. It is a self-designation of people who define themselves by their migration history, want to be defined and/or want to see this made visible.
People with experiences of racism use the English term as a self-designation. On the one hand, they want to show that the reality of their lives is characterized by racist exclusion. They position themselves. On the other hand, the self-designation stands for their own political awareness. They know about the unequal racist conditions. PoC is thus also a political term. However, contrary to what the term suggests, people use it regardless of their own skin color. The origin of the use of the term lies in the solidarity with Black people. Today in Germany it is additionally used by people with (recognizable/attributed) migration background and migrantized people. Singular: Person of Color
The term refers to people who have experienced racist devaluation, exclusion or disadvantage on the basis of external and ascribed characteristics. They may have had these experiences on the individual level, but also on the structural or institutional level, e.g. at the workplace, in the application process or in job recognition procedures.
The term refers to all persons who themselves or one of their parents was not born with German citizenship. This includes the following persons:
foreigners living in Germany,
naturalized Germans who immigrated to the Federal Republic after 1949, and
children born in Germany with a German passport as descendants of the aforementioned groups.
Conversely, this means that if both parents, as descendants of migrants, have German citizenship and no migration experience, the child does not have a migration background. In everyday language, the term is often used in a negative and pejorative way. This is because it tends to be associated with "problem groups".
The term describes people who are not affected by exclusion at any level of society. They are perceived as belonging to the "we" group. They meet the criteria in terms of external appearance and recognized attributions.
The term is the opposite designation of people with a migration background to make a linguistic distinction clear
The term is used to describe a process in which people are constructed as "others" and differentiated from an "us". This differentiation is problematic because it goes hand in hand with a distancing that condemns "the other" as "the foreign.
Those who speak of standard Germans mean Germans without a migration background and want to express: There is a difference in being German. Germans with a migration background deviate from the social norm. The term was coined by the migration educator Paul Mecheril.
The term refers to prejudices that we have unconsciously. A prejudice is a non-objective opinion that someone hastily forms about another person without checking the facts. Prejudice is deeply embedded in our society and when exaggerated can lead to a growing rejection of certain groups and result in racism, misogyny, and other mechanisms of discrimination. Usually, prejudices are defined as negative, but there can also be positive prejudices (e.g. "people who wear glasses are intelligent"). They also simplify everyday life and reduce complexity. At the same time, they influence our judgment and can lead to misconceptions. For example, we tend to attribute good performance more to men. For women, on the other hand, success is often attributed to external circumstances, such as a good team. This makes it all the more important to become aware of these thought patterns.
There is often a misunderstanding that this is about a skin color. In fact, the word white means a sociopolitical norm and position of power that privileges white people, regardless of whether they themselves feel white or privileged.
To counteract this, the word is therefore often written in lowercase italics in academic texts. The term is used as a contrast to People of Colour and Black people.