In the spotlight: Everyday racism

Everyday racism is not a marginal phenomenon, but shapes the lives of many people. But many people are often unsure: Where does racism even begin?

We explain how racism manifests itself in everyday life, why trivialising it only makes things worse and how supposedly well-meaning statements affect the reality of life for those affected.

Where are you really from?

Many of us have certainly asked another person this question - or have been asked it ourselves. For many people this question shows interest, they want to know more about the other person, they want to know where the other person's "roots" are, where they can "classify" the other person.

However, some people may have experienced that this question is not necessarily received positively. It makes the person being asked feel strange, that they don't belong here, that they can't be from here, because they look so different!

As a rule, these questions are not meant in a bad way and one might think they are harmless, perhaps a little annoying for the person being asked. What they express, however, in the eyes of those concerned, is an understanding of belonging that reduces being German to appearance or to a name.  However, whether the person being asked was born in Germany, has a German passport and feels at home here is often overlooked by this question. Belonging is suddenly based, albeit mostly unconsciously, on a world view that excludes certain people.

Intention vs. effect

At least people want to be racist. And very few people would describe themselves as racist. And yet - racism is a problem that affects us all. Back to the question of origin: anyone who has ever asked this question themselves may be surprised; after all, in most cases they did not want to exclude anyone.

Nevertheless, this question has a hurtful effect on many people affected by racism, and this hurt must be taken seriously. If you step on someone's foot, it hurts, regardless of whether you did it on purpose or not. The same applies to racist statements, even if they are supposedly meant in a positive way. "But you know German well" is often meant as a compliment, but is just as often not understood as such. For many of those affected, the statement merely shows that they are not seen as part of German society.

The structural individual case

The question of origin, roots, homeland is only a small symptom of what affects all areas of the lives of people with experiences of racism. For the person concerned, a racist experience of exclusion - such as the question described above - is individual, everyday. However, it is shared by other affected people: an individual case becomes a collective experience. Such experiences are summarised under the term everyday racism. Everyday racism is exhausting for many affected people, precisely because it is everyday and one is confronted with it again and again.

The boundaries between everyday and structural racism are often blurred. Because racist images in people's minds also have an effect on the structures of our society. Whether in the search for housing, on the labour market, in the education system or in social participation: Affected people experience exclusion time and time again and see themselves exposed to stereotyping.

In short: people create everyday life, everyday life creates structures, and structures cannot be viewed in isolation from people.