Guest Post: Why safe spaces are important for me

Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming, Safe Space for Everyone

Before coming to Germany I had had experiences of racism in a different country with a majority white population. From being the only person of color in the store who was also checked ‘for suspicious activity’ to being complimented for speaking ‘good English’ and ‘having a good education’ to being discriminated at my work place – all this was part of the three months I spent in that country. So I was kind of expecting that similar stuff might happen in Germany. And it of course did. From microaggressions to being yelled at, screamed at, called names to being physically assaulted – all has happened at quite a regular frequency in my time here in Germany. In the beginning I only talked of such experiences with my close non-white friends. When I tried to talk about this to white friends or colleagues they either started justifying the behavior of that racist person, a complete stranger to them mind you, rather than trusting in what I had to say all the while choosing to ignore my lived experience. This was sometimes worse than the racist encounter I had at times. This stress of proving to white people that what I experienced was racism and not ‘some rude guy’ or some ‘ignorant women who isn’t used to foreigners’ was simply frustrating. That’s when I realized its futility and stopped sharing with white people racist experiences I had in Germany – because they would rather believe in the goodness of some random white guy than believe me. There were times where I found myself having ‘debates’ with white people, trying to prove that Germans can be racist. This utterly useless endeavor is something I don’t practice anymore.

And here’s where safe spaces come in. In a safe space with people who identify as Persons of Color (PoC) I don’t need to prove anything. The simple fact that we have had similar experiences at one point in time or another is enough for us to believe each other. The support I have received from such safe spaces has helped me incredibly to cope with the day to day stress of dealing with xenophobia and racism in Germany. Especially not being a native German speaker, the initial years where I couldn’t understand German were very difficult. Listening to experiences of German and non-German People of Color told me that I am not alone in this. We are in this together and we are stronger with each other’s support in fighting back white supremacy, xenophobia, sexism and Islamophobia.

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Guest Post: My experience of racist acts in Germany as a Woman of Color

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As a woman of color living in Germany, racism and microaggressions are as common as the three-leaf clover. Some things like the ‘snatching the handbag act’ that white women pull off on seeing a person of color – as Amir Rahman points out in his sketch – are pretty regular. I want to list, from my experience, some ‘innocuous’ racist acts white people perform on encountering a person of color in their vicinity:

The sudden shock

You might be in the toilet, washing your hands or checking yourself in the mirror like a normal person when a white lady enters through the door and is visibly scared and shaken by your presence there. She will then act as if it was my fault for making her so scared and that I should be somehow apologetic for this. Not just toilets, it has happened with me in staircases as roomy as a football court, or in corridors during broad daylight, when suddenly a person of color appears and scares the poor Becky going about her day.

Cloak of invisibility

After coming to Germany, it turns out that I possessed a superpower all along, but was just unaware of it. It turns out I can be completely invisible! – or at least invisible to white people. In situations where there are two or more white people and me, my presence is almost certain to be ignored, particularly in situations where neither of us know each other. I have had white people always ask my white friend for directions or explain something even if they know that I can speak German or might be in a better position to help in their situation than the white person accompanying me.

Our response to the recent hate speech and trolling against our group

UnsereSolidaritat
United against white supremacy
Some white people have taken offense at the existence of “PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg”. The offended white people have expressed that they felt discriminated against because they are unable to join the group. In addition, they have questioned our usage of the term “PoC”, denied the existence of structural discrimination in Germany, and accused us of being exclusionary in our approach. Although it is 2018 and we have this wonderful thing called the Internet, it doesn’t surprise us that some people will still demand that they be “educated”. And even though we do not owe them any explanations, we want to put forward a statement because we don’t want our allies to be the only ones defending us against trolls.
“People of Color” (PoC) is a political, self-chosen term by people who are seen by society as non-white and who face everyday racism as well as systemic discrimination due to their race and/or ethnicity. As already stated in our interview – our group is for and by people who identify as Persons of Color. The concept is quite simple: just like there exist women’s organizations or LGBTQIA groups to address issues of discrimination due to their gender/sexual orientation, similarly PoC groups exist to address issues of racism and empower people who are forced to bare its brunt. Such groups offer a safe space where they can freely and openly share their lived experiences without being gaslighted or subjected to the white gaze. Our PoC group is also meant to talk, discuss and enrich ourselves by learning from one another and is for people of color only. And no, before you ask, white is not “color”. However, if you are white, there are still a lot of ways in which you can support us – we do have events open for everyone as well. The hate-mongers and trolls out there are also welcome to join our group by paying a membership fee. Just kidding, no you are not welcome here!
A cis-gender heterosexual male who asks for proof of institutional discrimination and then demands to be part of a women’s group or an LGBTQIA group is ironically also one of the reasons why such groups exist. Similarly, when white people – who directly benefit from the system of racism – demand inclusion in PoC groups and call such groups ‘exclusionary’ they do nothing more than exhibit their own privilege. The privilege which grants them access to most places and jobs without any question – making them think this is the norm. Sorry to burst your bubble but ‘reverse racism’ does not exist. The existence of PoC groups isn’t racist as its existence doesn’t give its members a distinct economic and social advantage over those who are ‘excluded’ from it. Again. Internet. Search. Read. Also, follow our Facebook page for interesting articles and information to decolonize your mind.
Finally, yes, we have received funding for our events from StuRa OvGU and FasRa FHW in the past and we are grateful for their support. There are also other groups and organizations in Magdeburg who have supported us and we are thankful to all of them as well. We only wish that the people complaining that our group is discriminatory had only read the whole interview. Because if they had, they would have seen that the events organized by the PoC HSG were open to everyone. And we did not meet anyone there who complained of being excluded! We feel compelled to add that the idea of being inclusive only comes to such people’s minds when we talk about discrimination – whether it is about gender or race. Sadly, this behavior is neither unique nor interesting. And we are not willing to indulge in a debate with trolls or hate-mongers online. However, anyone is welcome to come to our next open events if they feel like they have something to add to this discussion!
For more information and updates follow our Facebook page!
Cheers,
PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg

Unser Statement zum Hassreden gegen unsere PoC Gruppe

UnsereSolidaritat
Gemeinsam gegen einer feindseligen weißen Umgebung

Einige weiße Menschen fühlen sich von dem Bestehen der „PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg“ angegriffen. Die beleidigten weißen Menschen sagten, dass sie sich diskriminiert fühlen, weil sie kein Teil der Gruppe sein können. Zudem, haben sie die Nutzung des Termins „PoC“ in Frage gestellt, bestritten die Existenz von strukturelle Diskriminierung in Deutschland und warfen uns vor, dass unser Ansatz ausgrenzend sei. Obwohl wir das Jahr 2018 haben und wir dieses wundervolle Ding genannt Internet haben, sind wir nicht überrascht, dass einige Leute immer noch darauf bestehen „belehrt“ zu werden. Und obwohl wir euch keine Erklärungen schulden, möchten wir unsere Meinung bekunden, weil nicht nur unsere Verbündete uns gegen diese Trolle beschützen sollen.

„People of Color“ (PoC) ist ein politische, selbstausgewählte Bezeichnung von Menschen die als nicht-weiß angesehen werden, welche jeden Tag Rassismus begegnen und zudem ist es eine systematische Unterscheidung auf Grund ihrer Race und/oder Ethnizität. Wie schon im unseren Interview gesagt worden ist – ist unsere Gruppe organisiert von und für Menschen die sich als People of Color identifizieren. Das Konzept ist sehr durchschaubar: so wie es Frauenorganisationen gibt, die den LGBTQIA Gruppen angehören damit sie gezielt die Diskriminierung auf Grund ihres Geschlechts/sexuelle Orientierung bekämpfen, gibt es auch PoC gruppen die dazu dienen Rassismus zu bekämpfen und Menschen zu ermächtigen die diese Bürde tragen müssen. Solche Gruppen ermöglichen einen geschützten Raum wo Menschen frei und offen ihre eigenen Erfahrungen teilen können, ohne dabei gezielt als Opfer manipuliert oder desorientiert gemacht zu werden (gaslighted) oder dem weißen blick (white gaze) unterworfen zu sein. Unsere PoC Gruppe ist da um Gespräche und Diskussionen zu führen und uns beim Lernen voneinander zu bereichern und ist nur für People of Color.  Und nein, bevor ihr fragt, weiß ist keine „Farbe“. Nichtdestotrotz, wenn man weiß ist, gibt es viele Wege uns zu unterstützen – wir haben auch Veranstaltungen die offen für alle sind. Hate-mongers und Trolle sich auch willkommen solange sie einen Mitgliedschaftsbeitrag bezahlen. Witz beiseite, ihr seid hier nicht willkommen!

Ironischerweise ist, ein cisgender heterosexueller Mann der nach Beweisen für institutionalisierte Diskriminierung fragt und danach fordert einer LGBTQIA Frauenorganisation beizutreten, auch einer der Gründe warum solche Gruppe existieren. Ähnlich ist es, wenn weiße Menschen – die direkt von Rassismus profitieren – die Inklusion in PoC Gruppen fordern und solche Gruppen als „ausgrenzend“ bezeichnen. Diese tuen somit nicht weiteres als ihr Privileg vorzuzeigen. Das Privileg, welches ihnen den Zugang zu den meisten Orten und Jobs ohne jegliche Hinterfragung gewährt – so, dass sie denken es sei die Norm. Ich muss leider eure Blase zerplatzen lassen, umgekehrten Rassismus gibt es nicht! Die Existenz von PoC Gruppen sind nicht rassistisch denn diese geben den Mitgliedern keine separaten wirtschaftlichen oder sozialen Vorteile über diese die von den Gruppen „ausgegrenzt“ sind. Nochmal. Internet. Suchen. Lesen. Und, folgt unserer FB-Seite um interessante Artikel und Informationen zu lesen und euren Verstand zu dekolonisieren.

Abschließend, ja, in der Vergangenheit haben wir für unsere Veranstaltungen Fördergelder von StuRa OvGU und FasRa FHW bekommen und wir sind dankbar für ihre Unterstützung. Es gibt auch andere Gruppen und Organisationen in Magdeburg die uns unterstützt haben und auch ihnen sind wir dankbar. Wir wünschten uns nur, dass die Menschen die sich darüber beschweren, dass unsere Gruppe diskriminierend sei, das ganze Interview gelesen hätten. Hätten sie es getan, hätten sie gesehen, dass die Veranstaltungen die von PoC HSG organisiert wurden sind  offen für alle waren. Da haben wir keine*n getroffen der sich darüber beschwert hat „ausgegrenzt“ zu sein! Wir fühlen uns gezwungen hinzuzufügen, dass die Idee der Einbeziehung nur in den Köpfen auftaucht, wenn wir über Diskriminierung reden, egal ob es um das Geschlecht oder „Race“ geht. Es ist schade, dass dieses Benehmen weder einzigartig noch interessant ist. Wir wollen uns nicht auf eine Internetdebatte mit Trollen und Hate-mongers einzulassen! Wie auch immer, alle sind zu unseren nächsten offenen Veranstaltungen willkommen wenn sie etwas zu der Diskussion beisteuern können!

Folgt unserer Facebook Seite für weitere Informationen und Updates!

Cheers,

PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg

Die PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg stellt sich vor // Ein zweisprachiges Interview mit Magdeboogie

Magdeboogie hat uns getroffen und interviewt. Hier ein paar wichtigen Infos über unserer Gruppe.

Wer sind wir?

We are a group of students of color at the University of Magdeburg. We choose to call ourselves “PoC Hochschulgruppe Magdeburg” because our aim is to create a safe space for all people of color (PoC) in or around Magdeburg where it is possible for us to speak without fear of any judgement and share experiences so that we can learn from each other. Although our name says “Hochschulgruppe”, we do not want to restrict ourselves to University students alone.

PoCHSG

Wer wird angesprochen dabei zu sein und wie können Menschen dazu kommen?

Our group meetings are open to everyone who identifies themselves as BPoC. Since we aim to maintain an environment of “safe space”, this restriction is essential for the meetings. At the same time, we also plan to organize frequent public events where everyone who is interested in the anti-discrimination discourse can interact and take part. We are a group of people who believe in being vocal about our issues and welcome everyone who feels the same way to come join us. We can be reached via email or through our Facebook page.

Was haben wir für die Zukunft geplant, was ist unserer Wunsch für/ an Magdeburg?

We wish to eradicate the unfair prejudices that plague our minds. We want freedom as a basic principle of the society around us. We wish for us to see each other as humans first – not more and not less! And for this purpose, we plan to organize many more anti-discrimination events in Magdeburg in the future, perhaps even in co-operation with other groups in the city. Movie screenings and inviting guest speakers are always a good way to open up dialogue around the topics of race or gender equality. We aim to also include the international student community at the University because they are relatively isolated due to the language barrier.