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.