Maybe the events in the US and also events in the past in Germany have left you with the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. Maybe you feel like you just want to create your own little bubble around you where things are positive, safe and lovely. I want to do that: retreat, keep to my own and shut out those bad events happening. But at the same time, I know that I am also a part of this world and it is my right, privilege and duty to shape it. It might not feel like I can contribute much, but I know that everyone has their own circle of influence. No matter how big or small this circle is, we should use it to make the world a better place for everyone to live in.
And here a disclaimer: this blog post is only the start. I won’t do all the work for you, but I will give you useful questions. Please do your own research because this is more effective for your learning process.
So how can you make a difference? There are two main blocks, the internal and external block.
First of all, we need to start with ourselves. Which means at least three things: educate yourself, examine your own attitude and thoughts, decide what you want to stand for.
Education: Do you know what the definition of racism is? Find out and then rephrase it with your own words. Then make variations of it: how would you explain it to a child? How would you explain it to your friend? Your colleagues? To your grandpa who tells this racist jokes? To be able to fight for something, we also need to be able to speak about it in a way that others can understand it. It is also important to understand terms like white privilege, discrimination, the movement “Black lives matter” and others. Where does racism start? And which excuses do people give who have racist attitudes?
Examine our own attitude: No matter how many times you’ve been abroad, how many people of a different skin color or culture you know and call your friend and how open towards the world you are, THERE MIGHT BE STILL SOME RACISM IN YOU. And this is something really hard to face: our own, maybe hidden racist thoughts. So, work on that. Be honest to yourself and face it. Admit it, but don’t stop there. Check your own attitude continuously and work towards getting things right in your head. Because: how can we stand up against something and still keep it in our hearts and minds? Throw it out, replace it.
When growing up, I had this very dark image of Eastern Europe in my head: countries that are all grey and poor because they were part of the Soviet Union. People that live in large apartment blocks from which the facade was already start falling of. Villages that are in the middle of nowhere and people that look at each other grimly. Shops that have only one sort of jam and are a sad experience to walk into. Basically, many grey countries that looked really uninviting to me. You get the idea.
When I was in high school though, my school offered a student exchange to Hungary, a place I had never been before. So, I told myself that I had to see it with my own eyes and find out whether the image I had in mind was actually right. Well, long story short: of course, I was wrong! Sure, there were apartment blocks that had seen better days, but through my experience in Hungary I met wonderful people that gave me a much brighter, colorful picture of the East than I had before. My image of Eastern Europe changed considerably, and I was able to see it much more realistically. Since then I have travelled to Poland, Czech Republic and Russia and I would do it anytime again because I had a great experience in each of these countries!
This is what I mean when I say that we need to work actively on our own attitudes. We are given images from the media and other people about others and their countries or culture. Our responsibility is to check whether they portray reality. Go out and meet people from different cultural backgrounds in your own home country.
And remember: our thoughts shape our reality and will translate into actions.
Decide what you want to stand for: First of all, the word “decision”. I think it is just good to make some conscious decisions in life, not just fall into something. So, please DECIDE to stand up. Write your decision down.
And then understand the following: you can make a stand AGAINST something and tell people something is bad. If people understand it and follow through and get rid of their racist attitudes, then there will be the next step: filling the vacuum. Because: what do we want to stand FOR then? For me, I’ve decided that I want to promote good relationships, show God’s love and peace, support people that want happy and loving families. I also want to be a bridge between people from different cultures.
These are things that I would suggest for you to start.
The external part
Now, let’s move on to the external block: This is where we move into action outside of ourselves. There are also different parts of the external block: prevention, awareness raising, punishment/challenging of racist behavior. Obviously, we are often not in the position of being able to do the third point, so the suggestions I am giving focus more on the points of prevention and awareness raising.
In the following section, I will give you hands-on suggestions on how you can get involved in creating a world without racism:
- Of course: Vote political parties that are promoting a society that treats all citizens equally and that show respect towards people of all cultural backgrounds.
- Show the politicians that you are not okay with racist motivated events, laws, etc. with signing petitions, writing to them directly and attending demonstrations.
- Speak to your circle of influence (= the people around you) about racism, educate them and challenge them to join you.
- Use the possibility to launch a formal complaint through the German Advertising Standards Council (Deutscher Werberat) or an equivalent in other countries if you find racist adverts. https://werberat.de/content/english-keyfacts
- Tell your children especially about it, give them the opportunity to experience other cultures in a positive way. Racism is often given from one generation to the next, it is learned. We need to teach our children that people are equally valuable. We can do that through: taking them to a refugee home and let them play with the kids there. Choose children books and songs that teach them about different cultures. Inviting people with a different background to your home. Etc.
- Use your social media profile(s) to share educational articles and make a stand against racism and for a diverse world.
- Get involved in refugee or migrant work and show that you care and that they are welcome in your country.
- You hear racist terms around you? You experience racist behavior by someone you know? Talk to them, challenge them about their words and actions. Show them that you are not agreeing with what they are doing.
- If you experience a racist joke, challenge the person about what they just said. Show them that you are not okay with it and explain why. Many people are not aware that those jokes are the first step to indirectly path the way for open racism.
- If others post racist content online, challenge it and report it. A very clever campaign is the following “Hass Hilft” campaign that donates money for each racist comment that you find online.
- If you are a target of discrimination or racist attacks, report it to the police or the anti-discrimination agency.
- Donate and support organizations that help people get out of extremist groups. One of these in Germany is “EXIT Deutschland”
- Help spread the information about INSIDE OUT, an organization that makes programs and workshops that prevent extremism, radicalization and hostility towards different people groups.
- Get involved in campaigns that promote human rights, respect for people of different cultural backgrounds and others. Often churches are a good starting point for this.
Experiencing a racist attack
If you ever experience how someone gets harassed in public, try the following method.
Imagine, a young Muslim woman sits on the train and a guy comes, stands in front of her and starts attacking her verbally.
What you can do: go to the woman and start talking with her about ANYTHING. The weather, the landscape outside, etc. The conversation should center around anything that you and her can talk easily about so that she can easily follow you. Don’t talk about the attacker and ignore him. Get the woman to talk only to you and try to stay calm, collected and friendly.
Talk and be with the woman until the attacker is gone and if necessary, go with her until she reaches her destination.
You can also try to get other people in the train involved, the more people actually are aware of what is happening, the better. If it is getting worse, don’t be shy to contact the police or the conductor. If you – for any reason – don’t want to put yourself at risk, take photos and videos of the attacker so that he can be exposed. Please also be aware of signs of intoxication.
On a side note…
I’ve myself have been on the receiving end of racist remarks on the street. And it really hurt me, even though I did not show it. In the moment that happens, I am usually too shocked to react. So, I know from my own experience that for a person that gets attacked it is usually very hard to react quickly. Your emotions are running high and you tense up, so really dealing with the attacker can be very hard. That is why getting help from others in these kinds of situations is so important!!
Let’s do this together!
Remember that you won’t be alone in your efforts. There are many more people that care about others and that stand up against injustice. You are a part of a bigger movement. And also remember that everyone can make a difference, no matter how many people you are around. It is a continuous team effort and we are shaping the world with our words, our actions.
In the hope for a better world,
PS: Was this article beneficial for you? Then please consider sharing it with others that might benefit from it, too!