Multicultural Germany: How We Experience Racism

By SPIEGEL Staff

Several recent controversies in Germany -- from the treatment of refugees to the obstacles faced by immigrants in the job market -- have thrown the issue of racial discrimination into the limelight. SPIEGEL spoke to 15 people of foreign descent to find out how racism affects their daily lives.

Last month, a newly opened shelter for asylum seekers in the Berlin neighborhood of Hellersdorf became the scene of heated protests by far-right demonstrators. But the controversy was only the most recent reminder that racism remains a serious problem in Germany. Far-right violence against immigrants has become endemic in parts of the country, while in the bigger cities, discrimination tends to be subtler if also widespread -- as seen with the recent scandals over racist door policies at nightclubs in Berlin and racial profiling by the Hamburg police.

In the spirit of public debate, SPIEGEL spoke to 15 people with foreign roots living in Germany to find out how racism plays into their daily lives. From the German-born housewife who was told to "go home" and treated like a terrorist after she decided to start wearing a headscarf, to the 79-year-old retiree whose family was killed at Auschwitz and still regularly gets insulted as a "gypsy" -- their stories paint a complicated, disturbing picture of the state of multiculturalism in a Germany still rife with nativist tendencies.

There are plenty of success stories -- a professional soccer player, a city treasurer and a parliamentarian are among those given a voice here. But even they have faced their fair share of discrimination. Lincoln Assinouko, a forward for a regional team in Lower Saxony, has been peppered with racial epithets by members of an opposing team. And Green Party Berlin representative Omid Nouripour has staff who help him sort through the piles of racist and Islamophobic hate mail he continuously receives.

Click through to read their stories in their own words.

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1. optional
danm 09/19/2013
Given Germany's profound sense of guilt and contrition for past events, it is especially sensitive to charges of racism. I understand that. In fact, I think it is admirable that the German people wish to do better. That instinct is not in everyone and you should be proud of it. That being said, you do not have to drop into a fetal position and utterly submit anytime someone accuses you of racism. It is not racists to ask officers of the court to conform to a dress code. It is not racist to limit the number of immigrants whose social wellfare costs will excede their tax contributions. It is not racists to have pride in German herritage and German history. Do not let yourselves become patsies for every con man who calls you a bigot because they want you to give them something and they believe this is the easiest way to get it.
2. optional
peskyvera 09/19/2013
The Western Christian 'culture' striking again.
3. Racism has no Place in our Planet and Human Kind need to fight without no mercy
spon-facebook-571009536 09/19/2013
Racism in a Multicultural Germany and Austria is a real problem and a cover-up problem in a way that racial discrimination of foreign or foreign descent are not world wide known in these Nation. Foreign or foreign descent (moreover Black African ) are totally discriminated in all form of Economic point or sector: like in job point of view and even in the Justice System whereby your lawyer can work against you in a case. Children of foreign descent can be taking away from their father and given to a white mother or so-called care-taking family, who careless of the Mix kid future. It is time the UNO, check these matter of Multicultural Racism and many court ruling in relation to some of these countries cases involving foreign or foreign descent (moreover Black African ) before things goes out of control. And there are many case of all kinds, whereby foreign or foreign descent are so discriminated and misusing of children foreign or foreign descent due to failed courts ruling are causing metal and useless livelihood to these Multicultural foreign or foreign descent Kids so many Nation around the world and moreover in Nation like Austria and Germany as SPIEGEL International reviews. "Racism has no Place in our Planet and it is an invisible War that Human Kind need to fight without no mercy" (by Mag Gospel THE TRUTH NEWS")
4. optional
spon-facebook-554518947 09/19/2013
I agree that Germany has still a very long way to go til it will become a tolerant and open minded country. But this story with the fingerprints is not right. Me as human with german passport had to give also the fingerprint for getting a new passport and a new identity card. I has only the option, if I like to have it shown in the card or not.
5. How can such a smart society be so dumb on racism
blackntexas 09/19/2013
As a black American I first visited Germany in the early 80's as a US Airman returned again in the early 90's and still later as the spouse of a Bavarian frau I met in the US in 2003. So Almost 25 years and still not much had changed? What so caught my eye, for a society as educated as Germany, and so blessed with with technical engineering skill when it comes to interaction between non germans Germany fails on a large scale! I experienced comments myself from some Germans it was as if I'd stepped back into the US of the 1960's! Some intentionally racist, most unintentionally racist because Germans, like Anglo Americans "always seem afraid" or seem to think someone has come to this beautiful country...and it is beautiful...to take something away! Benefits, wurst, snatch a purse, take your lederhosen beer...could this be? Lighten up, that dark or brown skinned person may have more on their bank account than you, not that it matters. Your country has a great opportunity now that Ms. Merkel had the strength to say NO and have Germany stop being the "Bank to the World" based on OLD guilt to come full circle and bury all the ghost of Germany's past...Gotta work on the racism thing or want to hear something really frightening? Germans run the danger of becoming like the Ami...yikes!
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