Germany's #MeTwo hashtag has the country asking: How racist are we?
An image from Twitter shows examples of the #MeTwo hashtag, a play on the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. (AP) July 31 at 8:58 AM Email the author
BERLIN â" As the NFL anthem debate rumbles along in the United States, Europe now has its own flash point over racial inequality and discrimination touched off by sports.
The sports might be different â" soccer instead of football â" and the activists are predominantly second- and third-generation immigrants, but their concerns are similar to those of their U.S. counterparts: They feel the rules are not fairly applied.
Those long-running tensions were stoked this month when Turkish-German sports star Mesut Ãzil resigned from the G erman national soccer team after posing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a photo. âI am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,â Ãzil wrote in his resignation letter after critics began to also question the soccer star's performance at the World Cup.
Although issues over immigration have gained new momentum amid Germany's refugee intake in recent years, its origins go back decades. In the 1960s, Germany began to invite Turkish citizens as temporary guest workers to make up for a severe labor shortage amid postwar rebuilding. For many guest workers, their temporary status eventually became a permanent one. But authorities stuck to policies that were never designed to integrate hundreds of thousands of newcomers.
Today, many immigrants in Germany are still allowed to vote in Turkey, and about half of them have kept their citizenship. During Turkey's presidential election in 2014, about 140,000 Turks cast their votes in B erlin alone.
Conservative German politicians have criticized what they brand âparallel societies.â But many children of Turkish immigrants in Germany also have begun to challenge the assumptions that they must leave behind the traditions of their forebears to be fully German â" echoing complaints of other immigrants in France or Britain.
It now has a hashtag, #MeTwo, inspired by the #MeToo movement. About 200,000 tweets â" most of them containing anecdotal evidence of everyday racism â" have so far been shared on German social media.
âI was born in Germany and had to take an oral exam at the university Essen,â one user recalled, using the hashtag. âMy German professor asks at the beginning 'How are you? How do you like Germany? And when will you back home to your country?' My answer was, 'I was born here 25 years ago and this is my home.'ââ
Others cautioned that the problem wasn't restricted to children of Turkish immigrants. âMy german teacher was guessing the future professions of pupils in the class (10th grade) 'Well .â.â. veronika. you are going to be a Russian porn actress .â.â. ' No one was laughing. 'Joke,'â" wrote one user.
To many with immigrant origins, the social media outpouring is more evidence that Germany needs a new approach to national identity â" even at a time when some populist parties increasingly emphasize the country's Christian roots.
âWe need to redefine what it means to be German,â Ali Can, the journalist who launched the hashtag, told the Associated Press in an interview.
But with the far-right Alternative for Germany party on the rise, any effort to redefine what it means to be German will not go unchallenged.
The conservative tabloid Bild cautioned in an opinion piece published Monday that the current debate could push âwhite Germansâ toward the far right. âThe goal of those who wa nt 'white men' to be silent is clear: They want to exclude differing opinions from the debate.â
But the feeling of being excluded from debates isn't something that's unique to âwhite Germans,â their immigrant-origin counterparts would argue.
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