Political Racism in Germany

One might think of political racism as a version of racism that is not too personal but takes place in the domain of everyday politics. Perhaps one of the most recognized system of political racism is that of the apartheid – the institutionalized racial oppression that denies non-whites their civil rights, such as the right to vote. Political racism is characterized by an authoritarian political culture that safeguards non-white to remain politically, socially, culturally, and economically dominated.

Meanwhile, political racism also features expressions of institutionalized prejudice, hatred, and antipathy. Yet, it also focuses on entrenched discriminatory practices in laws and politics. Ideologically, political racism is associated with nativism, xenophobia, otherness, segregation, whiteness, white power, and hierarchical rankings.

Historically, political racism has its roots in the ideological hallucination that there is superior western knowledge, science, and culture which insinuates that there is an accompanying superiority of the white man and his white culture.

In 18th and 19th century German crypto-science, this was contrasted with the African negro – to avoid the even more evil but regularly used N-word at that time – who is presented as a native, natural, untamed, wild, and above all, primitive while deprived of decency and Sittlichkeit – Hegel’s concept of an ethical life.

Even though German philosopher Hegel was an outspoken opponent of slavery, arguing for the liberation of slaves while also producing his most exquisite master and slave dialectics, he also wrote this about Africans, there is nothing like human charm [Anklingende] to be found in his character.

Long before that, Hegel’s philosophical predecessor – Immanuel Kant – wrote, humanity is in its greatest perfection in the race of whites. The yellow Indians already have a lesser talent. The Negroes are far below that and are the lowest of the American peoples. Not far behind Kant and Hegel are British philosophers like Hobbes and Hume.

Meanwhile, Kant also believed that blacks had been tempted [verführt] to leave their counties when trying – unsuccessfully – to explain slavery. In short, the colonial practice of forced enslavement, abduction, deportation, violence, brutality, and uprooting is romanticized as “tempted” by Kant.

Of course, when race is concerned, carrying Nazi-party card #312589 (1933-1945, Gau Baden) super-Nazi Heidegger is not lagging behind. While delivering his jargon of authenticity, Heidegger strongly believed, there is a Jewification [Verjudung] of our culture and universities and this is frightening … I think the German race should muster its inner strength to rise to new heights.

Heidegger never shied away from using the most evil Nazi-style extermination terminology when talking about Verjudung. In any case, Heidegger’s fight against Verjudung ended in his “new heights“ of Auschwitz.

Yet, racism inside Germany’s science and philosophy did not end in 1945. Heidegger’s pupil Hannah Arendt – who might have been hörig to Heidegger since he had seduced her at a young age – noted in her Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft (1955),

the biblical myth of the origin of the human race was put to a very serious test when Europeans – coming in to Africa and Australia – were confronted for the first time with people who apparently possessed neither what we call human reason nor what we call human sensations, who had not produced any culture, not even a primitive culture.

Contrary to Arendt, Aboriginal Australians have a human reason unlike the invading whites. Most obviously, Aboriginals do have sensations and they have produced a culture that has shown sustainability for 60,000 years – unlike us. The racism of German philosopher Heidegger-acolyte Hannah Arendt speaks volumes. When writing about the Heidegger–Arendt affair, the New York Times called it, The Banality of Love.

Particularly when Arendt continues with the animalistic community life of Africans – a version of dehumanization that relies on comparisons to animals [Tiervergleich]. Kant, Heidegger and Arendt aren’t the only German philosophers when it comes to racism.

Philosophers like Fichte, Lichtenberg, Rousseau, and top-anti-Semite Martin Luther, all talked about the inferiority of blacks. All in all, the political and economic power of white nations remains one of the central categories of a racist’s superior-vs.-inferior thinking.

Many in the world of philosophy, have known, for example, that British philosopher Hobbes was more than complicit in the slave trade while – simultaneously – also assisting in the creation of a racist colonial constitution. German writer Bühl even argues that the majority of enlightenment philosophers believed that black are more similar to apes than white Europeans.

Perhaps living in white-dominated countries does indeed mean to have the privilege to not realize that one is white. Not surprisingly, Kant’s idea of freedom and Enlightenment is intended mostly for whites. The French Revolution that took place during Hegel’s life, meant different things to different people. The French Revolution’s liberté, égalité, fraternité – liberty, equality, fraternity – did not apply to people in French colonies.

For the people of Haiti, for example, the French Revolution wasn’t a movement toward freedom but a movement toward more oppression. Worse, even after the Haitian Revolution, France forced Haiti to pay substantial monies to France until 1947.

For those living in colonies, the idea of liberté, égalité, fraternité was pure hypocrisy adding insult to injury. Meanwhile, in the Americas alone – between 1492 and 1600 – a whopping 90% of all indigenous people had died: about 55 million people. Many did not simply “die” – they were infected with alien, i.e. European disease, shot, massacred, and worse.

One might like to realize that by the end of World War I, about half of the world’s land and about 2/5 of all people suffered under colonial dictatorship. To them, it wasn’t the beginning of discoveries and civilization but the beginning of colonialism and genocide. Yet, Christopher Columbus is celebrated as a great hero and discoverer.

Roughly 200 years after all that, a slave-holder who owned 600 slaves including Sally Hemings and her children fathered by – Jefferson – made his mark. Until today, Jefferson is celebrated as a great statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and founding father.

Jefferson also served as the third president of the United States and is still seen as the father of US democracy – well, no democracy for slaves! All in all, modern racism wasn’t a historical accident or an aberration of modernity. Racism is a consequence of European colonialism – it came with the invention of the white man and the white race.

Yet, to extract themselves from the crime scene, white Europeans and many others prefer to present racism as a problem for black people. Worse, some have even convinced themselves that the solution to racism is liberalism and not anti-racism. It is worth noting that there is not a single university professorship researching racism in Germany that could, for example, investigate questions like: Why is colonialism impossible without racism – Rassenwahn – racial mania?

This kind of race-obsessed mania or madness – the German word Rassenwahn is perfect – it still exists in today’s Germany. There are plenty of streets named after racists and Nazis. Yet, at the same time, there is no Genocide Street in Germany. But there are no less than 37 streets and places named after Adolf Lüderlitz – an eager participant in genocide in German South West Africa (Namibia).

The foundation for colonial genocide was laid by Lüderlitz. By 1885, the German colony was – as it is commonly called administered (sic!) by none other than Heinrich Göring (1839-1913). He was the father of Oberster SA Führer (1923), super-Nazi, obese drug addict, and first-class war criminal Hermann Göring.

Part of German colonialism is also Lothar von Throtha’s Vernichtungsbefehl [the order to exterminate locals], within the German border, every Herero is to be shot whether carrying a rifle or not, with or without cattle. I am no longer taking in women and children. Drive them back … or have them shot. Unsurprisingly, in a country with such a history, even today’s Germany has more memorials glorifying colonialism than it has anti-colonialist memorials.

Perhaps the difference between then and today is that then – it was called colonialism and, today – it is called human intervention. Commonly, all too many people have been made to associate countries like Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, and the UK with colonialism. Yet, the shocking truth remains that at Germany’s colonialist peak at the end of the 19th century, its colonial Empire was the 5th largest in Europe in terms of population. And, it was the 3rd largest in terms of territory.

Of course, German colonialism came with the establishment of concentration camps in German East Africa – it was tried there and later perfected by German Nazis. German colonial rule also meant genocide of the local population and significant colonial atrocities.

Beyond that, Togo – or Togoland as it was known – as well as eastern Ghana were German colonies. But today, they are not remembered as such since the subsequent British colonial rule is considered the most formative. German brutalities moved, rather conveniently, into the historical background to be – mostly – forgotten. Yet, Germany also secured areas in the Southwest – today’s Namibia. It also gained control over the eastern territories – Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and Cameroon.

As one can see in father and sons Göring, colonialism not only impacted those to be colonized but also the colonizers. Their brutalization became very handy when fighting against the democratic Weimar Republic and during the rise of the Aryan white race turbo-charged by Nazism.

Since the existence of a race proved to be a hallucination and DNA shows more and more that there is no race, racism’s white superiority is re-framed as people belonging to a religious and ethnic community. This, of course, always comes with the exclusion of others – Jews, blacks, Arabs, Muslims – when seeking the racial homogenization of an (imagined) nation. Ideologies like these are used by right-wing extremists to segregate Germans from non-Germans, particularly since about 1/5 of people in Germany are linked to recent waves of migration.

With that, the colonial periphery-center thinking is transported deep into Germany creating an internal periphery used to exclude non-Germans. Yet in the year 2000, Germany experienced one of the most important changes to the racist ideology that sets Germans against, non-Germans. In that year, Germany eventually updated its citizenship law allowing dual citizenship. Germany moved from citizenship via blood to citizenship via the republican vision of collective belonging to a democratic society.

This, however, did not change the fact that, for example, schools with predominantly white children are still considered to be good schools while schools with predominantly non-white or migrant children are considered problem schools. The change in citizenship also didn’t change the fact that Germany’s newest Neo-Nazi party – the AfD – is represented in virtually all parliaments.

And it did not change the fact that Germany’s first black member of parliament – Diaby – continues to be exposed to rampant racism, that his office was shot at, and he receives – repeatedly – racist death threats. Beyond all that, German racism remains inextricably linked to German nationalism in three basic ways:

  1. Nationalism: Germany’s right-wing, its Neo-Nazis, and its nationalists feed on racist reactions to the end of homogeneity – that came in the wake of the arrival of migrants since the 1950s. For Germany’s right-wing extremists, this changed their beloved racial and national order, foremost for those still believing in the Rassenwahn of an Aryan Volksgemeinschaft.
  2. Ideology: Secondly, racism in present day Germany still manifests itself in a close relationship with the Völkisch ideology – a Völkisch nationalism that follows biological racism.
  3. Institutions: Thirdly, the recent upswing of nationalism, anti-Semitism, and racism can also be found in institutionalized political racism, e.g. Germany’s AfD. Something very similar can be found in USA, particularly in the politics and ideology of the Trumpism who was, after all, a US president.

Trump’s roots may date back to the small West-German village of Kallstadt where in 1608, families with the name Drumb, Tromb, Tromp, Trum, Trumpff, and Dromb lived. Whether or not Trump inherited German racism remains unclear and – in its finality – it is not really of any consequence.

Yet, someone who believes that Charlottesville’s Neo-Nazis are very fine people might be more close to political racism than many like to believe. In any case, both – Trumpism and German racism – share ethnical, culturalist, and racist demarcations separating them from us. Both also have a clear idea of Volk and non-Volk, who belongs to us and who can be exterminated.

Thomas Klikauer is the author of Managerialism (Palgrave, 2013).