There is so much conversation around black lives matter and the deplorable state of affairs in the USA in the last few days. Sometimes I wonder, how is it that we still need such conversations? Why haven’t we evolved out of discrimination and injustice yet? I have been thinking about it for a few days now, and have entertained a few theories, though they are extremely simplistic and a product of my own limited understanding.
My first conclusion was to blame the man in the white house. He has had some pretty nasty things to stay in the past about minorities, women and people of colour. This leads to acceptability of hate speech as well as encouragement for locals to indulge and get away with such offences. But then, how do we justify the death of 18-year old Michael Brown Jr, who was shot dead by a white police officer in 2014? This was when Obama had been in the office for 6 years already.
I thought some more and came up with another, maybe a more plausible conclusion. It all comes down to privilege. A little extra that someone gets because of the colour of their skin, the state they were born in, the religion they follow, their age, their gender and/or sexual orientation. And it is very hard to give up that privilege. You may be all for #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter and #kashmirbleeds, but the real change would need your sacrifice – the one with privilege. When someone offers you preferential treatment, you politely deny and wait your turn. When someone makes racist jokes, you ask them to stop instead of looking away. When you see someone making a person in hijab uncomfortable on ubahn, you stand closer to the person and make sure that the man knows that the hijabi girl is not alone.
For things to get better, there needs to be a change, and that change calls for sacrifice from the ones not subjected to racism and discrimination. It is hard, giving up on something that makes your life easier, even if you have no right to it. But this is also the only way to make sure there are no more George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Amy Cooper.
Are you willing to do it? Are you willing to give up your privilege? Let go of some comfort for a greater good?
I am all for social media powered activism but I also believe in actionable plans. We now have goldfish memories, and move on from one matter to another faster than how your toxic ex replaced you with your best friend. Such is life. So for things to truly change, there needs to be conversation, then that conversation needs to be amplified, with actionable plans in the end. And then plan needs to include sacrifice of privilege.
Also, very few people know about what to do when they are subjected to racism. The extent and impact of it may differ from person to person; sometimes, all you want to do is file a complaint with law enforcing authorities and be done with it. In other instance, you want to seek legal as well as medical (counselling) help. Here’s how you can report and seek help, if you live in Berlin:
- At the scene – keep calm, get to safety and ask others for help.
- Document injuries and damage (photos and videos)
- If you need medical assistance, get to a doctor. For emergency cases, they can see you even without an insurance card. Ask for a certificate at the end.
- Write your memory log – what, when, where, how, who. As much as you remember.
- Stay with friends and family for sometime.
- Go to the police, if you want to file an official complaint.
- Seek out advice and assistance from centres that help racism victims. Every district of a city has its own private as well as government offices to assist victims. I have looked up a few options for you and listing them below:
Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency: The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency provides you with confidential counselling free of charge. It can also help you to find a counselling centre close to where you live.
+49 (0)30 18555-1855
Legal counselling: Mon 1-3 pm, Wed and Fri 9-12 am
General enquiries: Mon – Fri 9-12 am and 1-3 pm
Counselling E-Mail: email@example.com
General enquiries E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find a local centre near you (Germany wide): https://www.antidiskriminierungsstelle.de/SiteGlobals/Forms/Suche/Beratungsstellensuche/Beratungsstellensuche_formular.html
Verband der Beratungsstellen für Betroffene
rechter, rassistischer und antisemitischer Gewalt e.V.
Ansprechperson: Heike Kleffner
Tel.: 030-55574371; email@example.com; www.verband-brg.de; Loved this paper on what to do after an attack (available in 10 different languages): https://verband-brg.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/ratgeber_was_tun_nach_rassistischen_angriff_gesamt.pdf
ReachOut – victim counselling and education against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism
ADNB des TBB – Berlin antidiscrimination network of the Turkish association in Berlin-Brandenburg
BDB – Federation for antidiscrimination and education work in the Federal Republic of Germany Sprengel Haus,
Sprengelstr. 15, 13353 Berlin; Tel.: (030) 216 88 84 and fax: (030) 219 96 896; firstname.lastname@example.org; https://bdb-germany.de
Age or disability anti-discrimination advice from Berlin state self-help association Beratungsstelle der Landesvereinigung Selbsthilfe Berlin e.V. (advice service of Berlin state self-help association)
Littenstr. 108, 10179 Berlin; Tel.: (030) 27 59 25 27 and fax: (030) 27 59 25 26; email@example.com; http://lv-selbsthilfe-berlin.de/
Senate department for health, care and equality (Discrimination on the grounds of gender) Department of women’s and equality policy
Oranienstraße 106, 10969 Berlin, Tel.: (030) 90 28 21 16 and fax: (030) 90 28 20 66; https://www.berlin.de/sen/frauen/
The Senate Department for Health, Care and Equal Opportunities offers written information on discrimination on the grounds of sex: Berlin lesbian, gay, transgender network for equal treatment – against discrimination
Tel.: (030) 23 36 90 80; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Take your time to heal – there is no clock or timer.
But wouldn’t it be great if no one had to resort to these measures? If we learned to live in peace and respect each other as human beings before bring in skin colour, race and religion into the equation?
Once again, your renunciation of privilege will make lives of those subjected to discrimination a lot easier. Think about it. Be safe, And try to keep those around you safe as well.