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As a black person, I cannot think of a more thankless way to spend your life than trying to understand racists of any shade. And I cannot think of a worse thing than voluntarily filling your head with apoplectic Nazis boiling with rage at the existence of non-white people threatening their privileged existence.
It’s a waste of time. Well, not just a waste of time but a waste of precious time you could use for sweeping the neighborhood streets or simply biting into a juicy mango and staring out into the sky.
I avoid reading celebrity books but when I saw the title of Mo Asumang’s book, I paused for just a moment.
Why? Why would a mixed race woman put herself in such danger? Why would anyone put themselves through such pain?
Mo Asumang is a mixed-race German/Ghanaian. She is a film director and was as far as I can remember a regular on German TV.
I don’t know why I decided to read the book. Perhaps it was out of curiosity or perhaps it was the pull of a familiar face. But I grabbed the book and it turned out to be one of the most entertaining and heart wrenching books I have ever read.
Mo is not some masochistic woman in search of pain or adventure. She is a regular girl. A professional woman leading what sounds like quite a happy satisfied life. She hangs out with friends. She shops in her local supermarket. She drives her old Mercedes Benz with the wind ruffling through her curly hairs.
But all this change. With a song. A song a neo-Nazi has released about her. One Lars Burmeister.
“Mo Asumang this bullet is for you!”
You feel the piercing fear that cut through her soul. You feel her shrinking, becoming smaller and smaller. You feel the torturous nights when she is unable to sleep. You feel her life crumbling and by the time she decides to face up to the Nazis, you find yourself cheering her on, not because it will change anything but because you just want her to have her life back.
I am of the opinion that you cannot change hateful people. The hate comes from within them. Anyone who gets off harming others or inflicting pain is damaged goods. The humiliations and the pain that they inflict on others do not just go away. They hang tenaciously on to their curtains and in the depths of their souls. Some might try to drown it with more hate or more vicious stuff but the hollowness and the despair remains.
Because to be able to really torture and inflict pain is to have it in abundance. Imagine a life so filled with pain and hate.
This book reminded me of Oprah Winfrey. Of the day she hosted racist white supremacists. Of her recognition of her mistake. Her realization that contrary to her wish to expose the absurdity of racism and inspire change, they were mocking her and using her platform to recruit.
Despite my reservations about the futility of engaging racists and white supremacists, I am grateful to Mo Asumang for her courage to set out on this journey and to share her life and experiences as a non-white person living in Germany. It terrified me. It made me nervous. It gave me sleepless nights but I also thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Talking about racism is hard. Especially if you are the victim. There are so many fragile feelings to consider. Feelings of the perpetrators. Feelings of the observers. Feeling of those who would rather make coffee. Feelings of those who would rather walk their dogs.There are so many who take offence.
Mo Asumang does not accuse anyone. She just tells her story. The indifference of fellow passengers in a tram in a small town in northern Germany who do not raise a finger when a man almost chokes her to death in broad daylight. The prominent Nazi lawyer in Hamburg telling her about “Rassenseele” the distinctive soul that sets NAZIS (white people) apart and why she is not German. Those calls; go home!
I don't know what is more chilling about this story; the fact that Nazis seem to be in all spheres of life in Germany or the fact that this book was written in 2016.
Mo Asumang’s writing is fluid.
She gets into your head. She gets into your soul. She makes you angry. She makes you sad but mostly, she does something absolutely beautiful.
She makes you recognize yourself in her.
I cannot recommend this book enough.
They will tell you it’s uncultured but they will not tell you how good it feels to get served exotic foods and drinks.
They will tell you it’s lazy but they will not mention how absolutely thrilling it is to have someone take care of and entertain the little ones as you delve into your summer reads and sip a blissful cocktail.
They will tell you it’s gluttonous but they will not tell you how absolutely delicious it is to eat local cuisines whose names you can barely pronounce.
They will tell you it’s boring but they will not tell you how much fun it is to dine, swim and guess the nationalities of your stiletto wearing fellow hotel guests.
They will tell you it’s not eye-opening but they will not tell you of the lady in a tight mini-skirt with her long fake eye-lashes conversing enthusiastically with the three older women wearing hijabs day in day out.
They will tell you it’s monotonous but they will not tell you of the teenage girl thumping her dusty boots behind her seemingly exasperated parents.
They will say you are not curious but they will not mention the Arabic words on the foggy hill opposite your hotel whose meaning you finally learnt on your third day.
They will say it’s not educational but they will not mention that you now know that Spasibo means thank you in Russian and Salaam Aleikum is how you greet in Arabic.
They will say it’s sloppy but they will not mention the impeccably dressed men and women who sweep past you into restaurants every evening.
They will say you are not supporting the locals but they will not mention the pricey body scrub and foot massage that seem natural here.
They will say all sorts of things but they will not mention how good it feels to grab delicious cocktails and the lemonades from the beach bar without thinking of how much they cost.
They will tell you it’s a horrible way to spend your holiday but they will not mention that it’s really,really the only true way.