Racism in Germany
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.