Why do racists call non-racists racists

Racism: How to avoid expressing yourself in a racist way

It's been around a month since 46-year-old George Floyd died after a brutal police operation. His death sparked a widespread debate about racism not only in the US but around the world - about obviously racially motivated crimes, but also about (often unintentional) everyday racism.

Identifying and meeting the latter is not so easy for many people. Racist statements are often not made out of malicious intent, but out of ignorance or carelessness - even with journalists, whose reports should actually reflect facts as accurately and as correctly as possible.

Avoid racist terms: Glossary helps to find the right expression

For this reason, the New German Media Makers (NdM), a nationwide association of media professionals with different cultural and linguistic skills and roots, have created a glossary on the topic. Although the subtitle "Dictionary with formulation aids, explanations and alternative terms for reporting in the immigration society" sounds a bit cumbersome, the individual entries are formulated in an understandable manner and offer explanations as to why certain terms are problematic. Although the glossary is mainly aimed at people in media professions, it also offers added value for everyone who is looking for an introduction to informing themselves about everyday racism.

Ferda Ataman, who works as a journalist for Mirror online and the Daily mirrorworked, is co-chair of the New German Media Makers and co-authored the glossary. She explains: "Language changes and adapts. Not all people are at the same level. That is why it is particularly important in journalism to work professionally and objectively."

Will the terms find their way into everyday language in the long term? "We don't say how people should express themselves. That is not our job," clarifies Ataman. "But it would of course be desirable that people develop a sensitivity to the fact that they pay attention to their choice of words in an immigration country like Germany."

Xenophobia and racism are not the same thing

Part of society is skeptical about changing language. Internet trolls complain about the "language police" not only in social networks - two years ago even Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer used the term. Ataman contradicts you: "I think the content of the debate about political correctness is wrong. The word 'language police' alone is an invention - there is no language police. We all know: You can say anything except hate speech, everyone can express himself as he likes . " And she adds: "That is why it is up to us and others to say that it makes no sense to talk about xenophobia when one means racism."


Xenophobia and racism are still often used interchangeably. In the glossary it says: "Xenophobia / xenophobia as synonyms for racism and racist motives are imprecise, since it rarely concerns actual strangers such as tourists. German citizens are often affected by the alleged 'xenophobia'. [...] It is more precise to describe the crimes and motives as racist, racially motivated, right-wing extremist, right-wing terrorist or neo-Nazi. "

Ferda Ataman was born in Stuttgart in 1979, her parents come from Turkey. She explains: "Many people live here in the second or third generation, were born in Germany. If someone discriminates against them racially, it is not xenophobia. Whoever calls it that takes on the perpetrator's point of view, makes people like me strangers. Not everyone whose name is Ali is a foreigner and a stranger. "

Another example: When it comes to racism, the question arises for many: How can I actually call black people? Most have now understood that the N-word, which we will not reproduce here, is racist. But what about the words "colored" or "dark-skinned"? The NdM glossary says: "'When it comes to racism, different experiences and socializations, the politically correct term is black. In all other cases there is usually no reason to say whether a person is black or white is. ' Terms like 'colored' or 'dark-skinned' are rejected by many. Colored is a colonial term and has a negative connotation. " As an alternative, the glossary lists the self-designations People of Color (PoC, Singular: Person of Color), Black and People of Color (BPoC) or Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPoC).

Learn new vocabulary? Wasn't a problem even in the Corona crisis

For people who have used other terms for years, such self-designations may sound unfamiliar at first, getting used to it may seem exhausting, especially if you "don't mean it badly". Ferda Ataman has no understanding for this: "We have willingly adopted new vocabulary since the Corona crisis, and we can do that in the racism debate too. Anyone who wants to have a say must also get involved and shouldn't be offended if they are still I have to learn something new. Many think: 'I know someone with a migration background, I can have a say.' But it's not that simple. "

According to her, it is important: "If you are corrected or spoken to, that you can express something differently, then you shouldn't be offended but ask." This requires a certain openness, a willingness to express yourself differently - even if the expression that has been used up to now was not meant in an evil way.

Ferda Ataman is familiar with the initial discomfort of adopting new ways of expressing himself: "I struggled with the gender asterisk to make up for this gap. My first reflex was: I don't want that." But then she realized that some people do not feel addressed by the feminine or masculine form. So why not use inclusive language if it exists? Your opinion on this is clear: "It doesn't hurt me to change the way I speak."

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