Today I had an interesting experience at work. We had a very important event ongoing, …
In the past week it happened twice to me, that I had a small talk with two different people on two different occasions, in two different places on the refugee situation in Germany. When people talk to me, they don’t see who I am, where I am from, they don’t see that I was not born as a German, they don’t hear any accent and don’t see any difference in my looks, they automatically assume I’m a ‘normal’ German woman. And so they dare to share their ‘true’ perspective with me on what they think about the situation, which often is quite challenging for me, especially when they start exposing their preconceptions and talking generally negative about foreign persons. It’s challenging because at some point I have to decide what I am going to accept to stand as, am I going to just hear what they’re sharing and leave it there, or am I going to expose myself and my perspective, which could also be challenging for them.
There is a story from my past that I want to share, because it examplifies that this ‘situation’ we seemingly have right now is not new at all, it is obviously just getting more and more controversial.
When we (my family) first came to Germany in 1989 my first girlfriend was a turkish girl, at least this was how people would address her. For me she was a german, she grew up here, she spoke like a German, she behaved like a German, she knew all the songs and fairytales german kids learn in the kindergarden and the elementary school – all of that being completely new to me. She just had another religion, which was also a new thing to me, different religions in general, because in Poland I grew up within a totally homogeneous environment of Catholics and not being exposed to any other sort of religious belief – as a child I believed everyone on this planet is Catholic.
What really struck me was, that when we had an interaction with germans, like for instance in a shop, or even simply on the street, people would often treat her as the ‘foreign’ and me as the ‘native’. Just because we looked the way we looked.
This is really a ‘handicap’ being a Muslim, an Arab, or from the southern hemisphere, those are much easier to be ‘seen’ as one, because they will probably have a slight darker skin tone, darker hair, or as a woman maybe wear a headscarf, but it doesn’t matter as much, the thing is – and this is what I want to question – the moment we place a judgment on someone just because we see a ‘picture’ and think we know what or who that Being is.
It’s also interesting how the refugee dabate from today brings up the past, when in the sixties several thousand of foreign workers was invited to help to build up Germany and make it what it is today, but we never dealt with it from the perspective of sharing and caring about this world/nation together as one.
As the debate on the refugee crisis and Islam is heating up – I must take responsibilty for the reactions I bear inside of me. They question my self-definition and my self-beliefs, so I am quite grateful for the challenges I have to face. As it is the challenges we all have to face eventually. So let’s share and learn from each other!