Oh Girl.

6977534343_8e43a10229_zIt’s been an odd time for me in my German life. You know, that kind of time where you’re like hmmm I’m not sure how I feel about stuff? That kind of inarticulate and unsure time. On one hand, my social life is booming. Seriously, people seem to like me, and that’s pretty awesome. The Hubular One and I even went out socializing last weekend. I feel like I’m turning a new leaf, or whatever that saying is. Don’t judge me, thinking and remembering stuff is very difficult for me right now.

Meanwhile, we experienced a very unsavory encounter on a 40-minute train ride on Saturday night. About 10 or so German tatted-up teens on the train were shouting racial epithets and “White Power” for all of those 40 minutes, which was naturally very unsettling for me. When I looked at them, it only elicited giggles and further more derogatory terms. Now, as an outnumbered pregnant lady, I really wasn’t in a position to defend myself or even say something. I even tried to avoid the entire thing. But the train was fairly packed and I have a really bad bout of motion sickness on public transportation throughout pregnancy, so sitting with my head down is a must when traveling. However, this is part of a big picture and an even bigger conversation that I’ll need to have in the future. So let me reel off my perhaps over-analytical feelings with you.

See, my problem is, I’m not one for condoning bad and racist behavior whether it’s directed at me or not. I stand up for myself and for other people, and to be honest, I’ve never suffered any backlash for it most of my life. I don’t tolerate bullies, and I don’t suffer fools. I’m not a fighter by any means, but I’m not someone that you can walk over. That said, what happens in this 0,,16783424_403,00situation when I’m traveling with my little daughter? Do I tell her to keep her head down and to not be offended? What am I supposed to say to her? This isn’t my country; it may be my home for now, but I don’t feel like it’s my home. Know what I mean? I can’t even stand up for myself in German because it’s just not good enough, (and yes, don’t get on me about learning the language, I know, I know, but not even that wouldv’e helped in this situation). So in the end, my concerns aren’t that there is racism in the world, and no, I don’t think it’s even more prevalent in Germany, it just sticks out a lot more here. Germany is naturally a predominately white country, which makes complete sense. The faces of Germany may be changing now to incorporate the many expats this country now hosts, but in the end, someone like me still gets looks walking to the grocery store, and not just because Germans are 100% ok with staring at people (which they totally are), but because I’m different. I know this, they know this, and we don’t talk about it. So The G-Man aka The Hubular, never experienced anything like this before. He doesn’t know how to justify it, or what to do with it. This may be something I’ve had experience with since I was a young girl, but for him, this is his country, his home, and I know he doesn’t know how to feel about it.

You can justify it by saying there are idiots everywhere, because that is a quantifiable fact. But I’m outnumbered here, in a sexism_xenophobia_and_racism_in_germanylanguage and usually a dialect I don’t understand, in a culture that doesn’t love foreigners, in a place I don’t wholly know. So, I’m worried. I’m worried that my daughter will have to accept these things; the judgment and racism of others because she will know early on that she doesn’t stand a chance of winning a battle against people that she won’t look like. She will be German and American, and she will grow up speaking English at home with me, and German everywhere else. She will be taught that her grandfather’s family went through integration and busing practices, and that her great-grandma was a Harvard graduate and darker than dark from Alabama. She’ll learn about New England, and I might inadvertently teach her the Boston accent. She’ll learn about her late grandma, who didn’t care about race, but did care about making a difference. She’ll laugh with her goofy parents, she’ll spend time getting to know her Swabian grandparents and dialect, and she’ll walk down the street holding one brown hand and one white one. But will she be embarrassed by me, like I was with my Mom sometimes when I was young and stupid, because she gets made fun of at school or they call her racial slurs? Because she’ll be outnumbered here for sure, this isn’t Harlem or Boston, this is Germany; and it for sure isn’t the most diverse place on earth. You may see some Africans walking down the street in Nürnberg, but in those little villages that are everywhere in Germany, you’ll be hard-pressed to see anything but pale, sun-deprived Germans. So that’s my analysis of a problem that may (or may not arise) while bringing-up our little girl. What do you guys think?

And before I get any comments suggesting I’m being dramatic, and playing a race card or anything, there are a number of articles recently published online in German news regarding the rise of racism, Neo-Nazis, and violence targeted against foreigners. I won’t provide many links but check out those below for a glimpse.

http://gawker.com/5840694/germans-dont-really-get-american-racism

http://mkenyaujerumani.de/2013/08/02/a-german-husband-shares-on-how-racism-in-germany-against-his-kenyan-wife-scares-him/

http://qz.com/39325/germanys-knowledge-of-its-racist-past-has-blinded-it-to-its-racist-present/

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18 thoughts on “Oh Girl.

  1. Hi Ellie,

    First of all, congratulations on the baby and sorry for the discomfort. I’m sure when the baby comes, it will be all worth it 😉

    I think being different in Germany requires that you remain strong even if it’s only externally. I know when such young people misbehave, not unless an equally aggressive German confronts them, they rarely ever stop. Sometimes as a woman especially on Saturdays (and days after football matches), it’s safer to just let them be and alight at your stop (or even earlier because they do become violent sometimes).

    But in some situations if you can, it’s best to confront the person.

    1. Thank you so much for your reply. Sorry I took long to respond. You’re right, I have to let a group of teens be when I’m definitely not in the right mind or place to defend myself. I appreciate your words and your article you posted.

  2. Hi! Okay so being a White male whos german, who has a Black dad and a mixed sister and Little brother I do actually know what your going through. You do have to know that These negative and hateful slurrs arnt as common as you might think. My own grandmother used the word Neger(mean Negro not the N word) ( which in southern Germany has no negative meaning it just means someone of african decent) and always called my dad and my aunts Husband “unser Neger (our Negro”) My dad was very proud of that fact. These idiots neo nazies are way more widely spread in the US then Germany, but you having come from Boston are not really used to it because Boston is diffrent. If those hoodlems were real bavarians they wouldnt of said any of those things. One of Bavarias favorite Faces of the Mother of God is die Schwarze Madonna von Alt-Ötting, the Black Madonna who even carries a black Christ Child in her Arms. My dad and his Family when they visited found this most interesting. Not to mention the only real distaste a Bavarian has to to his fellow German the Preiss. It might be worth a trip to see the Muttergottes von Alt Oetting. Chin up those idiots can be found anywhere but most of them are actually in Texas ( fun fact)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences Maurizio. I’m gonna get through this, I mean I’ve experienced racism back in America too, the only difference was that I could defend myself in my language and not worry about my safety.

  3. I’m sorry this happened and that you have these worries. I’m sure it will happen just as it could in the states, but I don’t believe it’s something that will be worse here. It is true that Germany is not that diverse, but they are exposed to many other cultures and the expat community is growing. What does your husband think?

    Btw congrats on having a girl! I didn’t realize you knew the gender. Also, you find the cutest pictures! I love the first one on here. 🙂

    1. Racism, or being exposed to racism, at least for me and other expats I’ve spoken to, isn’t necessarily worse here in the sense that I feel incredibly unsafe to leave my home, but worse because I can’t defend myself in my own language and feel safe doing so. There is a major difference. I’ve experienced racism back in the states, and it was no peach, but it was usually a one-on-one encounter and I didn’t worry that they wouldn’t understand me or that there would be no one there to defend me should it get out of line. But I’m also from the Northeast where racism isn’t that rampant. That said, in cities Germans have a better perspective of diversity and see it growing, but in some of these little villages, not so much. I can feel the stares, I can feel and see how different I am. That’s not racism, but when you are confronted by a large group of people, saying racist things and speaking another language in between while being surrounded by Germans who neither care nor want to say something but look at you wondering if you will, that is the worse experience. I know people like my husband, and friends,(mostly those who are white and never experienced this before) who think that racism is no worse here than it would be in America (or some that think that racism isn’t even that bad), but they are incomparable— I’m not confident here that I will be supported, and defended in this kind of situation, and that I can even stick up for myself. That is what makes it difficult.

      And yes! We’re having a girl! I search through pictures to find the ones I really want lol, and thank you!

      1. You are right. After writing that before, I spoke to my husband in general about racism here and he does think the scenarios would be different and more uncomfortable. When you add the language barrier it becomes scary. The staring part however I think that is for any outsider. I can’t go anywhere, especially with my son without stares. I even had people stop and turn around and stare at the mall downtown last Saturday. It’s probably the main thing I complain about here because it is so blatant, rude and unnecessary; plus I never understand why they are staring at me and my son.
        Anyway, again, I’m sorry you are experiencing this and have to have these worries for your little girl. Don’t let the worries take away the joy! 🙂

  4. It sickens me that there are still people around like the ones you experienced on the train. Just when I think the world is finally starting to change and not worry about what color skin someone has, I hear about something like this. I’m so sorry you had to experience that. And it’s sad that that same racism will probably still be around after your daughter is born. But you’re a strong person, and I think you will teach your daughter to be strong and independent too. It won’t be easy, but I do think that things will get better, eventually. Hang in there.

    1. Thanks for the response Diana. You know, I don’t foresee and end to racism anytime soon, but I do wish more people on both sides would decide to be more humane to each other, and defend people when they see this happening. That is my one wish, that people will help each other out more. And thank you, I’ll teach her to strong and independent, funny and happy, and not to let the world get her down (a lesson I never mastered lol). Good luck on your new school year and thanks for reading!

  5. Bah. Poop on those people. I hope you figure out your way, a way that makes you feel good about how you’ve dealt with these shitty situations and what you are teaching your daughter. I’m glad you mentioned the neo nazi stuff…I’ve heard people laugh over “f off nazi buttons” with the response “there aren’t any nazis anymore”… Umm, right. I wish I had some good advice, though I often find myself shying away from confrontations in those moments too when with my daughter, because it is scary. If someone is dumb enough to say that kind of stuff, who knows what other dumb stuff they are willing to do. Best of luck.

    1. THANK YOU!! I’ll figure it out, and I’ll find a way to smooth these worries over and deal with it when I get to it. I think people get in this mindset that because they don’t see it or experience it, it doesn’t exist or it must not be that bad. When you are actually the person racism targets, you know it exists! I’ve had some rough moments here! I don’t know these people out here, I don’t know what to do, or how crazy it could get. Thank you for understanding. Btw, enjoy your site.

  6. Hi Ellie,
    I have just found your blog. i was so excited to see a woman from the states ( East Coast at that). First as I read this my heart ached for you. I know the feeling of this scenario, though not as you have experience in another country. I imagine it will be something I may experience as well. I doubt your daughter will be ashamed of you. You stay strong and know that there is support for you. May the kind responses on your blog strengthen you if only a little. You did the correct thing as being out numbered and with child. It is difficult…every scenario needs a smart response. You not responding in this scenario was a motherly thing to do. You just give your daughter love, share your experiences and let her now just how valuable she is. This all comes from within. I send peace your way. I will follow your blog. It is such a gift to me. I will be arriving in Koln Germany within a week to stay for a bit with my boyfriend. He is German. I am from Philadelphia (did a stint in NYC as well) If all goes well I will be making the move to Germany. Feel free to reach out anytime. Congratulations on your gift of a new life.
    M

    1. Thank you very much! Yeah it’s going to be ok, and I’m going to be more confident, stronger, and try to become a good mommy! I should say though, racism here isn’t that intense, but it happens just like everywhere else. Enjoy Köln, I want to go there; they have a chocolate factory and I’m a huge fan of chocolate. My email is aliedow@gmail.com should you ever want to drop a line, and of course again, good luck!

  7. Hey Allie!

    I just stumbled over your awesome blog and I immediately fell in love with it.
    I like the way you write about your experiences as an expat in Germany.
    Your writing seems authentic and reflective. I find it pretty interesting to be offered a whole different view on my home country. I am a twentysomething post grad. living in Berlin. I used to be an expat myself a few years ago, when I was living (and working) in London. I truly enjoyed this experience. And I sincerely hope that you will be soon having some very good and reliable friends here in Germany. And – of course- that you will enjoy life with your sweet little family as much as possible.

    If you ever feel like talking about some expat issues (or about beautiful Berlin), just let me know!

    All the best
    gina

  8. I am so happy I came across this! I too am an American of Hispanic decent living in Germany with my partner. I am a city girl born in NY raised in South Florida and I was immersed in diversity and I truly loved it! Then after college I moved to Georgia and worked for a Latin American non-profit and that was a horrible experience due to the racism and lack of political representation of Latinos in Georgia. After that my partner’s VISA expired so he and I decided to move to Germany. I’ve been in Germany several times but I will be living in Germany for a year.

    My exotic look seems appealing to many people here but I did have two incidents with my Ecuadorian/ German family living in Cologne. One was from my cousin, mind you she is Ecuadorian/ German, was 17 and stated the following: ” Be careful when you go to the Christmas Market in Cologne you look like you are from Turkey and people here don’t really like that.” As you know there are a lot of difficulties with Turkish minorities here and that comment completely threw me off. After that incident a couple of days after my aunt went up to a lady who was being very loud and obnoxious and politely asked her to tone it down…this white German lady’s response was… ” please get out of my face, you are not worthy of me even speaking to you.” Now I know that was a very nasty comment that can be told to anyone but my aunt is Ecuadorian tan skin and the lady stated this looking at my aunt from head to toe.

    I despise racism and being Hispanic American I have had these encounters in the U.S too (especially in Georgia). I hope I don’t encounter this anymore… I know it will be difficult for me to make it for a year without speaking the language but I will go to school to learn German. Assimilating to the culture will be super difficult though, I am American but a South Florida Latina at heart I love to dance, laugh, party, sing etc. and I know that will be difficult to have it here but I am very respectful of the German culture. The Germans are very nice people! Unfortunately, there is racism worldwide!

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