George Floyd’s violent death has triggered a wave of solidarity not only in the United States but also in Germany. It has also raised the question of whether Germany has similar problems of racism like the United States or whether individual cases are being inaccurately portrayed as a systemic problem.
Germans Protest Racism
After Floyd’s death, more than 100,000 people showed solidarity on Germany’s streets to protest against police violence and racism. These protests continue to this day. Even after the shocking Hanau attack, no such movement took place.
Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency obtained reports or brokered agreements in 3,580 cases of discrimination in 2019. The total number of inquiries increased by 3.6 percent compared to the previous year, which in 2018 was comprised of 3,455 cases. Those affected most often reported that they were disadvantaged due to their ethnic origin in working life or in everyday life.
For example, every third person with a migrant background reported that they had experienced discrimination when looking for accommodation. In addition to discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin, complaints regarding gender discrimination (29 percent) were received as well as discrimination based on disability (26 percent), age (12 percent), religion (7 percent), sexual identity (4 percent) and belief (2 percent).
Discrimination at Work
The most common reports of discrimination were made in connection with working life: in 2019, 36 percent of complaints related to disadvantages at work or when looking for a job. Inquiries related to day-to-day business also constituted a large bulk of the complaints at 26 percent, in situations looking for a flat, shopping, catering or working in the insurance and banking business.
As is so often the with statistics, however, these figures are by no means an accurate assessment of discrimination. After all, these are reports, not investigated or litigated facts. And on the other hand, while the number of cases does not seem to be massive, one needs to bear in mind, that usually only an infinitesimal percentage of individuals are inclined to report such incidents. Either way, however, to interpret these occurrences as systemic appears to be unjustified.
Assessing Germany’s Police
As far as Germany’s police are concerned, modern Germany has never been credibly suspected of imposing systemic discrimination nor brutality either. The only people in Germany who tend to complain about the police are neo-Marxists and criminals. Nevertheless, Berlin — notorious for being uber-liberal — has now become the first federal state to protect itself against discrimination by public authorities, particularly the police. A new law provides those affected the opportunity to take legal action. The decisive factor is the reversal of the burden of proof: in the future, it will no longer be the victim but the defendant who has to prove that the allegation of discrimination is wrongly raised. The latter, of course, is the emasculation of Berlin’s police force and thus a sad day for any law-abiding citizen, regardless of ethnicity.
The CDU, the FDP and the police union have heavily criticized the decision. Moreover, other German states have already made it clear that they will not provide police forces for Berlin (e.g. in the case of significant incidents) any longer. SPD party leader Saskia Esken also recently received sharp criticism. She had said that there was latent racism in the ranks of the police, an accusation that not even her own party shared.
Germany is Jumping on the anti-American Bandwagon
The real issue here, however, is that discussion sparked by a genuine issue in the United States has been hijacked in Germany. It is not about racism and police brutality. It is about a general disdain for the police, anti-Americanism, and government, in general, that is the reason for the uproar in Germany.
This is not to say that racism and discrimination in Germany do not exist. It does, particularly in East Germany. However, it is by no means a systemic issue, but rather a repugnant occurrence among reprehensible individuals who are hardly even quantifiable as an ideological minority. Germany remains one of the most liberal nations in the world – to a fault.
Germany is Not a Racist Country
Germans are an open people, was last seen in 2015 when refugees were warmly greeted personally by masses of Germans. That now, five years later, that momentum has not simply stalled but reversed, is not a sign of racism. It is a sign that German kindness has been taken advantage of for too long. Expecting immigrants to adhere to laws is not racist. Opposing unlimited immigration is not being racist.
What is racist is, by definition, prejudice based on the alleged superiority of a racial group. These days, however, have not been widely seen in Germany since 1945.