What Germans really think about the country’s racism problem

Most Germans recognise that racism is widespread and are willing to face up to the problem, a new study suggests.

Demonstrators at a rally against racism in Domplatz, Erfurt on March 21st 2022
Demonstrators at a rally against racism in Domplatz, Erfurt on March 21st 2022 - . the International Day against Racism. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

Around 90 percent of Germans believe that racism exists in the country, according to the study from the new National Discrimination and Racism Monitor (NaDiRa).

Researchers in the survey, carried out by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM), found that nearly half of respondents – 45 percent – said they had observed racist incidents. And more than a fifth of the population – about 22 percent – said they had been affected by racism themselves.

READ ALSO: Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, study finds

Co-director of the DeZIM Institute Naika Foroutan said that racism is a part of “everyday life in Germany”.

“It affects not only minorities, but the whole of society, directly or indirectly,” he said.

Foroutan said structural and institutional racism “is also seen as a problem by many people”.

“Racist disadvantages are particularly often recognised in the areas of school, work and housing. The issue should therefore be tackled pro-actively and in the long term by policymakers. Our study shows that a large part of the German population would support this.”

READ ALSO: High costs, long queues and discrimination – what it’s like to rent in Germany

Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) said the fact that people recognise the problem means the country is “on a good path”.

“The vast majority of people in Germany recognise that racism exists in Germany,” said Paus while presenting the results of the study in Berlin on Thursday. 

“People are also willing to get involved (to act) against it.”

A sign reads 'racism kills' at a memorial event in February 2022 for the victims of the Hanau racist attacks in 2020.

A sign reads ‘racism kills’ at a memorial event in February 2022 for the victims of the Hanau racially motivated attacks in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

OPINION: When will Germany deal with its casual racism problem?

Paus said that the commitment to tackle racism would be further strengthened by new laws, such as the Democracy Promotion Act.

“In this way, we will strengthen the fight for democracy and diversity, and against extremism and racism,” she said.

“Germany is aware of its racism problem,” added Reem Alabali-Radovan, the Federal Government Commissioner for Racism. The fact that 90 percent of people recognise racism exists is “good news, because it is an important step for change”, he added.

What else do Germans say about racism?

According to the study, half of respondents agree with the statement: “We live in a racist society.”

A majority – 65 percent – think that racial discrimination exists in public authorities. Around 70 percent of respondents said they are prepared to oppose racism – for example, by organising a demonstration, petition or by standing up against it it if they come across racism in their everyday life.

Meanwhile, 81 percent agree with the statement that people can behave in a racist way without intending to.

However, 45 percent of respondents said that criticism of racism is exaggerated, and represents a restriction of freedom of expression in the sense of “political correctness”.

Some people who complained about racism were “oversensitive”, 33 percent of respondents said. Meanwhile, 52 percent even took the view that those affected were too “fearful”.

Researchers interviewed around 5,000 people from April to August 2021 for the study. The review is set to be carried out every two years.

Last year, The Local reported on the the Afrocensus project, which found black people in Germany face widespread racism.

“There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems,” said the report authors, underlining the deep racial problems in Germany. 

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

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German vice-chancellor backs armband protest at World Cup

Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck counselled the German men's national team to wear the "OneLove" armband banned by FIFA as they prepare to face Japan at the World Cup on Wednesday.

German vice-chancellor backs armband protest at World Cup

“I suppose you have to wear the armband now. I would maybe take my chances,” Habeck told German public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.  “I would be interested to see what the referee does when someone with the armband comes over.”

The rainbow armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Captains of several European teams had planned to wear the symbol as part of a campaign for diversity during the tournament hosted by Qatar, but they have backed down over the threat of disciplinary action from FIFA, world football’s governing body.

The teams have however come under fire at home for failing to take a stronger stand against FIFA’s stance on the armbands.

READ ALSO: Germany turns rainbow-coloured in protest at UEFA stadium ban

Amid the criticism, national team director Oliver Bierhoff suggested that some action by the German players may be possible.

“We will see. This has preoccupied the players a lot,” he told public broadcaster ARD on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who will attend the Germans’ opening game in the Qatari capital Doha, said FIFA’s ban was a “huge mistake”.

Not only players, but fans too should be allowed to show pro-LGBTQ symbols “openly”, she told reporters in Qatar Wednesday.

Security staff at the tournament have ordered spectators to remove items of clothing featuring rainbow logos.

Supporters should “make a decision for themselves” about whether they wanted to wear the symbols, Faeser said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s top-selling Bild daily also urged the German team to make a public stand for diversity.

In a commentary, it said the “courage trophy” can be won by those “who give this World Cup back its dignity”.

“A team that wears the ‘OneLove’ armband and that doesn’t simply cave in. A fan terrace that appears in rainbow colours, a sportsman who turns his national anthem in a song that honours both his country and freedom,” it said.