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GERMAN OF THE WEEK

RUSSIA

Berlin drag queen sews mouth in Russia protest

A shocking video is currently making the virtual rounds. In it, a man dressed as a beautiful woman sews up her mouth in protest at the persecution of homosexuals in Russia. Berlin drag queen Barbie Breakout is our German of the week.

Berlin drag queen sews mouth in Russia protest
Photo: Vimeo

Barbie Breakout is best known for her DJing work in Berlin nightclubs, and does not say anything on the video but simply produces a threaded needle and proceeds to pierce her lips and pull the cotton tight, sealing up her mouth.

Blood flows from the wound, and although she manages to keep a straight face for most of the ordeal, by the end she is wincing with pain.

In the second part of the video an off-screen commentary criticizes the German government for not taking a stand against the raging homophobia in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin’s government recently passed a law banning any “propaganda promoting homosexuality” with an extremely broad yet undefined remit. In the mean time attacks on gay people have multiplied and attracted no official condemnation.

Although Breakout Barbie has no particular links to Russia, she told Die Welt newspaper she felt deeply affected by the widespread violence against gay people in the country.

“The pain I felt inside when I had to see in the media what is happening in Russia was greater than the physical pain of the needle. My partner held the camera while I did it. But he couldn’t look.

“In my youth I had more holes in an ear than through my mouth in this performance. Apart from a small bruise on my left upper lip, everything has healed up again. It was about symbolism, not about self-harm.”

She said she hoped people would become more aware of the situation in Russia, and possibly take what direct action they could.

“I hope that people for example, will buy fewer Russian products. And give the 2014 Olympics in Russia particular attention. Companies such as Coca Cola and McDonald’s are right at the front as supporters with advertising. Perhaps we could talk to the consciences of these important companies via a boycott or many letters of protest. Such a government cannot be supported.”

The Local/hc

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RACISM

Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

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

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added. 

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