Is racism widespread in Germany? No. Is discrimination prevalent in German society? Yes. While both of these phenomena are noticeable in the Ruhr Metropolis too, the level of occurrence is minimal. However, each individual incident is a crime and an affront to a human being.
Your publisher is white, male and from England. Being British and carrying a UK passport also defines me. I have never faced personal racism, even when living in areas of the world in a minority, including Düsseldorf and areas of London. Have I felt discrimination? Not consciously. Exclusion? Yes.
Expats in the Ruhr Metropolis generally feel welcome and can live their lives without fear and in peace. But they come from well over one hundred countries and many cultures. They have various ethnic backgrounds, are of different race and sexual leanings. Unfortunately the story is not always rosy.
Periodical discussions in expat groups on social media reveal issues for some international residents. Examples of being rejected at a club door, when white friends are permitted to enter is one. Refusal of a rental agreement in spite of high earnings and perfect paperwork, no children or pets and presentable demeanour is another.
Inclusivity benefits both the individual as well as local society. Expats who feel they need to move on to a new location incur huge costs in companies, loss of income tax in city coffers as well as reduced consumerism in the local economy.
The Federal Government has introduced legislation to address racism and discrimination, right-wing extremism, religion or belief including specifically anti-Semitism, ethnic origin, age, disability, gender and sexual orientation. Also covering violence towards others on these grounds.
The Federal Anti-discrimination Agency provides counselling and information concerning any sort of discrimination based on one of the grounds mentioned in the General Equal Treatment Act. To quote them: “More than a quarter of all requests for advice to the anti-discrimination office concern racism and ethnic origin. People tell us, for example, about targeted identity checks by the police on the basis of their skin colour or appearance, so-called racial profiling. People who have a foreign sounding name are often turned away when looking for accommodation. The chances of being invited to a job interview are up to twenty-four percent lower for people with a foreign sounding name.” Please note, this is for the whole of Germany.
In the meantime, while incidents are few, it is possibly best to be aware and turn to friends or colleagues to strengthen understanding and mutual respect. Thankfully, such behaviour is not normally a personal affront to the individual even in a one-on-one incident, rather a misdirected general belief system, which, of course, is small consolation. Because racism is always personal.
By Vincent Green, Jul 27 2021