Tag Archive | segregation

Class war or beauty spa?

Germany is looking for its new ghettoes, the secluded enclaves, whose economies and culture are so foreign to the rest of society?

Kronberg. Frankfurt-Westend. Berlin-Zehlendorf. They are everywhere, but no autocratic mayors write books about them. Neighborhoods where no one will ever open a methadone clinic or a youth center, where parents can hire a doctor and a caretaker for each of their sociopathic kids.

For three years I attended a Gymnasium in the wealthiest neighborhood of one of Germany’s richest towns. Students could walk to class in the forest breeze without suffering the sight of a single high-rise. The older ones left their shiny Minis or VW Golfs in the school’s own multi-storey car park, which was funded by parent donations to the school’s endowment fund. It was rumored that generous parents could buy passing grades, and judging from the administration’s conspicuous generosity, many did.

“Probation” ran from 5th to 10th grade. During this period, teachers “sorted out” working-class children, whose parents had been insolent enough to enroll them in a Gymnasium, when their grades dropped. Many teachers boasted that this tradition gave preference to the brightest minds. They did not mention that the selection was deeply classist, and that many imbeciles were able to graduate because their parents bailed them out.

Although teachers regurgitated religiously the eltitist creed that “performance” mattered, it was usually lacking social polish, not knowledge, which caused kids to fail. The (dis)advantage of family background was exacerbated, not alleviated in school.

The number of kids from “problematic” backgrounds who enrolled was usually decimated by graduation time. Like Roma children in Hauptschulen, children of non-academics were seen as trouble-makers who never lasted long among the elite. Public buses were available, but the school’s hillside neighborhood was difficult to access if you had no car or lived in a different neighborhood.

Apart from a deadly bomb attack on the CEO of Deutsche Bank in hearing distance back in 1988 and a Green mayor, the town survived most of the post-1960s leftist movements unscathed. Old Money still sees my former school as a public alternative to boarding schools. Its graduates typically go into politics, business, law, medicine. The strongest political organization is the youth wing of the Christian Democrats.

Not all students were spoiled preps. I met many admirable characters, but the teachers – Jazz pianists, retired Colonels, conservative Christians – were a corrupt lot, and the principal had a kind heart, but also a drinking problem.

When I was in 8th or 9th grade. Some boys from the town’s comprehensive school, including sons of a Morroccan family with 8 to 13 siblings (depending on whom you ask), managed to sneak into a ball at the school. A bloody fistfight ensued. Some of the perpetrators with previous convictions received short sentences in a juvenile detention facility and the school organized no more parties for a while.

Even the tougher boys at the Gynmasium were horrified of comprehensive school students, who were rumored to assault and rob “Bonzen” on sight if they met them in parks, at bars or funfairs. Gymnsasium students who dropped out were sent to boarding school, if their parents could afford it. If not, they were reluctantly admitted to comprehensive school to get into university by detour.

At the comprehensive school, the bad kids from the good school usually completed their mutation into rapping, weed-smoking track suit mobsters, assuming their rightful position in the consumption hierarchy.

Even the smarter kids cared little about politics. Rich and poor were absorbed in media-propagated youth cultures and took the status quo for granted. You could be anti-social – a bus-stop dweller, street bully, cell-phone thief, cigarette bummer, football hooligan – but no one questioned the legitimacy of the order that produced anti-social behavior.

The social relationships in my town are reflected in the categories identified in the colloquial language of local teenage boys. Some terms are extremely offensive, but they are used frequently nonetheless.

  • [Expletive for female genital] – Women. Used by boys of all backgrounds against women not prohibited by incest laws.
  • “Kanaken” – (Orig.: Members of an obscure South Sea tribe.) Lower-class immigrants or Germans who grew up in a neighborhood with many apartment blocks. Also used against immigrants in general, but an immigrant who goes to a good school is usually considered a cross-over.
  • “Kartoffel” – (Lit.: “Potato”). German, or someone “acting German.” More readily used against middle-class Germans.
  • “Skater” – Not just a member of a subculture, but also a middle-class dropout. Skater culture was imported to comprehensive schools by Gymnasium dropouts, hence lower-class kids who dress like skaters are snubbed as upstarts by their social peers.
  • “Bonzen” – (Lit.: “Party/union functionary.”) Rich kids, preps. Early adopters of Hilfiger polo shirts and sailing shoes. Acceptable targets of aggression.
  • “Assis” – (Lit.: “Anti-socials.”) Lower class people. Sometimes used instead of “Kanaken,” if user does not want to highlight the racial aspect.
  • “Hooligans/Nazis” – “Football Germans,” often aborigines of the town’s incorporated villages. Children of tradespeople, mechanics, local homeowners.
  • “Assideutsche” – Not to be confused with hooligans. Germans who act and speak like lower-class immigrants, because they were raised in the same neighborhoods.
  • “Zecken” – (Lit.: “Ticks.”) Punks, antifascists, indie rockers. Almost nonexistent in the Emperor’s former holiday retreat, where most classes accept or defend Capitalism.

There are plenty of other terms for boxing people in, most referring to particular ethnicities, neighborhoods or youth cultures, but these are the ones I encountered most frequently in my region. These are also the terms with the most obviously classist connotations.

[Guest post] Letter from a Romani woman to Chancellor Merkel (English at bottom)

Liebe Frau Merkel,

ich bedanke mich, dass Sie ein Mahnmal für die ermordeten Sinti & Roma eingeweiht haben.

Ich kann nur eins nicht verstehen: Warum haben Sie dieses Mahnmal errichten lassen, wenn Sie offensichtlich gegen Sinti & Roma sind? Wir werden noch heute in Deutschland wie Untermenschen behandelt. Roma investieren ihr letztes Geld – für welches sie in Jugoslavien Tag und Nacht schuften müssen – um nach Deutschland zu kommen. Hier hoffen sie auf eine bessere Zukunft und besseren Schutz ihrer Rechte. Einwanderer haben es in Deutschland generell nicht leicht, aber kaum eine Gruppe wird so sehr geächtet wie wir.

Wir werden nicht nur in Jugoslavien verfolgt, sondern auch in Deutschland: von Politikern, Polizei und der Ausländerbehörde. Leute werden hier in Container gesperrt. Die Auffang- und Abschiebelager sind wie Gefängnisse. Deutsche Behörden halten die Leute wie Tiere.

Ich selbst lebe in Deutschland seit 1991 und habe hier die Realschule besucht. Trotzdem wurde ich noch immer nicht eingebürgert. In der Schule wurde ich von Deutschen gemobbt, beschimpft und geschlagen. Aber ich hatte auch gute deutsche Freunde – das waren sogenannte “Nazis”. Diejenigen, die mich geschlagen und beleidigt haben, kamen aus “guten” Elternhäusern.

Auch heute wird meinem Sohn in der Schule das gleiche angetan. Außerdem muss ich Büchergeld zahlen – 100 Euro im Jahr für drei Kinder – weil ich keinen deutschen Pass habe. Wir bekommen zwar ALG II, aber das reicht vorne und hinten nicht. Ich möchte gerne, dass Sie uns als Bürger akzeptieren. Roma sind zwar eine Minderheit, aber wir haben auch ein Herz und eine Seele.

Niemand auf der Welt will uns aufnehmen. Wenigstens ein Land sollte uns akzeptieren. Ich fühle mich hier zuhause, aber ich merke, dass wir nicht willkommen sind. 2001 musste ich Deutschland verlassen, weil mein Vater und meine Brüder hier angegriffen wurden. Mein Vater lag drei Tage im Koma. Unbekannte bosnische Muslime haben ihn verfolgt und krankenhausreif geprügelt.

Danach sind wir zurück nach Bosnien gezogen. Dort verbrachte ich die schlimmsten Jahre meines Lebens. Ich wurde verfolgt, geschlagen, gequält. Wir schliefen mit 20 Leuten in einem Raum, bis die Nachbarn uns vertrieben haben. In einem 20 Kilometer entfernten Ort sind wir dann untergetaucht. Dort hat meine Familie sich mit Handel auf Trödelmärkten über Wasser gehalten.

Nach weniger als zwei Jahren bin ich nach Berlin geflohen, in der Hoffnung auf ein besseres Leben – doch hier ist es schlimmer als in Bosnien. Ich bin keine Staatsbürgerin und habe daher weniger Rechte. Ihre Regierung, Frau Merkel, könnte die Lage verändern, aber sie will es nicht.

Mein Wusch ist es, Sie einmal persönlich kennenzulernen. Ich würde Sie bitten, wirklich etwas für die Sinti und Roma zu tun, anstatt Mahnmäler zu bauen. Hier sind einige Vorschläge:
1. Einbürgerung für Roma, oder zumindest Anerkennung als verfolgte Minderheit.
2. Gleiche Rechte für deutsche Bürger mit ausländischem Pass.
3. Programme gegen Diskriminierung von Roma-Kindern in der Schule.

Und haben Sie keine Angst, dass ich nach der Einbürgerung gemütlich von Sozialhilfe lebe. Nach meinen Erfahrungen hier ist das erste, was ich mit meinem deutschen Pass tun würde, in die USA auszuwandern.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Eine Roma


Dear Ms. Merkel,

Thank you for inaugurating a memorial to the murdered Sinti & Roma. Just one thing I cannot understand: Why did you have this memorial built, if you are obviously against Sinti & Roma? Today we are still treated like subhumans in Germany.

Romani people invest their last money – for which they work day and night in Yugoslavia – to travel to Germany. They hope for a better future and better protection of their rights. Immigrants in Germany generally do not have it easy, but hardly a group is ostracized more than we are.

We are not just persecuted in Yugoslavia, but also in Germany: By politicians, police and the immigration office. People are locked in containers. The detention and deportation camps are like prisons. German authorities keep people like animals.

I have been living in Germany since 1991 and went to Realschule [ten-year secondary school; many Roma children are sent to “special” schools in Europe]. Still I have not become a German citizen yet. In school I was mobbed by Germans, I was cursed and beaten. But I also had very good German friends – so-called “Nazis.” The ones who beat and insulted me came from “good” families.

Today my son suffers the same abuse in school. I also have to pay for school books – about 100 euros per year for three children – because I do not have a German passport. We live on welfare, but it’s not nearly enough to get by. I want you to accept us as citizens. Roma are a minority, but we also have a heart and soul.

No one in the world wants to take us in. At least one country on earth should accept us. I feel at home here, but I see that we are not welcome. In 2001 I had to leave Germany, because my father and brothers were assaulted here. My father was in a coma for three days. Unknown Bosnian Muslims stalked and hospitalized him.

After that we moved back to Bosnia. There I spent the worst years of my life. I was persecuted, beaten, tormented. We slept with 20 people in a room, until the neighbors chased us away. We then hid out in a village 20 kilometers away. My family survived by selling junk on flea markets.

After less than two years, I fled to back to Berlin, hoping for a better life – but here it’s worse than in Bosnia. I am not a citizen and have less rights than others. Your government, Ms. Merkel, could change that, but it does not want to.

My wish is to meet you personally some time. I would ask you to really do something for the Sinti and Roma today, instead of building memorials. Here are some suggestions:

1. Naturalize Romani people, or at least recognize them as a persecuted minority.
2. Same rights for German citizens with foreign passports.
3. Help prevent discrimination of Romani children in school.

And do not be afraid that I will live a comfortable life on welfare after naturalization. After my experiences, the first thing I will do after receiving my German passport is emigrate to the USA.

Sincerely yours,

A Roma