We Need to Talk – and Do Something – about Racism

I don’t have any words right now, just rage and sadness. Like many others, I’m not surprised that our systems are racist, no matter whether you are looking at the US or Germany (or the UK, France and many others for that matter), but the extent of it still surprises me every now and then. And reading the comments under tweets and articles by activists who go through all the pain to explain the racist structures to ignorant people, share how they feel; it just drives me mad.

Many authors, readers and booksellers have shared books that might help us understand the roots and damage of structural racism, what it feels like for Black, indigenous and people of colour, and what everyone can do to make a change. I know it isn’t much, but I would like to share these posts from Germany, the UK and France here nevertheless.

But maybe these lists and recommendations are a good start. Bernardine Evaristo wrote an article for British Vogue and highlighted “The Importance of Inclusive Publishing” (link to the Vogue article) and said the following in an interview with Jordan Jarrett-Bryan for Channel 4 News (7 June 2020, link to the Channel 4 News interview):

“What I find really hopeful is that people are curating reading lists and I think I cannot overestimate the value of reading, for so many reasons. But people want to educate themselves on what it’s like to be a person of colour in this society. And so, they’re curating these reading lists. And people are saying that they are actively going to seek out these books and read them. And I think that if you’re going to read any number of Black British books – fiction, non-fiction, poetry – that have been published in the last two years, you are going to be a changed person at the end of that.”

So please let me share two more recommendations: Mithu Sanyal, Fatma Aydemir and Max Czollek talk about their experience of the German “Mehrheitsgesellschaft” and its structural racism. All three are authors of the collection “Eure Heimat ist Unser Albtraum” / “Your Homeland is Our Nightmare” (ed. by Fatma Aydemir and Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, Ullstein 2019), a collection of essays that denounce several structures of racism and discrimination in Germany and criticise definitions of “Heimat” that are designed to exclude people from their actual homeland. Some of the essays were published in English by “TRANSIT. A Journal of Travel, Migration, and Multiculturalism in the German-speaking World” (spring issue 2020: www.transit.berkeley.edu, translated by several translators – see link). The abovementioned authors were invited by the Literaturhaus Berlin, Goethe-Institut Brüssel,  Passa Porta, International House of Literature and Sigrid Bousset (Flagey). A recording of their conversation (chaired by Marc Reugebrink) is available in English: www.literaturhaus-berlin.de/programm/eure-heimat-ist-unser-albtraum

And last, but by no means least, my recommendation for a yet unpublished, but already successfully crowfunded book; an interactive book for allies and those who want to be one: “Dear Discrimination, This is Your End” (ed. by the Wirmuesstenmalreden collective, published by the German indie mikrotext: www.mikrotext.de/book/dear-discrimination-this-is-your-end). A book that wants to encourage its readers to listen to marginalised voices, reflect on their own internalised bias and discrimination practices – and change:

“This is just the beginning, no magical item that ends all our problems. But it will help to understand how we have all been raised in a context of racist and colonial power structures […] But you have to invest something as well: time, patience and understanding – and you should not stop after having read our interactive Ally Guide. Cause: We need to talk.“

If you would like to write a review of one of these books for Literary Field Kaleidoscope, please get in touch via s.vanlente(at)gold.ac.uk


* This blog was amended on 9 June in order to add the quotation from Bernardine Evaristo and the links to her interview and article.