The Love of Stereotypes: It Starts Early In Germany, too

DSC_2247Because many “others” “foreigners” specific ethnicities, and in this case “Indianer” or Native American Indians are only presented in shows, as entertainment, as costumed figures who are there to entertain Germans in some way…stereotypes abound here, and are expected and even demanded. Often you see the same rapt look and desire: “Teach us! Show us! Make us laugh with wonder! Cry with excitement, shudder with amazement, dread, outrage (as to native treatment of the past)” but whatever it is, they want what they want.

For Native Americans they expect, with very clear stereotype guidelines, how you should look, speak, engage, too. If you don’t look, act or perform as they expect, they are disappointed, dejected and dissatisfied. You must meet their expectations or you are not “real”, you are not “authentic.” The children cry and wail while parents comfort or ignore them, but seldom is there any factual, contexual (age appropriate, of course) information provided. Even in textbooks or other educational materials, having learn this propensity from the US and Canada, most “information” is stereotypical in nature and content, and from non-native sources or Europeanized (a.k.a. colonized) mindsets tailored to keep non-natives comfortably within established, if fabricated, parameters.

And they are actively, dismissively resistant to calls for historical accuracy, cause and effect, contemporary realities or even simple truths, especially if conflicting with German or Euro-American perspective. I designate “Euro-American” primarily because just American suggests white American, whether its white Americans or Germans saying it. Here, if they know you are from America and you’re black, you’re just black, but they’ll also say black German, black American, and so on, but whites from the USA are just American. That should tell you something…if you’re honest.

DSC_2248In the intro image, a week long children’s workshop about Brazil is taking place in Berlin, which doubtless (unlike smaller towns) will have actual Brazilian people involved to “demonstrate” Brazilian “rituals”. The programme was created and written by German Nikola Mirza, for a good cause and support from well meaning but Euro-heavy Labyrinth team, to provide free entertainment for children, particularly refugees. If they are so open-minded why not minority educators on the team, as there are many well educated ethnic professionals across Berlin. Wouldn’t fit the paradigm?

As with the documentary film by Timo Kiesel and Carolin Phillips titled “White Charity“, yet again it is the white people taking it upon themselves to decide for others, in particular minorities, with little or no input from those minorities. It’s a form of patting themselves on the backs and receiving it from European peers on how good they are doing, being the saviors for poor (predominantly POC), without understanding why this model is deeply problematic and smacks of post-colonialism. Historical context, power dynamics, objectification and racist structures.

Mexican restaurants are supposed to have Mexican music playing, immediately recognizable “Mexican” music, and stereotyical Mexican persons speaking Spanish (a European language, while the country itself has over 60 indigenous languages being spoken, more than all of Europe!). Black Americans should be called “Bro!”, know hip-hop and rap music references and offered “fist bumps” so they can feel cool and hip when they are returned. Eastern Asians, be they Korean, Japanese or Chinese, should be agreeable at all times, rather shy and apologetic, naivé but intelligent. That’s allowed, it’s non-threatening.

Asians might be mentally allowed to be engineers, even doctors, while Mexicans should likely be working at restaurants, central or South Americans must always funny and cheerful, and Native Americans are dancers in western theme parks or visiting for a show. Even if you wear a business suit, if you’re African, you may be a drug dealer. Higher education? Why would minorities do that? It’s not like you’ll get anywhere in German society besides working strictly in a capacity where your ethnicity is why you are there in the first place.

Managers, police officers, working in social services or on company boards or even playing them on TV or in film? Highly unlikely. Comments like “but you’re (supply ethnicity)” abound, which is the incredulous sometimes confused equivalent of “No”, when they don’t want to actually say “no” because of what that would strongly indicate about their self, their company or society. If you give any criticism they will blow a “How dare you?!” gasket.

Above all, whatever you are as non-Germans, you should be ready and willing to supply whatever emotional boost they need, satisfy and answer their every query, while being careful to self-deprecatingly keep them in their comfort zone (no challenges or return questions!) while they lay layer after layer of stereotypes on you. Or alternatively (or strategically interspersed) they know all about you because they read it in a book or so-and-so has a ______friend, and they will argue until doomsday they are right because–.

And their children learn objectification, stereotypes, and attitudes and behaviors that can lead to cultural appropriation and dehumanization, and which continue the cycle of imbalance of power and perception. It all starts in childhood.

So why do minorities stay in Germany? With the widespread “them vs. others, normal vs. others” mentality, what is the appeal, the attraction, the thrill…because it’s different there. A story for another day….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s