The number of reported racist incidents have increased in Germany, even more than other forms of discrimination, according to the country’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. In 2018, statistics showed that there were almost 20 percent more racist attacks than in 2017.
Yet, how minority groups experience racism and discrimination remains largely unknown as the data that would enable authorities to see how racism affects these groups of people is nonexistent. Since World War II, Germany hasn’t collected information on the ethnic or racial background of its residents, making it almost impossible to track racism.
In Germany, there are about one million people of African descent and to be able to actually understand their lives and experiences of racism, an online survey, known as Afrozensus or “Afro Census”, has been organized by a Berlin-based black community group.
The survey to be launched this month is funded by Germany’s Anti-Discrimination Agency. It will collect standard demographic data, including age, gender, disability and ask people of African descent about their employment situation, socioeconomic status, experiences with racism, and what they expect from lawmakers.
“…the life realities, discrimination experiences and perspectives of Black, African and Afro-diasporic people will be recorded for the first time,” according to the website of Afrozensus.
“The aim is to obtain as comprehensive a picture as possible of the experiences of people of African descent in Germany, how they assess their lives in Germany and what they expect from politics and society.
“The results of the #AFROZENSUS online survey will be made available to communities and policy makers. Thus, a demographic group in Germany which is severely affected by intersectional discrimination can finally attain the public visibility that is needed for a better representation of their interests,” the website adds.
“The things you don’t count usually don’t count,” said Daniel Gyamerah, one of the leaders of Each One Teach One, a community group which is one of the project partners of the Afrozensus. “When nothing is officially recorded, you end up with the international day of diversity, couscous in the cafeteria, and the ‘we embrace diversity’ slogans. But nothing really changes.”
Germany’s sizable minority population includes descendants of former “guest workers” from countries like Turkey, Vietnam and Angola while others have ancestors who came to Germany from its former colonies, such as Tanzania, Cameroon and Namibia.
But racial categories as seen in the U.S. and UK (black, white, and Asian) do not exist in Germany. Germany doesn’t think it’s necessary to measure the number of ethnic minorities in various institutions over claims it does not want to divide its citizens.
Thus, while the U.S. knows its black population is about 13% of its population, in Germany, authorities have no idea the number of blacks as people have been divided into only two categories: Germans and those with a migration background.
“A very basic problem is the idea that people who experience racism in Germany are here as a result of migration,” Joshua Kwesi Aikins, a political scientist at the University of Kassel, was quoted by Bloomberg.
“Sinti, Roma, and black communities in Germany are examples that go back many centuries, so they aren’t always affected by migration, but certainly experience racism,” said the senior researcher who is seriously against the categorization that sees diverse communities as a group rather than separate individuals.
The lack of “ethnicity-based disaggregated data”, and an “incomplete understanding of history” obscures the magnitude of structural and institutional racism people of African descent face, a UN report said in 2017.
It said people of African descent suffer racial discrimination, Afrophobia and racial profiling daily, but their situation remains largely invisible to the wider society.
“The repeated denial that racial profiling does not exist in Germany by police authorities and the lack of an independent complaint mechanism at federal and state level fosters impunity,” said the report.
The UN researchers also found that people of African descent are at the “lowest rungs of Germany society”, with limited opportunities in education and ending up with “the jobs which nobody else wants.”