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Der weisse Fleck

Mohamed Amjahid’s Der weisse Fleck: Eine Anleitung zu antirassistischem Denken (The blank space: A guide to antiracist thinking) is a sequel to his first book Unter weißen: Was es heißt privilegiert zu sein (Amongst whites: What it means to be privileged), which is also a good follow-up to Alice Haster’s Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen, aber wissen sollten (What white people don’t want to hear about racism but should know) or Noah Sow’s Deutschland Schwarz Weiß (Germany, black and white). While these earlier books provide a foundational understanding of the construction of racial identities and the accompanying (non-)privilege, Amjahid’s new book goes into further aspects and possible options for action in order to critically deal with one’s own position – especially as a white person.

Through the chapters in the book, Amjahid uncovers some of the eponymous blank spaces, which means he explains things that many white people don’t notice in everyday life unless they make an effort to notice them. He begins by analysing patterns of behaviour by privileged people, using examples he has observed or witnessed himself to address white arrogance and white self-confidence in feeling entitled to say and do whatever the white person wants. Whether it’s a kindly-intentioned “hint” from a self-proclaimed white ally on Twitter, an outright ban on him speaking at an event, or a Catholic white man who sees himself as part of the world’s most discriminated-against group. Despite all privileges (or because of them?) white people, according to Amjahid (who refers to various researchers) are reluctant to be criticized. The ego is easily attacked and it’s important to win, even in what he terms the Victim Olympics (Opferolympiade). The term Victim Olympics describes something similar to the term Oppression Olympics, of which Roxane Gay is critical in Bad Feminist, and is an idea that is also strongly criticized by social justice approaches, since it is not very productive to play off individual (real or imagined) experiences or forms of structural discrimination against each other. In this sense, Amjahid’s point in favour of a contextual prioritization of issues for common struggles is extremely useful.

Amjahid also addresses recent phenomena of white people appropriating knowledge from people of colour for their own profit. He explains how absolutely necessary a (self-)critical memory culture is for a more just coexistence; that racism also contains a component of perverse fascination, which is reflected in the porn industry and porn consumption. The book draws attention to sometimes truly uncomfortable issues that more people in their everyday German lives should be aware of. But it also reminds one not to lose sight of the global context and North-South power imbalance in the process.

The book ends with a list of 50 points on how white people can be anti-racist. In doing so, Amjahid is certainly responding to a desire of many white people – myself included – who wonder how a growing knowledge of racism can affect their own actions. Much of this sounds easy to implement at first, such as “talk to other white people about white privilege.” But it will surely become apparent in everyday life that it remains situationally challenging: When to speak, when not to speak, what are the current politically correct terms, etc.? In the end, it’s a matter of staying on the ball.

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