Interest in addressing racism has grown significantly in Germany in recent years. The Black Lives Matter movement has gained visibility. Even the former chancellor spoke of racism in response to a racist attack. It is becoming increasingly clear (also to white people), that there is a need to understand racism and to adjust one’s behaviour accordingly. After Noah Sow’s Deutschland Schwarz weiß, which was published in 2008 and is still very much worth reading, stood virtually alone until 2017, when Mohamed Amjahid’s Unter Weißen followed, there are now, fortunately, a whole series of books on this topic available from mainstream publishing houses.
Tupoka Ogette has been working as a racism-critical consultant and trainer for ten years. By now she is undisputedly one of the leading voices in the critique of racism in Germany. She too has gained greater public visibility in recent years, due to increased interest, but also due to her various digital formats: she podcasts, is extremely active on social media, and has launched an online academy. Her book exit Racism. Rassismuskritisch denken lernen (Unrast Verlag), published in 2017, became a bestseller in 2020. Now she has followed it up with Und jetzt Du: Rassismuskritisch leben (Penguin), a guide with explanations, reflection questions and options for action for white people. This is how Ogette describes it herself in the introduction, with the addition that of course Black people and People of Colour are also invited to read the book, but the reading experience will certainly be different depending on their positioning.
The book – which, by the way, is particularly beautifully designed – is largely based on Ogette’s experiences as a workshop facilitator, and she addresses many questions that she has repeatedly encountered in this context. Thus, Und jetzt Du can be read almost like a take-home do-it-yourself workshop. Readers are addressed directly as “you”: “These privileges don’t go away because you know you have them. But: you can use them to create spaces” (88, poco.lit.’s translation). This is probably meant to activate the reader and, when Ogette occasionally gives the advice to take a breath or pause for a moment, to express understanding for a learning process that will inevitably be accompanied by some resistance. While reading, I often wondered who “you” actually was, who exactly constituted the imagined reader. I know the “you” form of address well from workshop contexts and think it works better when the people are sitting directly in front of one.
The book explains many concepts and mechanisms, for example “white fragility”, which are expressed again and again in the German text with English terminology like “derailing”, “whataboutism” or “white tears”. It is still necessary in Germany to take many terms from English, because there are no German equivalents. But since racism is context-specific, Ogette makes sure to refer to current sources from Germany (e.g., books by Alice Hasters, Emilia Roig, Olaolu Fajembola, and Tebogo Nimindé-Dundadengar) in addition to concepts borrowed from English. For people just getting into the subject, Und jetzt Du is a valuable introduction. For others, it can serve as a refresher, because as Ogette says, living a life that is critical of racism is a process that is never complete. For example, I took away quite a bit from the short film analyses in which Ogette exposes established racist narratives (e.g., “Role model integration,” “Magical Negro,” “white saviour”). The eye can be trained and, in the future, I will certainly look more critically at films.
Overall, as I understand Und jetzt Du, its argument suggests that people who want to work to reduce everyday racism and racist structures cannot live by consensus, but must develop an openness to confrontation. Especially white people have to confront themselves in this process.
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