Is racially nervous

Racism in school : Do not accept everything!

Joshua Kwesi Aikins sits excitedly in his chair. A woolen hat holds his dreadlocks together. He's stressed out. Just like all parents who think about which elementary school their child should go to. The political scientist has good reason to be a little more tense than some other parents in Marzahn or Charlottenburg. Aikins, born in Berlin, Ghanaian father, German mother, has a dark-skinned daughter. He wants to find the best possible school for them. “I expect our daughter to be able to exercise her human right to education without prejudice - without racism.” He laughs briefly. Maybe because he knows how bumpy the road is when you have claims like him. “I'm a bit defiant.” That's why he asks parents, students, teachers. Until he found a school that should be bilingual - his five-year-old daughter grew up with English and German - and that was really open.

Black children experience normalcy in the Kwetu kindergarten

Preferably like in the Kwetu kindergarten, which the daughter is currently attending in Neukölln. It is on the ground floor of an old building - with high walls and stucco on the ceiling that has been painted several times. The former apartment is small and not an ideal space, says Aikins. The children's shop emerged from an initiative by parents of black children, more than half of the children there are of African origin. The day care center is bilingual, which makes it easier for her to find films, picture books or songs that do not exclude or devalue black children from the outset - material from English-speaking Africa, Great Britain and the USA. His daughter, says Aikins, experiences “normality in her kindergarten, for which I am grateful every day”. His own school experience suggests that this cannot be taken for granted.

Excellent, but not very effective: "Schools without Racism"

Discrimination in schools has long been a problem. That is why the Berlin teacher Sanem Kleff helped push the project “Schools without Racism” 16 years ago. It has received many awards for this. More than 1,500 schools are now allowed to call themselves “schools with courage”. In order to get the title, 70 percent of the students and teachers have to sign a letter of intent - a DIN A4 page, formulated rather awkwardly, on which the signatories undertake not to behave in a racist manner and to fight against racism for a task of the school hold. Just who checks it? Sanem Kleff and her team can't. But they offer the schools information and exchange.

That's not much, the 10-year-old daughter of Josephine Gnafior has just experienced in Lichtenberg. Your school, a white prefabricated building surrounded by other bright prefabricated buildings, has had the title since 2010, and a large number of the students at the time who signed the voluntary commitment have long since left the school. The tall girl with the brown eyes recently asked her mother whether “you can take such a title away from a school”. During the breaks, children would call out "Negress" after her.

Parents want to protect their children - and cannot

All parents of black children have the impulse to protect them from racism for as long as possible, from their own experiences that they would like to spare their children from. Josephine Gnafior came from Benin to study in the GDR at the age of 20. "It was all new to me, and in the GDR they didn't dare to abuse us." That changed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gnafior has a now grown son who is severely disabled. At that time he no longer wanted to go to his East Berlin school. She remembers how she had to be clear and precise at a parents' evening. “My son goes to school to learn something. Make it clear to your children that they should leave him alone. Otherwise I will take care of every child myself. "

After that there was silence. Josephine Gnafior is a strong woman with a fine, smooth face who laughs a lot. But to this day, after 30 years in Germany, with a German passport and a job in geriatric care, her everyday life is characterized by constant tension, by the constant expectation of being confronted with racism. "If I leave the house, I'll be at war in no time."

She takes that "too personally", that's what the educator said to Josephine Gnafior's daughter when she told her about the incident with the N-word. Just like the girl's observation that one of the teachers was ignoring her. When she met the man with her friend, he only greeted the white girl. At some point she told her class teacher that. Now the teacher says hello. But Josephine Gnafior imagines a “school without racism” to be different. “That must have consequences for everyday school life,” she says.

The "Pechmarie" and its effect

Julius Benjamin Franklin, who has been on the board of the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD) since spring, says: "It is difficult to use such a title for schools." That is well meant, but inadvertently reproduces racism itself. In any case, in the photos that the Lichtenberg School has put on the Internet, almost only white, smiling children can be seen. Franklin, who produces short films in Neukölln, trained as an educator. He says the pedagogy course does not teach at all how racism can be recognized and counteracted.

He tells an example from his time as an educator. There was only one black boy in the kindergarten group. "He was completely intimidated," says Franklin. One day the group went on a trip to the children's theater and watched "Frau Holle". Then the little boy said: “They painted us black because we are angry.” This is how he saw “Unlucky Marie”. The other educators dismissed the impression that Frau Holle was just “a fairy tale and a fantasy”. That couldn't harm a child.

Wrong, thinks Julius Benjamin Franklin. Black children's first negative experiences often have to do with their skin color. A daycare friend of Josephine Gnafior's daughter once came home with the question: "Why is my color actually like cappuccino, my dad's like coffee and yours so pink?" Or another time: "Can the color actually be washed off?" In the interviews on the children's page, which appears in the Tagesspiegel on Saturdays, many black children answer the question of what they would like to change in themselves, that they would like to be “brighter”.

Give the children support

This does not apply to Raphael Dernbach's children. They are proud of their skin color. Dernbach, who was born in Munich and still lives there today, had to explain to his 15-year-old daughter and his ten-year-old son several times why others exclude them: “There are people who disadvantage others because of their skin color. They are often unfriendly and aggressive in their reactions. It is important to address this openly and to defend oneself against it. ”Dernbach, whose father is a professor from Jamaica, says:“ The children are helped by an understanding of diversity. That they are great just the way they are, with all their peculiarities, not just the color of their skin. ”He has observed that black children at school suffer especially when dyslexia occurs - like with an acquaintance of his. The stereotype “black, loud, nervous and 40 mistakes in the dictation” fits so well into the worldview of many teachers and students that they don't even notice the devaluation.

Black children are supposed to explain Africa

It becomes uncomfortable for many black children when they suddenly stand for all black people or even for an entire continent. Many do not know Africa themselves, the lessons only confront them with stereotypes. There is an Africa lesson in primary school. In the best case scenario, the children paint wild animals during this time. They learn that some African children walk to their school for hours, that all Africans seem to be poor. The children who are driven to their school by the driver in a fat car or who go to a fine boarding school abroad do not appear there. In the German class, Africa is one country, indistinguishable, although there are 54 different nations. The Africa lessons often end with a bazaar or a sponsored run "for the poor children in Africa". The message: Little white children can help poor black children.

School books only know Europe

Joshua Kwesi Aikins is annoyed that the course content is still “Eurocentric”, that is, teaching world history only from the perspective of Europe. China? India? Africa? Have the Europeans conquered everything at some point? Aikins went through the textbooks with his younger brother and gave him knowledge on the way to break through this narrow worldview even before class. “I will do the same with my daughter,” he says.

In a society in which there is still racism, there will never be a “school without racism”. But Joshua Kwesi Aikins would find a school that recognizes racism and values ​​black children as much as white ones. After all, Germany has signed all the relevant United Nations conventions against discrimination and racism, he says. When Josephine Gnafior's daughter cries because she feels that she has been treated unfairly or rejected, her mother advises the child: "You have to grow corneas, otherwise you cannot survive in this society." Joshua Kwesi Aikins has good reason to be tense be.

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