Racism in the Central Conferences

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It is there – It is here, let us talk about it, let us listen to the reality of it, and let us stop it

By Åsa Nausner

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GCORR Board Member Åsa Nausner (2012-2016)

As a white woman in Europe, I might think it is not here because I do not see it and I do not feel it. It is history, I hope. It is not about me, I prefer to think. But my culture is entrenched in it. Thinkers on my continent developed the ideas of it. The more I learn about it I am challenged to fight it in myself, in my church, and in my community.  It is negative, violent, and destructive to all. It is important to learn to see the signs of it.

When I travel on trains with non-white people, I am shocked by the frequency with which the police ask black people for their identification papers. White people are rarely asked to identify themselves to the police on a train ride in Europe today.

When I, as a white European woman in Germany, speak with newly arrived asylum seekers from African or Middle Eastern countries I find myself in the wrong film. It is here. “Why do mothers direct their children to stop staring at me on the street?” an African man asked me recently at our international café where asylum seekers and citizens meet. Why do the white citizens in my community either look away from or bluntly stare at the ones we regard as different from us? Why does a black man have such a hard time finding a job? Why does a Muslim family with an Arabic surname have such a hard time finding a flat for rent? Why are the children of the Roma family having a hard time finding friends at school? Why is my community often so cold to the newcomers?

How, when, and where do we interact with each other across cultural divides? What do we need to do better? How can we connect?

Afro-Germans and Afro-Swedish people are resisting the question “Where are you from?” While it might be a friendly question to start a dialogue, it often carries the sub-message:  “I see that you are not from here.” This question become yet another way that white people send the message: “You do not belong here.” What at first looks like a dialogue quickly turns into rejection and exclusion. This is psychological violence directed at youth of diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious background often born and raised in Europe today.

We need to fight it together. What we once identified as specific biological racism is now a phenomenon including discrimination, racism, islamophobia, and anti-ziganism[1] in Europe.

Racism might look a bit different in different contexts, but racism creates segregation and exclusion based on a mythical logic of inferiority based on visible signs of perceived identity. The privilege of white, Christian people is the guiding principle of racism. We need new conversation starters as we interact in private and public.

“I want my white sisters and brothers in the Church to know how it is to be black in Germany” says a Ghanaian Methodist woman living in Berlin. I must ask myself and my church: Are we ready to hear her story, are we ready to be touched by her tears and can we stand her anger, and frustration with discrimination and racism?

Honest attentive listening will challenge our actions. Are we ready to change? Are we ready to stand up in favor of human dignity and human rights for all living in Europe today? Are we ready to work for respect and cooperation across the many lines of diversity in our communities? We must stop racism before it destroys our communities.

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15.7

Åsa Nausner is a member of GCORR’s Board of Directors (2012-2016)


[1] Antiziganism is the term used for discrimination, prejudice and racism toward the Romani people.

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