Monday, April 16, 2007

Improbably, Germans suck at racism

Because, 70 years ago, they let their feelings of racial superiority get away from them, and this helped trigger a war that cost 72 million people their lives, the Germans are often branded as racists.

Since World War 2 the German people have made an effort -- involving education campaigns and billboards -- to become less racist. They must figure it is the right thing to do and, at the end of the day, all their past racism really got them was a lot of burnt down cities and a country split in half.

How are these efforts of reformation working? I've never been to Germany, or know any Germans, so it's difficult for me to judge.

Although we may have just got some insight into the mind of the German on the subjects of race and racism with a recent controversy concerning a leaked tape of German army recruits being trained in machine gun use by an army instructor:

"You are in the Bronx," the instructor says. "A black van stops in front of you. Three African-Americans get out and insult your mother in the coarsest possible way." The recruit is told to fire and shout the English expletive "motherfucker" with each round."

After reading this quote my first reaction was, of course, that after decades of inactivity the German army wouldn't last a day in the Bronx. But after that -- African-Americans. It wasn't like the instructor was staying away from crass informal language, and I've seen enough articles with the same quote to establish African-Americans is, in fact, a direct translation.

And this represents the duality of German racism in 2007: They see black people as target practice, but they've been successfully trained to use PC, hyphenated terms such as African-Americans when describing the black people.

That's sort of racist, but not good enough. The next time I see a Hollywood film and a German is, inevitably, the head of the international band of white supremacists I'm calling BS.

The German as a racist stereotype is hopelessly outdated. We should stick to stereotypes that still apply -- like the German as the sexual deviant.

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