Systemic racism is widespread in society today

Is there structural racism in Germany? : Experience reports do not replace statistics

Everything is recorded in the United States. Anyone who moves and enters their future postcode - for example 22302 at zip-codes.com - learns about their new neighborhood: the population structure, broken down by age, ethnic group, man-woman, divorced, singles, senior citizens, the number of social welfare recipients, unemployed , the land prices, the quality of the schools.

Another website lists the sex offenders living there for the same zip code, with their full name, address, risk status and whether or not they have a tattoo. Privacy? At most rudimentary.

In Great Britain, the microcensus asks about religion, skin color and ethnicity. The participants should classify themselves: White, Mixed / Multiple ethnic group, Asian / Asian British, Black / African / Caribbean / Black British, Other ethnic group.

A curiosity: in protest against the question of religious affiliation, many participants in 2001 stated that they followed Jediism, a syncretistic religion that is derived from the philosophy conveyed in "Star Wars". This became known as the "Jedi Census Phenomenon".

Such far-reaching query practices are unimaginable in Germany. That has to do with German history, data protection, the protection of minorities.

The migration background is recorded

In the microcensus, the migration background has also been recorded in general form since 2005 - previously there were only foreigners and Germans - but the term is unspecific and does not do justice to the diversity of migration histories.

According to the statistical definition, people with a migration background include naturalized Germans who immigrated to the Federal Republic of Germany after 1949, as well as foreigners living in Germany and children born in Germany with a German passport whose migration background is derived from at least one parent. It doesn't get any more specific.

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Interior Minister Horst Seehofer recently declared a study on racism within the police to be unnecessary. The reason given was that so-called “racial profiling” - that is, police controls solely on the basis of external characteristics - were prohibited, and consequently this could only be a matter of individual cases. Seehofer was rightly ridiculed for this argument.

Many of the claims have anecdotal relevance

But what is correct: The data situation is very thin in Germany. Such data may only be collected and used if they do not potentially affect the interests of those concerned. An example: In the case of alleged anti-Semitic crimes, the police are not allowed to ask about the perpetrator's religious affiliation. Nowhere is it noted whether he is a Sunni from Iraq, a Yazidi from Syria or a Christian from Eritrea. Statements about “Islamic anti-Semitism” therefore have at best anecdotal relevance.

Jews, Muslims, migrants, foreigners, naturalized persons, refugees: many of them experience discrimination in Germany. This affects their chances of access to work, housing and education as well as the behavior of employees in state institutions towards them - in offices, in the police, in the health service.

But without “ethnic monitoring”, that is, the most specific possible identification of the origin of those affected, systematic inequalities can neither be identified nor remedied. Mere experience reports do not replace statistics. An effective migration, integration and anti-racism policy cannot do without such information.

So that anti-racism does not persist in the appellative

The relevant information must of course be provided voluntarily and anonymized if desired. The right to informational self-determination places it in the freedom of decision of each individual to determine the disclosure and use of his personal data.

It is true: “Ethnic monitoring” can be misused as a means of discrimination. Statisticians can use numbers to assert relationships that cannot be proven in terms of their causality. Thilo Sarrazin practiced this in an evil way.

But when weighing up the interests, the benefits outweigh the benefits. Discriminated groups can only be specifically promoted if not only direct but also structural forms of unequal treatment can be proven. Anyone who thinks studies on racism within the police make sense should advocate collecting data on the ethnicity of those suspected of being checked. How else should a possible “racial profiling” be prevented?

Nobody in Germany wants American or British conditions. Instead, ways must be sought to combine “ethnic monitoring” and data protection. Because anti-racism without a database is possible, but remains appellative. Unfortunately there it ebbs away.

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