Societal responses to “Women Against Feminism”

Feminism is an idea and movement that has been critiqued by all groups of humans, and has been changing and evolving throughout history. Though there have been various waves and movements of feminism, there is one common goal; the established political, economic, cultural, personal, and social equality of women.

The first wave of feminism occurred in 1848, and is known as the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Humans in this movement actively fought for women’s right to vote among other women’s rights. In 1920, women finally won the fight for the right to vote through marches, rallies, and political work and engagement in other issues such as health reform, prison reform, and child labor law reform etc.

Women's Suffrage Movement protests, photo from citelighter.com

Women’s Suffrage Movement protests, photo from citelighter.com

The second wave of feminism occurred throughout the 1960’s. The National Organization for Women played a key role in this wave. Feminist activists in the second wave protested sex-segregated help wanted ads, fought for the repeal of abortion laws, lobbied for Equal Rights Amendment, among other protests.

Feminists in the third wave (1990’s-present) are critical of the previous two waves, but understand and appreciate the work that has already been done in the way of equality for women. Present feminists fight for equality of ALL women.

This concept was not heavily considered in the first and second waves of feminism. Equality for ALL women includes women of color, women of low-income status, trans* women, etc. This feminism recognizes that feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.

Inclusive feminism includes all races, photo from hellogiggles.com

Inclusive feminism includes all races, photo from hellogiggles.com

Feminism is a spectrum, and current feminists fight for rights for all women regardless of any identity. Third wave feminism is about recognizing and being aware of the oppressive, patriarchal power systems in society for every identity, and being active about changing those systems.

After all of the fight put forth by women in the 19th and 20th centuries, there is now a real controversy in 2015: Women against feminism. Many individuals are disturbed by the misinformed and anti-feminist groups like Women Against Feminism who disregard the hard work that people went through to gain women’s rights and equality for our culture today. Not only that, but the group seems to lack understanding of the basic definition and ideals of feminism.

Women Against Feminism is a Tumblr account that displays pictures of women who give reasons for why they aren’t feminists, and why they do not approve or need feminism. There have been numerous responses to this claim, most individuals deeming the account as ridiculous and appalling, while others actually take light in some of the things that the account holders “got right.”

photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Satirical responses were one type of response to Women Against Feminism that brought out the sarcasm and “are you serious” ideas, but another very real and well put argument was by an account user named I Wanted Wings. This user responded to the Women Against Feminism as a whole, to those women who posted their pictures with notes claiming that it’s the 21st century and that “we don’t need feminism.”

Satirical response to "Women Against Feminism", photo from buzzfeed.com

Satirical response to “Women Against Feminism”, photo from buzzfeed.com

This user brings to light that the feminism fight is not just for one woman, or for one culture; the user reminds readers of the women in the less developed and less equal countries who need feminism just to wear what they want, to be educated, to love who they want.

In an article on the Huffington Post (United Kingdom) blog, Louise Pennington responds to the Women Against Feminism Tumblr page, illustrating the sources of the movement’s failure as well as critiquing the way individuals may respond to the movement as a whole. Pennington is a feminist writer from the United Kingdom, who has academically written and spoken openly about topics ranging from women’s history to domestic and violence against women.

A woman shows why she does not need feminism, photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

A woman shows why she does not need feminism, photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Pennington opens the article by listing several statements from the Women Against Feminism Tumblr and twitter account such as “I don’t need feminism because I’m a humanist.” It is clear from the images and statements posted by the Women Against Feminism group that the movement believes that a feminist wishes for women to be superior to men. Pennington points out that this misinterpreted belief stems from a lack of understanding of the term “feminist” and the overall goals of feminism.

Pennington then uses her knowledge of women’s history to list the demands of the 1970’s women’s liberation movement such as equal pay now and equal education and job opportunities. This information directly correlates to what women are fighting for today. She clearly lays out that feminists want to be seen as human equals to men rather than some power hungry group they are stereotyped to be.

Pennington identifies that many of these women posting on Women Against Feminism are young, white middle class women arguing for respect for a traditional family. Again, there is a lack of knowledge and inclusivity. The Women Against Feminism group is targeting the wrong enemy. Pennington points out the true source:

“The lack of understanding of the history of women’s work and the refusal to acknowledge that the ‘traditional family’ is a Victorian invention created for only white women is depressing. It is our capitalist economy which devalues the work of women within the home and engaged in childcare – not feminists.”

Another woman displaying why she "does not need feminism," photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

Another woman displaying why she “does not need feminism,” photo from womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com

There are valid criticisms of feminism today such as racism or classism. However, the Women Against Feminism movement does not illustrate any of these issues, which shows the movement’s lack of understanding of feminism. Pennington uses this information to further explain why the Women Against Feminism movement is problematic:

“Feminism has not done enough to ensure that they have included women who are not white or middle class, but denigrating the work that women have done to help other women demonstrates the true power of the Patriarchy in dividing women. Feminism has made great improvements in the lives of some women and needs to work much harder to help others. Ironically, it is the women in the Women Against Feminism movement who have made the most gains from feminism.”

This leads Pennington to critique individuals who respond to the Women Against Feminism movement with insults. She states that by doing so, those individuals are becoming part of the problem replicate the patriarchal patterns used to silence women. Instead, Pennington calls for a real discussion to discover and question why women truly see feminism as a threat:

“Critiquing the ‪Women Against Feminism tag…doesn’t require replicating misogynistic language or insults. It requires an evidence-based answer – such as those pointing out the battle for women’s suffrage, rape laws, equal pay acts, maternity rights, and reproductive freedom…Instead of insulting the women who started the hashtag, let’s start a real discussion as to why women see feminism as threatening. Let’s start questioning their belief systems and pointing out the reality of the lives of women who do not have similar privileges.”

Feminists spreading awareness of white privilege and the misconception of reverse racism, photo from thefeministwire.com

Feminists spreading awareness of white privilege and the misconception of reverse racism, photo from thefeministwire.com

Throughout the article, Pennington, like many other blogs all over the world, addressed misconceptions not only made by the Women Against Feminism but also many critiquing the movement in an unproductive way. Pennington’s closing statement give readers an indication that Pennington sees the Women Against Feminism movement as an issue that crosses all borders and an issue for all humans.

Feminism is not confined to any border. It is a major topic of discussion and life influence for people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and nationalities. In fact, a vast majority of countries received an address in 2014 by Emma Watson regarding her work with feminist ideals, and the founding of her foundation He for She, one that encourages the male population to stand up for inequalities of women.

Watson’s speech has experienced scrutiny in the months following, regarding its reinforcement of the gender binary, when so many of the people affected by the feminist movement don’t fit into “such tidy boxes,” as said by Amy McArthy, a blogger for the Huffington Post Women’s blog.

Emma Watson with UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Stringer- Sociology.about.com

Emma Watson with UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon at the launch of the HeForShe campaign in New York City. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Stringer- Sociology.about.com

In Watson’s discourse, she discusses the gender stereotype pressures that men feel in today’s society as well, but just as the problem that McArthy had with the name of the foundation; the content of the address maintains the gender binary issues felt by the blogger, and other critics of Watson.

This is not the Huffington post writer’s only problematic highlight though. The post goes on to point out the focus of the “privileged white woman,” without observation of the much wider gap in equality felt by minority women, pointed out by McArthy: “When Watson speaks of equal pay, she’s talking about the white women who make 78% of their white male counterparts, not the 46% gap that Latina women face in the workplace.”

Numbers that were actually found incorrect with research where aauw.org reported that the gap for Latina women was actually found to be, most recently, 54%; though still solidifying the staggering difference in the minority woman’s pay.  The author has a legitimate point, summing her position up with the fact that “He For She and Emma Watson are having fails to invite the people whose voices need to be heard most to the table,” in reference to transgender, minority, and women in less developed countries. Watson’s feminism seems to align more with first and second wave feminism, which were exclusive.

Author Team: Julia Schaller, Skyler Alderton, Connie Liou, Conner Slater 

The importance of Colors for German Authorities

This is my last blog post for the semester, and I wanted to end with something that would get everyone talking—something I, personally, find interesting. I began my quest on Google and when I couldn’t find anything, I moved to Twitter. #TGFTwitter! (It means “Thank God for Twitter” for you Twitter acronym amateurs).

Tweet post on racial profiling case in Germany

I came across an interesting interview recently conducted by Spiegel Online International with a 26 year-old Black German man who won a two year proceeding court case. It finally came to an end, but this marks the beginning of a never-ending battle of racial profiling.

I never thought about racial profiling as a critical issue in Germany as it is here in American, but this matter affects human rights all over the globe. Racial profiling is a subcategory of racism, and should not be accepted. I know the race talk is a touchy topic to discuss and many don’t like to enter those boundaries. But, sometimes those sticky subjects are the ones that get ignored and need the most attention.

I found interesting facts about Black Germans as I searched various blogs, Youtube channels, Google, Twitter, and other news sources.

Gong back to the issue involving the black German architecture student, he was racially profiled when two German police randomly asked to see Identification in Kaasel Germany.

The black German student tells his story as follows:

Yes. I had just purchased a cup of tea from the snack vendor in the train when the police officers asked me in a commanding tone to show them my identification. I wanted to know why, but got no real answer, so I refused. […]  Yes. I had just purchased a cup of tea from the snack vendor in the train when the police officers asked me in a commanding tone to show them my identification. I wanted to know why, but got no real answer, so I refused. […]  I didn’t want to be treated differently any longer. The police brought me back to the station in Kassel, where I was asked if I spoke English and had papers. They threatened to charge me high fees for taking my photograph and fingerprints, and for holding me in a cell. Then I showed them my driver’s license and they let me go. It was the worst day of my life.

He is not the first to experience this racial profiling as a black German. When considered a foreigner n your own country, it hurts. Everyone yearns for the same respect and acceptance. There is an assumption that people make, and I am also guilty of thinking, that there can only be White Germans. My misconception of no Blacks in Germany stems from the lack of their history, and culture presented in mainstream media. When I think of Germany, I think of their Nazi past, BMWs, Frankfurt beef, and beer. Could it be because of my own personal ignorance, or because the media purposely leaves out information that doesn’t fit within the “norm”? I believe that we are both responsible.

A few comments I found shows the lack of knowledge people have, including myself, about other race and racial profiling:

juju88: there isnt such a thing as a black german, like there is no such thing as a white chinese, is the typical anti-white rethoric.

LairdKeir: As a foreigner married to a Chinese woman and whose son was born in Germany, I can say Germany has been an extremely hospitable and welcoming country provided you follow the rules and respect their country as a guest. I write this as someone who actually has experience with the country and its people, and will not attack people out of ignorance.
I also teach outside Dachau, so am all too well aware of its history.

Kriol Kidd: Give Germany a break……it’s not like they have a history of asking different looking people for their papers or something…….

KamranAghajani:90% of violent crime in Germany last year was done by Turkish, Moroccan and Somali immigrants….
aka people of at least some color.
sorry, this is good news for all Germans, as thugs do not care what color you are when they rob or assault you.

 

I could read on and on the comments people made about the court ruling, but it shows that people have different levels of knowledge and opinions when it comes to the topic of race. While reading a few, I had to shake my head in shame for what some people thought was politically correct.

Black German Student Story continued…

  The first ruling of this case resulted in a dismissal of the case. A German court ruled police authorization to carry out ID checks on the basis of skin color. This created outrage among human right activist organizations such as the Amnesty International and the Initiative of Black People in Germany.

If this is true, it is essentially illegal, Tahir Della of the Black People in Germany Initiative rights group told The Local (a German publication). The authorities always said the police do not do racial profiling.

 Initiative of Black People in Germany (http://vimeo.com/18867923)

Source: Huffington Post

To bring the situation up to current ruling, a court in Koblenz, Germany

The case closed this past Monday. The judges ruled in the favor of the Black German student and said police should not conduct spot checks on people based on their skin color. Many rejoice in this victory.

There’s disagreement among the police as to whether they welcome the ruling.

 The court’s deal with the law in an esthetically pleasing way, but they don’t make sure their judgments match practical requirements,” said Rainer Wendt, chair of the German Police Union. The ruling will make the work of the police more difficult.

I am happy to hear the ruling was in favor of the German student, because equality rewarded to all citizens of a country is fair.

Black German groups responded to the ruling and racial profiling issue in creative ways. A flash mob video, created by African Socialist International (A.S.L.) group, took a stand to create awareness of the troubling issue of racial profiling among Africans and Blacks in urban Germany that many try to overlook.

African Socialist International (Video)

This is not the only incident I found in which race is an issue, and racial gestures made towards Black Germans.

Here is an example of blackface used in a German UNICEF’s extremely patronizing ad. The fact that the ad agency found it okay to place this type of message in Germany shows that it is accepted in Germany.

One point that stood out for me that the German student said in his interview is very important to this entire article.

First, this isn’t just about me, but about everyone who has had a similar experience. It also isn’t a very nice thing to be the person who speaks up about racism. Additionally, I don’t want people to point their fingers at me because I filed this long-overdue case.

The moral of this post is that there was an underlying issue that needed addressing, and somebody needs to take a stand. This reminds me of a past blog article I wrote about, and how Twitter was the first to take a stance online in the removal of a Neo-Nazi group. It is all about being the leader that starts the chain reaction. Racial profiling and racism still exist, and change needs to occur not only in Germany, but also in all nations.

If you are interested in more sources and topics regarding Black Germans and racial topics here are some other things I found:

 

@Twitter takes a stand against Neo-Nazi group #Bock

*Disclaimer: grammatical and content changes made* 

Where do we draw the line on the idea of freedom of speech on social media? Where is the point where we have gone to far? I imagine lines are drawn when published web content rallies and promotes negative ideas and assumptions about others. This content doesn’t uplift the group, but degrades their character.

I make this point to bring up the history of Nazi Germany and how residue of this upsetting time still exists through the Neo-Nazi movement in Germany. Many of these young and old radicals hold the beliefs that destroyed so many lives and brought the end to innocent individuals. Why would these individuals want to revive the cruel social and political ideology that promoted racism, extreme nationalism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism?  I have no idea, but I do know the Neo-Nazis moved to a modern approach of spreading their views by the way of social media outlets: Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs.

But, one brave social media outlet took the stand against a Neo-Nazi organization for the first time in history. There is always a first time for everything, and today (October 18th) happens to mark the first time Twitter decided to enforce a policy they put in place back in January to shut down any microblogging account that goes against the laws of the country they reside—when it comes to publishing online material. (Source: Spiegel de International)

 

We announced the ability to withhold content back in Jan. We’re using it now for the first time against a group deemed illegal in Germany, says Alex Macgilliray.

 

Twitter calls this policy the country withheld content:

Many countries, including the United States, have laws that may apply to Tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to users everywhere, if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.

Twitter made the right decision (in my opinion) to take down the @Hannoverticker account after Germany police of the Lower Saxony requested for the site to be taken down. Earlier in the year, Germany officials banned the Neo-Nazi organization, but they continued to communicate their ideas via social media. Chilling Effects is a microblogging service that has the capability to taken down US-based site’ content, and removed the @Hannoverticker account from Twitter.

 

Request letter from the German police of Lower Saxony

In American, some would look this at as citizen rights infringed upon. Because Germany’s laws on freedom of speech is different then the U.S., Nazi symbols, support, and slogans is criminally prosecuted.

 

Twitter only decided to ban access to the twitter page only in Germany and not the United States. Of course I had to see for myself. The Neo-Nazi group has 500 followers and 1,011 tweets. 1,011 tweets might seem like a lot, but as a person who has over 15,000 tweets, this seems minor. The follower number is not enough to be an influential account on Twitter. I believe the incident of shutting down their Twitter account will bring more followers and attention to their page from U.S. Twitter followers. And to check if my theory was right I went back to visit the page and here is what I found. There was an increase people following the @Hannoverticker account page by the end the day.

 

The situation is viral and received buzz from bloggers all around the world. They all hold different opinions on the removal of the Twitter account:

Responses from a New York Time post

 

Hasan Mir made an interesting comment on Twitter in response to a New York Times article about @Hannoverticker account should not be shutdown. He is right that banning access will not solve the issue completely, but I believe this is definitely a place to start a chain reaction.

I honestly believe they should also consider banning the page from U.S. viewership, because in any country or language the Neo-Nazi message is offensive. Where do you stand on this issue? Should the page be taken down for good? Should they ever took precaution to the page in Germany and restricted it? I would love to here your comments.

The Intouchables: A Heartwarming Film with Racist Undertones?

It’s a story about two unlikely people who end up connected in a way only reality could conjure up.  Philippe (Francois Cluzet), an affluent man, has the world piling up on his shoulders when tragedy strikes in a paragliding accident leaving him paralyzed in the second biggest French movie ever- The Intouchables.  A man accustomed to his independence now finds himself in a state that compromises his previous lack of relying on people.  He stumbles upon Driss (Omar Cy), a young Algerian immigrant who has familiarized himself with the world of petty-crime, and the rest is a comical, heart-wrenching tale of how these two helped each other.

But outside of the fabulous plot there are some who claim that the film has a particular air of racism about it.  Daphanee Denis of slate.com addresses such issue in her post Is the Intouchables Racist?  Although not adhering to the affirmative of her title question, she does bring up some interesting aspects that need to be evaluated when looking at this film.  Some American critics like Jay Weissberg of Variety claims that the movie gravitates toward traditional racist roles in which the black man is subservient to the rich white man.  But many would say that this critique is too critical particularly because it is based off a true story recounted in the book, You Changed My Life, by Abdel Sellou who lived the story told in the highly acclaimed French film.

Most blogs critiquing The Intouchables don’t even trek into the realm that the film might have a tinge of racism in it, but instead focus on the heartwarming feelings that give people hope in the world.  Claude Cassangne in his blog of the same name retells his experience of the movie in his post, Les Intouchables- un des meilleurs films (Francais ou autres) que j’ai jamais vu!  His subtitle, which translates to “one of the best films (French or otherwise) that I have ever seen,” describes this French born New Jersey inhabitant’s feeling toward the film best.  Never once does he bring up the allegations that this film could even have a pinch of racism in it, but instead looks beyond skin color for the facts that it is a great movie and a true story.  But is it possible that this film has some latent racist circumstances?

Personally, I would align my opinions with David Berreby of bigthink.com: “The French reaction to this reaction (American film critics assertions of the film being racist), as described by Sotinel, must strike Americans as pretty funny. It amounts to this: Oh, yeah, that one guy is black. Leave it to you race-obsessed Americans to pick that up; we hadn’t noticed. We didn’t really notice that.”  Americans do tend to look at things as black and white, rich and poor, good and bad.  We polarize the world and when we join the poles together it becomes a world that is no longer politically correct.  Perhaps there would be more of a foundation to make such claims if the movie were purely creative and not based off true events, but that isn’t the case and therefore we should set aside our preprogrammed minds and look the disparity as something endearing and hopeful.

Priority Security Zones in France lead to increased ethnic conflict

The night between August 13th and 14th was neither quiet nor peaceful for the residents of Amiens, a town located just north or Paris, France. Riots broke out in the streets, reportedly started by a group of approximately 100 youth of North African origin. The violence that erupted in the area left dozens of cars torched, two buildings burnt and ransacked, and 16 injured police officers. This resulted in an estimated 1.23 million US dollars in damage.

 

The aggressive response of youth in Amiens toward police has been speculatively related to the recent designation of Amiens as one of 15 Priority Security Zones (ZSP) in France, areas in which crime rates are the highest. These so-called “no-go” zones are described as Muslim dominated areas of immigrant populations that are largely off-limits to non-Muslims. French law enforcement hopes to regain its authority and make things safer in these closed off neighborhoods by increasing its presence within them. According to the French government, there are 751 of these no-go zones that have popped up all over in areas of French cities.

 

As you can imagine, some think that the policy to increase security in these areas is a good idea and that stricter laws should be enforced, while others strongly disagree with this attitude toward the situation. Nonetheless, this is a topic of controversy in France and most people have an opinion about it, especially in light of the recent election of socialist party president, Francois Hollande, who identified Amiens as a Priority Security Zone.

 

VENITISM says, “The city is infamous for high unemployment, racial tension, and brutal police force” and believes that Hollande’s government is not equipped to handle the current climate of violence and that it would best be handled by the right-wing politician, Marine LePen, who is known for her French nationalism and “continues to fight against the subversion of the country at the hands of Muslims.” VENITISM critiques Hollande as being too hesitant with his actions in the ZSPs despite his pledge to be tough.

 

Conversely, Walter Russell Mead of Via Meadia calls into question the way in which the French government has been both vague about what exactly broke out in Amiens, and who was involved. His criticism is that the blame is being both ambiguously and unfairly placed on the shoulders of Muslim, North African immigrant youth as a sort of cop-out to the many social issues taking place in France right now. “If the ‘community’ happened to be of North African origin, that would not make us think that all immigrants in France of Muslim faith and North African origin share these attitudes. We have met far too many thoughtful, educated, well-integrated French citizens with this background to smear a whole ethnicity with the actions of some.”

 

On one hand, I see the need for the French government to pay attention to no-go zones with increased police presence in order to keep peace and protect the safety of citizens. Whenever there is an environment conducive to crime and destructive riots that injure people their property, it should be investigated.  On the other hand, I also disagree with the way in which Priority Security Zones have been pigeon holed as “Muslim,”  “immigrant,” and “North African,”  implying that all people that fit into these categories are  violent, dangerous and inferior to “French” citizens and thus require increased surveillance and fewer social freedoms.  The story of Amiens has been told from the side of the French government and media only, however it would be valuable to hear the story of the riot told by those youth who were actually involved, in order to even out the bias and understand the conflict better.

 

Personally, I would like to see the investigation of  no-go zones extend beyond the surface description of what is happening in order to figure out why it is happening. Is it a strong sense of French nationalism and perhaps even racism that drives clumps of North African immigrant populations into segregated communities, giving rise to hostile relations? Or, could is be the opposite, a North African nationalism that drives the segregation and violence? Or, more likely, is it a combination of nationalism on both ends? Furthermore, how does the complicated history of France and North Africa still affecting relations today? And is there a solution for moving past these social conflicts, without denying citizens their rights to freely express themselves both religiously and culturally? It seems in this case, that there is much more going on than meets the eye.

Racism continues to dog European football

Photo via UK Daily Mail — Anton Ferdinand (left) and John Terry (right) face off

Chelsea captain John Terry was caught on tape yelling what appeared to be racist remarks at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Barclay’s Premier League match on October 23.

John Terry made the following statement about the accusations against him:

“I thought Anton was accusing me of using a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively, saying that I never used that term,” he said. “I’ve seen that there’s a lot of comments on the internet with regards to some video footage of me during the game. I’m disappointed that people have leapt to the wrong conclusions about the context of what I was seen to be saying to Anton Ferdinand. I would never say such a thing and I’m saddened that people would think so.”

Well John, the video bellow would prove otherwise:

Video via the Guardian.

Anton Ferdinand, who frankly doesn’t need to prove anything here because the video says it all, made the following statement:

“I have very strong feelings on the matter but in the interests of fairness and not wishing to prejudice what I am sure will be a very thorough inquiry by the FA, this will be my last comment on the subject until the inquiry is concluded.”

This kind of behavior is far too common in European football, but usually the racial slurs come from unruly fans. Incidents include racist chants and signs in Spain while Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o played for Barcelona and in Italy at Mario Balotelli (of Ghanian descent).

As an American, I believe the fact that there was never an equivalent movement in Europe to the Civil Rights movement in America, that there are still so many Europeans who consider screaming racial slurs acceptable behavior in their culture.

I don’t feel like I’m taking an unreasonable stance when I believe there needs to be harsher punishment against racist behavior in European football. The culture needs to change.

The president of FIFA (football’s governing body) Sepp Blatter said that on-pitch incidents should be solved on the pitch.

“There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct,” Blatter told CNN. “The one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.”

Blatter has since apologized for his statement, but what an idiotic thing for Football’s most powerful leader to say. Clearly he meant it, and subsequently backtracked after he took heat from the like of David Beckham, Sol Campbell, Arsene Wenger and other prominent figures in the footballing world.

Thankfully, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are reviewing the incident (we’ll see if this take forever even though the video evidence is right in front of them). There needs to be an incentive that makes using racial slurs culturally unacceptable in Europe. If that means making an example of John Terry, then so be it.

Nazi Soccer

Soccer derbies are always games of particular interest. The last game between Hamburger SV and FC St Pauli was no exception. Most fans are simply looking forward to a great and exciting game, some idiots see derbies as a chance to not only beat their opponent, but to beat up their fans and sometimes even players as well. Unfortunately, violence and soccer come together every once in a while, but when three Hamburg hooligans beat up Pauli-keeper Benedikt Pliquett, a right wing party saw this as a sign. Their conclusion: If three fans attack the Pauli-keeper – St. Pauli is notoriously left wing (if soccer teams are political) – many HSV fans are in favor of violence against left-wing ideas. At the next home game,  the NPD set up a booth to advertise their ideas.  Fortunately, this really is the exception in Germany and racist or right-wing fans have largely been eliminated from stadiums since the 1980s.

Maura Zarate saluting the team

Italy, sadly, is a different story and racist fans are notoriously violent. Just a few months ago, Italian newspaper “Il Messaggero” published a picture of Lazio’s Maura Zarate raising his right arm to salute the team. This, at least in Rome, is not an exception. Former team captain Paolo di Canio is known to the European soccer world for mainly two things. His tattoo saying dux, which is latin for Führer (Führer here does not mean Hitler but Mussolini, whom he admittedly admires) and his unacceptable gestures toward the Lazio fans.

Not convinced yet? Romanian Adrian Mutu of Fiorentina was insulted and booed at after the wife of an Italian Marine was allegedly killed by a Romanian the week before the game. When playing Werder Bremen in the European Cup, Lazio fans responded to banners against racism (“Zusammen gegen Rassismus”) by celebrating Italian dictator Mussolini. During the game, Werder’s Ivorian forward Boubacar Sanogo was mocked with monkey noises.

Paolo di Canio

Still not convinced? During the derby against AS Rome, a left-wing club, Lazio followers displayed banners saying “Auschwitz is your homeland – the ovens are where you belong!But radical soccer fans are not a Roman phenomenon. In Sicily, soccer fans killed a police officer in riots after he testified in a trial against rightwing extremist fans.

Neither is it a solely Italian phenomenon. Racist fans have become a problem in France, Spain and Poland, as well. But what can be done to prevent these nasty incidents that spoil the excitement of the games? German soccer fans have set a great example. When politicians and club officials were unable to fight racism, the fans took matters in their own hands.

In an interview with 11 Freunde magazine, Hamburg fan Bernd Kroschewski stated, that he and other fans were embarrassed by racist insults toward Hamburg player Souleyman Sané.

Natürlich haben mich auch früher schon Dinge gestört, etwa die rassistischen Rufe von irgendwelchen Neo-Nazis gegen Souleyman Sané. Damals habe ich mich wirklich geschämt, dass es um mich herum solche Leute gab, die im gleichen Stadion stehen und den gleichen Verein anfeuern.

When neo-nazis tried to take over the stands, most fans helped getting rid of advertisement stickers on the stadium walls and simply did not support any kind of agitation against, for example, colored players. The fan body did not allow neo-nazis to take over. Today, the German Bundesliga is comparably family friendly and dads can bring their sons without being afraid of getting caught in between violent fan groups. This is largely due to the fans themselves.

It will be interesting to see how Italy copes with the increased violence. Lately, Italian Minister of the Interior Giuseppe Pisanu announced that he does not have a problem with closing stadiums to the public or even cancelling games. But as Germany has shown, the fans themselves have the biggest influence on what happens in the stands. After all, soccer is just a game that everyone should be allowed to enjoy. Violence and violent ideologies cannot be tolerated.

Lazio fans

Schwarzfahrer aka The Black Rider

German Director, Pepe Danquart, made a short film in 1993 about racism in Germany. The film went on to win an academy award in 1994 for best short film.

The short movie, Schwarzfahrer, is a play on the German word meaning fare dodger and that the man on the train is a black rider. In the film a black man boards a train and sits next to an old lady who verbally badgers him while people on the train sit and say nothing. The end of the film has a humorous twist, and allows the viewer to reflect on what the message of the film is. The film is highlighting the racism problem in Germany.

After WWII Germany brought over workers from other countries (mainly Turkey) as Gastarbeiter, literally meaning guest workers. Many of the workers remained in Germany, even though they were only supposed to stay there temporarily. Some Germans felt these immigrants were taking jobs away from German citizens. This parallels a to what some perceive as a similar problem in the United States, with Mexicans taking away jobs from American workers.

I have seen the film a few times, and each time I can relate it to the racism I have seen in the United States. However, I was unfamiliar with racism in Germany and never witnessed it myself.

That changed this past spring when I was in Munich for Easter, and stayed with a man who was half Algerian and half German. He said he has his public transportation ticket and his bag checked at least once a week because he doesn’t look German. That same day he told me this, both of our metro tickets were checked by an undercover police officer. No one else in our compartment was checked and I was in disbelief at what just took place.

Is racism a problem in the United States, Germany or another country? What will it take to stop racism? Can it be stopped?

Take a look at Danquart’s film and see if the film still is true today, 16 years later.