When African men and women were displayed in the Vienna’s zoo in 1896, the writer and avowed pederast Peter Altenberg couldn’t take it anymore: He climbed over the barrier, that served to separate dangerous animals from tame humans, and placed himself in between these young “black” bodies, some of which were as young as 12 years old, and put the cuddling into sticky prose sketches. A literary “Elysium”, just highly poetic and published in a classic book of poetry, long before the invention of the dark web.
After countless robberies and attacks through migrants in Germany on New Year’s Eve 2016, the Süddeutsche Zeitung released a cover that stylized a black arm, which was reaching out towards a female’s private parts (the silhouette having wide prolific hips, which aims to represent the female principle). This kind of portrayal reminds one of the well-known reversible figures that lays open the subconscious of the beholder, based on what he or she sees in the ambiguous drawing. An exclamation among many intellectuals. The image seemed to try to convey: Can you see the sad reality (which can be clearly divided among black/ mean white/ innocent men and women). Or are you still sleeping (now)?
I myself, I know this very well from countless and intense fights with my ex-girlfriend, am anything but relaxed when it comes to this issue. If someone points out that I am falling victim to stereotypes or have said something that can be read as racist, I am emotionally hurt. Racism is a sensitive issue and as I know from many seminars at university, not just for me. I read in the NZZ that Germans, due to their dark past, seem to be following this pendular movement due to moral exaltation and self-humiliation. This assumption stuck with me for weeks. I felt caught.
And all at once I understood what annoyed me about the Özil debate, the soccer player who left the German national team, which resulted in a debate on racism in Germany: It was only because they made everyone, myself included, so incredibly upset. My assumption being: the national team is so highly charged nowadays. They should serve as a projection screen for all our fragile concepts of masculinity while being a vehicle for the longing for group affiliation, but otherwise rightfully (“we Germans”?!) get a rap on the knuckles. Of course, they should also be great at playing soccer and the cherry on top remains the fact that those who aren’t obviously flawless third-generation Germans, shall also serve as a symbol for how fucking tolerant and colorblind all us Germans are, while sitting around and watch parties.
And now is when it gets complicated: simultaneously Turkey is a symbol for how diplomatic and upright Germany acts towards provocateurs. From this attitude, Julius Ceasar called it clementia (the gentleness of the victor), one can assess this politically however one likes, a mature boastfulness, which all of a sudden, lands head first in the sand, if someone from the same team decides to hit for the side, which has been evaluated as inferior. And then there’s one of the symbolic guarantors with his moral high card. Competitive scripts collide with utterly nonathletic patriotism.
My argument ends here. The foreign is always endangered to deteriorate to the projection surface. Whether the savagery of girls from the “aboriginal people”, the quasi-animalistic hormonally driven offenders from New Year’s Eve 2016 or the reformed good-naturedness of allegedly unpolitical Mister Özil: We unforgivingly reduce and project our desired version of the other. And are then offended when the package falls at our feet.
It probably would be an intense training for Mister Lindner, chairman of the opposing party FDP, and the rest of the numb nation, as for me (my hometown Frankfurt consists to 49% of migrants). But if I’m standing in line somewhere the person in front of me could be a family father, an IT-freak or a highly explosive jihadist (how should I even know this, people haven’t been wearing armbands since 1945). I just try to exercise calmness, smile briefly and stand while waiting for whatever may come, to come. Because that has always worked out just fine.
Author: Janik Hauser
Editor: Claire Oehninger
Model: Raymond Baur (MP Paris)
Photographer: Angel Ferrer
Hair & Make Up Artist: Eva Petit (Guapas Paris)
Brand: Boris Bidjan Saberi