"Elke Heidenreich isn’t all that important": Racism Expert on Structural Discrimination

The author Elke Heidenreich is according to her statements in “Markus Lanz” in the criticism.

Image: dpa / Henning Kaiser

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14.10.2021, 18:0914.10.2021, 19:56

Leonard  Frick
Leonard  Frick

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Anyone who tuned in to Markus Lanz on Tuesday will probably have one thing in particular: the statements of Elke Heidenreich. The 78-year-old author has had to listen to a lot of criticism since it was broadcast. Two points were particularly hotly debated on Twitter.

First: Heidenreich’s statements are racist. The author said it bothers her that the question “Where are you from?” will be classified as racist. She brought up an example of a “dark-skinned taxi driver” with a perfect Cologne dialect and parents from Morocco.

“I ask, of course: Where are you from?”, Heidenreich said and added: “And not to discriminate against them. Rather, because I can see immediately that they are not from Wanne-Eickel or Wuppertal. I don’t find any problem in that if you ask that. You can see it. “

Secondly: The author was accused of not wanting to deal with the younger generation. The author criticized the Greens spokeswoman Sarah Lee Heinrichs, who wrote racist tweets at a young age and has already apologized for it.

Heidenreich: “To stay with this girl: She has no language at all. She cannot speak. These are children who do not read. This is this generation of which I notice again and again how speechless they are, how incompetent to deal with words. “

Watson asked a racism expert and a sociologist to classify the criticism.

Accusation: racism

Mohamed Amjahid is a journalist and has written a book with the subtitle “A Guide to Anti-Racist Thinking”. On Twitter, he condemned Heidenreich’s statements. “For Elke Heidenreich,” dark people “only exist as taxi drivers who drive them around, only as servants who clean for them, serve them for a starvation wage and live” with us “. What a colonial view of vulnerable minorities,” he writes there.

He has analyzed her speech and says to watson: “It is a view of the white majority society that does not want to reflect at all, in the context of a diversified immigration society that we are generally in Germany.”

The author would often speak of “we” and “the others”, with the others only existing as service personnel. “This is the classic example that non-white people should often drive or clean taxis or be grateful to live here with us,” explains Amjahid.

The journalist also finds the format of the talk show doubtful. He says: “Here are white people who are not affected by racism. They sit down together and determine what good words are. Who can speak and why. What is high culture and what is not. It’s all arbitrary and very subjective. “

For him, however, the Heidenreich case is only an example of a larger problem:

“Elke Heidenreich is not that important. This talk show is not important either. My jokes on Twitter are not important either. People think that the height of the fall is: Elke Heidenreich has injured Mohammed. It does not matter at all. But it is part of this Structure in which people are violently encountered – on the job market, the housing market, the education market. People are excluded because someone thinks: ‘I could give this person an internship now, but Elke Heidenreich said they can’t talk, that’s why I’ll play it safe and give the white person the internship. ‘”

Amjahid says that while such racist discourses are not directly related to right-wing extremist violence, they are part of a system in which society can become radicalized. “Then something like Hanau, Halle, Kassel, or NSU happens,” he says and adds: “As long as we do not recognize this as a society, vulnerable minorities remain vulnerable and have to speak for themselves.”

And, according to the racism expert, that is also the difference in our time. “The difference between ‘Elke Heidenreich speaks on television in 1983’ and ‘Elke Heidenreich speaks on television in 2021’ is the contradiction”, said is.

“That’s because they are totally insecure. And it’s okay to be insecure. It’s all about how it is negotiated.”

Mohamed Amjahid on the reasons for racist statements.

The journalist sees the origin of the statements in a “great vulnerability”. He explains: “Elke Heidenreich just doesn’t understand this world. It just got way too fast and then she runs around. That shows the helplessness of a bourgeois white parallel society that has to cope with the fact that people now want to speak for themselves.”

It is said: “That is because they are totally insecure. And it’s okay to be insecure. It’s all about how it is negotiated. “But the author’s statements are the wrong way to negotiate.

Amjahid hopes Heidenreich will deal with the subject. “You can’t expect free educational work for Elke Heidenreich from those affected. She can work it all out herself,” he says and offers: “Then I would even want to sit down with her and discuss it.”

Accusation: lack of understanding

Miranda Leontowitsch is a research associate at the Interdisciplinary Aging Science department at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. She leads studies in which the exchange between older and younger age groups is promoted and investigated.

For them, the lack of understanding is mainly due to a social problem: “Different age groups no longer come together.”

The sociologist Miranda Leontowitsch.

The sociologist Miranda Leontowitsch.

picture: Klaus Ditté

Leontowitsch explains: “We have been observing an increasing life expectancy for decades with a continuous rigid division into life phases according to age groups with associated rights and obligations.” This leads to “that these age groups do not mix particularly strongly.”

It is true that there is a certain mix in the work environment in adulthood. But especially children and people of retirement age stayed in their age groups.

Families are no longer a place where different age groups meet. She explains:

“There are of course families as social places where age groups can mix. But we know that families no longer live together generationally or in one place at all because of social mobility and work mobility. The younger ones usually leave at least temporarily. That is why there are not so many points of contact anymore. “

This lack of contact can hardly be made up in other places. “One reason why the generations don’t talk to each other so much and don’t understand each other is because they actually don’t have that much opportunity,” says Leontowitsch.

It is not a new phenomenon that different age groups have different ideas, but Leontowitsch follows a tendency towards the polarization of younger and older people. “In my opinion, this is also strongly promoted by the media”, she says.

According to Leontowitsch, attitudes have changed in old age. “Older people want to be seen as younger, active and able to connect. Actually, I always feel a great willingness to deal with younger people, to exchange ideas and also to take up ideas,” she says.

“Discussion does not mean that everyone has the same opinion afterwards. It means that different opinions come together and are mutually tapped.”

Miranda Leontowitsch on the generational exchange.

She cites Friday’s for Future as an example. “Within the first year, older people joined – even before Parents for Future. These are the people who are no longer working and who have time on Friday mornings to take part in a demonstration,” she says, adding: “There is a great deal of solidarity and also a great deal of understanding.”

The sociologist says that there is a need for “new platforms” for exchange and “a willingness on both sides to listen and allow different opinions.”

She knows: “Discussion does not mean that everyone has the same opinion afterwards. It means that different opinions come together and are mutually examined.”

Leontowitsch says that more exchange would even have positive effects. “We know where exchange takes place, and common ideas can be developed,” she says.

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