Stories of migration

Frankly … integrated – Xavier Naidoo & Exclusion

Foto (Detail): Uwe Lein / picture alliance, dpa

Photo (detail): Uwe Lein / picture alliance, dpa

Can social exclusion and the desire to belong lead to aggressive and discriminative behaviour? An analysis of behaviour patterns and a critical examination of the effect of punishment.

German musician Xavier Naidoo was recently accused of promoting hate speech with his music lyrics, where he asked, "What if every day there is a murder where the guest steals life from the host? I have to choose harsh words. Because I don't want anyone to torture my people, if they do, they'll have to deal with me." He later talked of the words having been taken out of context. As some call for a boycott of his music, others wonder why a descendant of immigrants would spew hate speech against immigrants.

While the controversy was trending in some circles, I couldn't stop thinking about the Naidoo situation and many others like it. There is no doubt that such words promote hatred. And how did he get there? Or how do humans get there?

Angolan parents of Arab descent

Whenever I follow Naidoo's story, two different events cross my mind: one of an eight-year old son of Angolan parents and a middle-aged German of Arab descent. Both are living in Germany. In his school, and with time, the 8-year-old boy no longer reported other schoolmates to their teacher for for making racial chants against him. He developed an aggressive character and resorted to the cowboy way of conflict resolution instead. As a result, his teachers concluded that the boy could not get along with other kids and should be transferred to a special school.

”I am one of you!“

As for the middle-aged man, he held a senior position at his workplace. Well, he loves hanging out with his colleagues too. While watching the last Football world cup with his colleagues, he would be seen and heard cheering Germany loudest. When Germany finally lost, he cried profusely. Yes, it is common for sports fanatics to shed tears as the final whistle blows against their hope. But those, like him, who would only watch football after every four years are not football fanatics. They are patriots who only pay attention to the game when it is about countries or nations - that moment when national pride is displayed and loyalty by some affirmed. Well, there's enough literature to support the view that a lot of human behaviour is inspired by the need to belong (e.g. to a group). But if the group is characterized by a different race or ethnicity, it might take quite some conscious and subconscious efforts to fit in. So, whereas others were sad and blamed a player or two, he cried loudly, walking past his friends and colleagues to the farthest corner and back. Everyone else was now quiet, watching him shed tears for his fatherland. I watched him with keen interest, through my glasses and saw a man atop the Zugspitze, tears flowing down in black, red and gold, sending down the question ”I am one of you! Do you still doubt me?“

Social exclusion leads to aggression

Now, reading the situation surrounding Naidoo's sentiments with full knowledge of his roots and appearance, I struggle to link his to the scenario of the kid in school or the crying football fan. The kid in school was too young to read and understand JM Twenge's "If You Can't Join Them, Beat Them: Effects of Social Exclusion on Aggressive Behavior", a paper linking social exclusion with aggressive behavior. The boy beat them, literally - a textbook example of social exclusion that leads to aggressive behaviour. Expelling him from school would then be equivalent to excluding him further for exhibiting a natural reaction to being excluded in the first place. But does that relate to Naidoo's case?

How ought the public deal with racism in this form?

The second scenario of a quadrennial football viewer in tears is also a sign of exclusion and a cry for inclusion. But it is Noel Ignatiev's "How the Irish became white" that relates better with the milieu around Naidoo's saga. "How the Irish became white" details how the need by the American Irish to be seen as or belong to the economic and political majority led them to embrace white supremacy. Mahatma Gandhi, a man considered by millions as a moral superpower, is reported to have suffered the same in South Africa, saying some racist words about blacks while demanding to be treated as equal by whites. That is how terribly exclusion can affect us. As for Xavier Naidoo, should he then be admonished by his colleagues, judged and sentenced by the public? Is doing so not analogous to banning the schoolboy from school for showing substantial evidence of suffering from exclusion?

"Frankly ..."

On an alternating basis each week, our “Frankly …” column series is written by Dominic Otiang’a, Liwen Qin, Maximilian Buddenbohm und Gerasimos Bekas. Dominic Otiang'a writes about his life in Germany: what strikes him, what is strange, where did he get interesting insights?

Dominic Owour Otiang'a
is the author of several novels and short stories. He was born in Kenya and lives in Stuttgart.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion

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