Unheard no more
As a woman, immigrant and Kurd, Sibel Schick reports on her experiences of discrimination in Germany – and reveals how difficult it is for marginalised groups to make their voices heard here. Existing power structures stand in the way of their participation in society.
By Helena Matschiner
“It was Germany that radicalised me,” writes Sibel Schick in the foreword to her anthology Hallo hört mich jemand? (Hello, Can Anyone Hear Me?) When she came to Germany in 2009, she had to learn to be bold and recalcitrant to make herself heard. With one exception, all 35 narratives from 2017 to 2020 in this anthology were already printed elsewhere, most of them in Missy Magazine and taz. They contain personal experiences and commentaries. The essays are arranged thematically in five categories: racism, sexism, virtual and media violence, classicism and personal.
The look back allows readers to understand and get to know the author and her growth. Sibel Schick doesn’t give readers space to distance themselves from what she describes; she speaks directly to the German majority society and her language is usually reproachful, sometimes confrontational, and occasionally – as she herself says – hounding. She reckons with everyone who strengthens existing discriminatory power structures as well as with those who do nothing.
DEMOcracy means participationSibel Schick easily picks apart accusations of a “lack of willingness to integrate” and the emergence of “parallel societies.” She returns the ball by pointing out that over five million people in Germany have no voting rights because of their nationalities and are therefore excluded from all democratic processes. Since they are denied access to positions with decision-making power, they usually have no opportunities to help shape the system in which they live.
This is why social media are very important as a mouthpiece for many. But those who present themselves there make themselves vulnerable. Sibel Schick vividly describes her own efforts to regularly recapture her virtual space from right-wing trolls and anti-feminists in order to defend her right to freedom of expression; the very same right that is instrumentalised as a battle cry by the right while they attempt to silence the voices of minorities on the Internet through media violence. To ensure that such intimidation doesn’t prevent people from taking part in discourses, Sibel Schick advocates a more consistent implementation of protective mechanisms in the virtual and real space.
plenty of room for improvementThe rapid return to normality after the 2020 attack in Hanau, the AfD’s successes in the 2017 federal elections, connections to right-wing extremism within the police and the lack of a collective outcry and effective measures against the shift to the right show that racism continues to be treated as a niche issue in Germany.
Sibel Schick also sees a need for action against sexism and sexual violence. While Germany uses EU funds to try to achieve gender equality in third countries, social structures that favour violence against women are ignored here at home. Using the example of her own experiences, the author illustrates how women are often not taken seriously by men when they report experiences of sexual harassment. She calls on us to no longer rely on preventive measures against sexual violence, but to become active for social change. And in doing so, she calls on (cis) men to take an active stand against sexism instead of expecting gratitude for not harassing women.
salt in the woundThe author recognises a lack of solidarity not only with regard to feminist issues but also with regard to financially weaker social classes. Those who purchase cheap flights, cheap meat and discount apparel are often tut-tutted by the ecologically aware educated elite. The author makes it plain that as long as ecological sustainability is a luxury, lower-income citizens shouldn’t be criticised for their consumer decisions.
Sibel Schick holds a mirror up to Germany’s majority society. She’s been attacked several times for this in recent years. Her generalised use of terms like “Germans” or “men” may cause those addressed to prickle, but it serves as a necessary means to an end as long as the injustices she addresses are indeed real. Instead of taking a defensive stance, it pays to listen closely. Nothing less than democracy is at stake.
Sibel Schick: Hallo, hört mich jemand? Rassismuskritische und feministische Kolumnen und Kommentare.
Münster: edition assemblage, 2020. 145 S.