With #MeTwo, German Activist Launches Campaign To Discuss Racism

A Turkish-German activist started a new campaign online with the hashtag #MeTwo to help others like him discuss the racism they experience daily.

An activist in Germany is using the #MeTwo hashtag to start a “long overdue” discussion on racism suffered by individuals all across the country.

Turkish-born Ali Can went on German TV to talk about the racism many like him suffer in the country. He said that “MeTwo” represents the feeling of being split by two different cultures, of having “two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” a line used by German-Turkish football player Mesut Özil when addressing an earlier controversy regarding his decision to pose with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On July 25, Can launched #MeTwo after the Özil announced that “racism and disrespect” had prompted him to stop playing with the national team. He used common exchanges he's had in Germany to illustrate the racism he's suffered.

Translation: On the phone, you didn't even notice that I was a Turk.

Right, because I'm German too! #MeTwo #neuerHashtaggegenRassismus #Özil #Alltagsrassismus #Perspectivedaily

Translation: Him: "How did you learn German so well?"

Me: "Well, like you." #MeTwo #neuerHashtaggegenRassismus #Özil #Alltagsrassismus #Perspectivedaily

Translation: Where are you from?

From the Münsterland.

No, where do you really come from?

I'm German. Do you prefer my immigrant background? #MeTwo Such conversations really happen, but they are not conducive to integration! #MeTwo

Can, a member of the Kurdish Alevi minority, was brought as a toddler to Germany to escape persecution in their homeland. He claimed he has suffered racism while looking for a place to live, and that he was barred from entering a nightclub while his friends were allowed in.

Özil and another German-born football star of Turkish origin, Ilkay Gündogan, were both heavily criticized for posing with Erdogan before the World Cup. But when the team lost, exiting the championship right after the group matches, the country’s criticism toward the players became even louder.

According to Can, because Özil did not score some goals, the country’s soccer-fueled anger prompted many people to resort to racism.

On Twitter, Can explained that bringing up stories of racism is important to ignite a conversation that could help heal the whole country, and it was his passion for this subject that made the hashtag so popular.

With over 1 million migrants from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan having arrived between 2015 and 2016, the country’s right-wing political faction continues to accuse the German country of pushing for an “Islamization” of the society.

On Twitter, users joined Can, sharing their own stories of racism. The involvement of so many people like him prompted Can to thank social media users for helping him ignite the public debate.

Thanks to the “courageous” posts, he said, “nobody could say after this 'we knew nothing about it.'"

Some tweets showed some Germans were suffering racism at school, with teachers simply assuming non-white children were not originally German. Noticing some of these students suffered because of this prejudice, both because of racism and because they were not challenged as much in the classroom, Can asked officials to offer anti-racism training to teachers.

Even Turkish-born German politician Cem Özdemir said he suffered this type of racism in school. He claimed that at school, his teachers and classmates mocked him for saying he wanted to go to the type of secondary school in Germany that prepares students for university. He said that instead, he went to a less academic high school that leads to apprenticeships, not degrees.

With the great response Can got, it's clear that German society was ready for this type of debate, not just because of the many half Turkish, half Germans suffering with racism, but because many of the migrants fleeing war in the Middle East now are also at risk of being treated like second-class citizens.


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