Colonialism is generally regarded as the expansion of a nation-state, with a particular focus on economic, political and military interests. In this context, the exploitation and oppression of the populations of the colonized territories play a significant role.

The connections between colonialism, Racism, the German Empire and the Maafa are rarely addressed in Germany until today. Great Britain, France, the Netherlands or Portugal are usually cited as examples of colonialism. It is true that the German Empire owned fewer colonies and that it was no longer a colonial power after World War I because of the Treaty of Versailles. But since 1883 the German Empire owned colonies, which were called protectorates. They were located, among others, in what is now Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and a part of Mozambique called German East Africa. In addition, there were German New Guinea, German Samoa, today’s Namibia (then called German Southwest Africa), German West Africa with today’s Cameroon and Togo, and Kiautschou in northern China. This made the German Empire the third largest colonial empire in terms of area, with about 13 million people living in its protectorates. Yet only a few ethnic Germans owned land there or were involved in trade with enslaved people. Rather, they profited indirectly through newly developed branches of production and trade with the colonies. Thus, the prosperity within the German Empire is at least partly due to exploitation through colonialism, which provided economic uplift. Around the same time, important ethnological collections were created in the German Empire, and museums were built to house them, such as the Royal Museum of Ethnology in Berlin, the Grassimuseum in Leipzig, and the Culturgeschichtliche Museum in Hamburg (today: Museum am Rothenbaum).

While prosperity was increasing in the German Empire, people were proselytizing within the German colonies. Through a racially motivated sense of White superiority, missionaries attempted to “civilize” the local people, i.e. to impose “German culture” on them, while their own customs, norms and religions were to be increasingly forgotten. This form of foreign domination resulted in subjugation in all spheres of life with simultaneous economic exploitation at various levels, which was accompanied by an interweaving of colonialism and religious and cultural oppression.

Through these different and effective mechanisms, indigenous populations were dehumanized and objectified. As a result, the first genocide of the 20th century occurred between 1904 and 1908: In German Southwest Africa, the uprisings of the indigenous Herero and Nama populations resisting foreign rule were bloodily put down with the aim of exterminating the entire indigenous populations. Prussian Lieutenant General and commander of the Schutztruppe Lothar von Trotha (1848-1920) issued the extermination order: “Within the German border, every Herero with or without a rifle […] will be shot.” Those who were not shot were driven into the Omaheke Desert to die of thirst. Around the same time, von Trotha began to establish concentration camps in German Southwest Africa at the behest of the Kaiser, Wilhelm II (1859-1941). There, the imprisoned Herero and Nama – adults and children – were forced to perform forced labor and were mistreated. Their corpses were sent to Germany for medical research. Even today, human remains can be found in museum collections in Germany. It is estimated that over 70,000 people fell victim to this genocide. This corresponds to about 70% of the Herero and about 50% of the Nama. Germany has only officially recognized the genocide since May 2021.

Victim Blaming

The blame for an assault is placed on the victim, i.e. the roles of perpetrator and victim are reversed following a crime. The strategy behind this is to show that the victim provoked the perpetrator through his or her actions, so that the perpetrator is ultimately stylized as the victim. As an example, raped persons can be cited who are accused after the crime of having dressed too provocatively and thus inciting the perpetrator to commit the crime.


Prejudices are generic ideas that are socially anchored and refer to members of a certain social group. Thus, prejudices are close to essentialism. In this context, prejudice occurs when generalizations and inferences clash: The behavior or assumed behavior of one member of a social group leads to an inference about the entire group, and the inference is then made about any other member of that social group. This phenomenon is called illusory correlation in social psychology. Thus, prejudice creates a non-existent connection between different people who are categorized into one social group.
These perceptual errors have far-reaching consequences: For example, psychologist Claude Steele found in a study that for members of prejudice-laden social groups, worrying about conforming to negative prejudices can lead precisely to their coming true. In this context, the mere knowledge of the existence of these stereotypes can limit one’s life path and, consequently, one’s performance, education, and career opportunities. Affected individuals are under constant pressure to prove themselves. Thus, the influence of prejudices on members of the relevant social groups is so great that they have an effect because they are embedded in society, not because individuals actually conform to these prejudices.

White Fragility

In 2011, sociologist Dr. Robin DiAngelo coined the term White Fragility. It refers to the reactions of white people who are confronted with their own racisms. When another person calls their attention to a racist statement, for example, they react defensively. They try to defend or justify themselves, they remain silent, change the subject, or affirm their critical thinking about racism. However, all of these behaviors do not provide for open dialogue on the topic of racism, but rather re-establish a historically established hierarchy between Whites and People of Color or Blacks, but one that must be overcome. According to DiAngelo, this phenomenon is rooted in the fact that whites themselves feel racist whenever their skin color plays a role. In this context, white people may be exposed to experiences of discrimination, but it is impossible for them to experience racism. This is because racism was invented to legitimize relations of domination and power, and ultimately means the systemic oppression of groups of people who are made the Others. These Others are BIPoC in a white-dominated Eurocentric worldview. Racism also occurs in other regions of the world, which then increasingly takes the form of colorism. In the context of white fragility, then, it is equally a matter of whites denying any participation or even existence in the racist system that is embedded in society as a whole. This does not combat racism, however, but perpetuates it.

White Gaze

White Gaze originally comes from film theory and describes the Perspective of white people on their environment and society. The dominant white gaze ensures that this reading is established as the standard. Everything that deviates from this standard is made invisible. The same is true for the male gaze.


The term white is often seen as a counterpoint to Black. In contrast to Black, this term is not to be understood as a political self-description. However, to make it clear that this is also a political description and not a color designation, white is written in italics.

White Washing

The term white washing takes a critical look at the practices of the theater and film industry. It refers to the casting of Black characters or characters of color with white actors. Shakespeare’s Othello may serve as an example: premiered in 1604 with an all-male cast, the main character is blackfaced. This practice was increasingly criticized in the second half of the 20th century, but it has not completely disappeared to this day. White Washing also includes altering historical narratives with Black protagonists or protagonists of color in such a way that they are contextualized as white and can accordingly be portrayed by white actors, as shown, for example, in the film Ghost in a Shell (2017). The concept of white washing is thus linked to a critique of racism, because people of non-white Race are deliberately disadvantaged and made invisible.


If a person is woke, he or she vigilantly follows world events and recognizes imbalances in the unequal treatment of people – usually based on identity characteristics. In doing so, Wokeness is concerned with combating Sexism, racism and xenophobia, homophobia, Ableism, anti-Semitism, Antiziganism, violence against minorities, Classism and much more. This is done by woke people raising their voices – be it on the streets or in social media.
Woke, then, refers to a state of consciousness about the state of the world. Even though the ideals espoused by the wokeness movement are shared by many people, it is also subject to criticism. This is because wokeness entails a number of pitfalls: for example, there is a constant renegotiation of what is acceptable and what is not. Accordingly, there is no fixed canon of behavioral standards to which individuals can orient themselves. This makes wokeness an opaque and amorphous entity that is difficult to grasp. At the same time, the constant shifting, the ever new balancing and questioning of one’s own behaviors, shows ambiguous and discursive characteristics that are to be welcomed, even if they are more difficult to grasp.


People have a need for Belonging, which they seek in various groups in order to find social support and acceptance there. Support and acceptance are important for every individual and contribute significantly to well-being. However, it makes a difference whether membership in a group is self-selected or whether this group membership is imposed by society – without any action on the part of the individual. In this case, a sense of belonging can also be destructive. The flip side of belonging is comparable to a loss track. Group memberships are constructed only through demarcations, as the Robbers Cave experiment by the social psychologist Muzafer Sherif (1906-1988) showed:
The study served the purpose of conflict research. In the summer of 1954, eleven-year-old boys with almost identical social backgrounds moved to a summer camp in Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma, USA. There, without the boys’ knowledge, their behavior was observed and influenced for three weeks by researchers masquerading as camp staff.
From the beginning, the researchers formed two randomly selected groups that initially knew nothing about each other. After a few days, social patterns, hierarchies, and friendships had already formed in each of the two groups of eleven. The formation of this group structure marks the first phase of the experiment. In the second phase, the scientists made the two groups aware of each other and set them against each other with the help of sporting competitions. In the third phase, the conflicts that arose were to be resolved. It is interesting that in phase two the inner cohesion of the group grew, while more and more aggression against “the others” developed, they were insulted and belittled.
In order to feel they belonged to each other and, more importantly, to distinguish themselves from the others, the boys suddenly gave themselves group names, something they had not previously considered necessary. Thus, they needed categorizations to form their Identities and make them tangible. In doing so, the boys developed opposing identities to distinguish themselves from one another, not because they had opposing ideas of norms. They even made flags with their own emblems and each developed their own rituals. As the second phase of the experiment progressed, assaults also occurred. The boys broke into the other group’s camp and vandalized it, and so on. They even armed themselves with baseball bats to fight each other. At this moment, the researchers initiated phase three of the experiment: reconciliation. By now, the groups were so at odds that they no longer wanted to talk to each other. To bring the boys back together, the researchers had two options: Either they established a new and, above all, common image of the enemy, or they set the two groups tasks that they could only solve together. The second option was chosen. These tasks included, for example, repairing the drinking water pipe, for which the boys first had to find the damage and then lend each other tools to fix it.
Sherif recognized in this experiment, first and foremost, that social groups develop their own structures, values, and rituals in a short period of time. They do this in order to be able to distinguish the members of their group from outsiders. These differences are usually the reasons for hostility between different social groups. However, they can be overcome by common goals, such as a paradigm shift. Repeats of this experiment with other protagonists in other cultures also produced the same results. Sherif’s experiment is thus one of the classics in psychology today. There is hardly any doubt left about the peace-promoting effect of superordinate goals. The behaviors revealed by Sherif can be applied to all identity categories. Thus, belonging becomes a fictional construct.


The term Afro-diaspora refers to the totality of people who today no longer live on the continent of Africa and thus their dispersion as well as distribution throughout the world, which is often conditioned by the trade of enslaved people.


Ageism, which makes people’s social and economic circumstances more difficult and leads to social exclusion and disadvantage.


The English term Allyship does not yet have an equivalent in German. Most likely, it would be understood as solidarity and solidarity of a person from the majority society, who shows as an ally with marginalized groups (including those affected by racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ageism, Ableism), who experience (structural) discrimination. The*ally advocates for equality and diversity.

Allyship may include, for example, fighting prejudice (publicly and/or privately) or changing personal language use to make it more inclusive. This may include using the term People of Color as a self-designation for people who are not read as white, or using and capitalizing Black. As author Roxane Gay said in a 2016 interview, “We need people to stand up and see the problems of oppression as their own, without distance. We need people who do this even though they can’t fully understand what it means to be oppressed for origin or ethnicity, Gender, ability, class, religion, or any other marker of identity.”


One speaks of Ambiguity, for example, when it is a matter of a circumstance to which several interpretations apply at once. Visual art is therefore extremely ambiguous. In a social context, however, we find it difficult to accept ambiguity; we feel more comfortable with unambiguity. Yet – as the Islamic scholar Thomas Bauer describes – there can be no world free of ambiguity, because there is always one option left, because nothing can be definitively and comprehensively explained.


Anti-Semitism is the term used to describe a hostile, sometimes hateful attitude toward people of the Jewish faith. This attitude can manifest itself through verbal or physical attacks against individuals, communities or religious institutions. In addition, anti-Semitism is often articulated through codes that are not always easy to decipher and may be used unconsciously.

Anti-Semitism is a form of racism and, along with sexism, classism, rejectionism, antiziganism and homophobia, is one of the most common forms of discrimination.

More information on anti-Semitic codes can be found here:


Antiziganism is – according to the recommendation of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma – the discrimination against Sintis and Roms, who immigrated to Europe from what is now India between the 7th and 13th centuries. As early as 1498, they were banished from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which disenfranchised them and considered them stateless and outlawed. The racist foreign designation G**** established itself in the course of the 16th century. For a long time it was believed that the term came from the word Ziehgauner. To this day, Irish Travellers, woonwagenbewoners and Jenischen are made into a supposedly homogeneous mass with this term. The mechanism follows that of the use of the N-word. Othering is related to this. Antiziganism is a form of racism and, along with sexism, classism, rejectionism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, is one of the most common forms of discrimination.


Apartheid describes an ideology of Racial Segregation in a political-social dimension. The domination of the white population groups over people of color and especially black people, which was established and organized by the state, characterized South Africa’s politics in the 20th century, with a peak phase between the 1940s and 1980s. The appointment of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) as the first Black president in 1994 is often cited as the official end of apartheid. Comparable to this is segregation in the USA, which is often understood as synonymous with apartheid.


Awareness or the awareness of and attentive confrontation with various problems of social life. The aim is to raise awareness of sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist or similarly abusive behavior and to create safeguards for those affected.


BIPoC is short for Black, Indigenous and People/Person of Color and is considered a self-designation of people oppressed by racism who are read as non-white. As a political term, BIPoC was first used by the Black Power movement during the 1960s. In this context, the term attempts to bring together the shared experiences between different marginalized groups based on their race with different historical and social systematic discriminations.


The term Femicide is used to describe the murder of girls and women on the basis of their gender. In Germany, a man tries to murder a woman (often his (ex-)partner) every day – every third day he succeeds. For 2019, the Federal Criminal Police Office counts 125 femicides.

This refers not only to so-called honor killings committed by supposed strangers, but also to separation killings and violence leading to death within a relationship. Such crimes are embedded in structures and norms favored by Patriarchy. Women are not understood as individuals, but as objects and thus as property of a man. The concept of femicide makes it possible to no longer downplay these crimes as private matters and tragic results of relationship problems or family dramas.


In distinction to the biological sex of a person, the term gender refers to the socially constructed sex with all its role attributions. Accordingly, social gender does not have to correspond to a person’s biological sex, which was assigned to him or her at birth. Gender identity in this context is the personal conception of one’s own sex or gender.

– *Cisgender
Person whose social and biological sex assigned at birth are the same.

– Transgender
Person whose gender identity does not match or does not fully match the biological sex assigned at birth. One option for transgender individuals may be to seek medical gender reassignment services.

– Bigender / Trigender
Individuals with two (in the case of trigender: three) gender identities. Most often these are male and female, but other expressions, such as female and non-binary, may occur. These gender identities may occur simultaneously or alternately.

– non-binary
Term used to describe individuals who are not men or women but are both at the same time or who perceive themselves as neither men nor women. Nonbinary gender identity is not related to biological sex. In some pre-colonial societies, gender was not fixed in a binary order. The Hijra in India can still be considered an example of this today.

– genderqueer
Genderqueer can be considered an example of a non-binary gender identity. Genderqueer serves as an umbrella term for people who do not feel they belong to the gender binary. However, genderqueer can also refer to the gender identity of people who identify as both male and female or as neither male nor female. Thus, genderqueer cannot be clearly distinguished from the terms nonbinary and genderfluid.

– gender nonconforming
Individuals whose social gender does not match the biological sex assigned at birth are referred to as gender nonconforming. As distinct from the term transgender, gender nonconforming focuses on the fundamental rejection of binary gender identity.

– genderfluid
Persons whose gender identity moves between man and woman and other genders and thus is or can be changeable are referred to as genderfluid. Accordingly, the gender identity of genderfluid persons can change between all genders for a certain period of time or in certain situations. Unlike genderqueer persons, this gender identity does not necessarily move beyond gender binarity.

– agender / genderless
Individuals who do not identify with any gender identity.

– intersex
Term used to describe individuals whose biological sex at birth cannot be read as unambiguously male or female. Some researchers estimate that one in 100 newborns is intersex in some way. Although variants of chromosomes XX/XY/XXX/XXY, for example, are rare, they show that even biological observation cannot confirm a purely binary gender order. Until today, the genitals of intersex children are surgically adapted to one sex. This intervention is often accompanied by health and psychological problems.

Global North / Global South

The term Global North refers to the privileged position of the industrialized nations, the so-called First World. In contrast, there is the Global South with its socially, politically and economically disadvantaged developing and emerging countries, the so-called Second and Third World. The neutral terms Global North and Global South refer to the rejection of the discriminatory prioritization of countries according to numbers. At the same time, Global refers to the fact that these are no longer geographical or nation-state designations, but that a global perspective is brought to the fore in line with an increasingly globalized and interconnected world.


Heteronormativity can be understood as a hegemonic worldview that understands and perpetuates heterosexuality of cis persons as a social norm, thus also perpetuating gender roles, stereotypes, etc. Because heterosexuality is established as a norm, it is not questioned and is thus almost never the subject of political or social discourse. At the same time, deviation from this conception of the norm is associated with sanctions, because anything that deviates from the status quo, which is considered correct, normal, natural, is automatically judged to be unnatural and/or understood as a niche issue affecting only a few, given less attention or made completely invisible.


The term incels is derived from involuntary celibate. Accordingly, incels are involuntarily celibate heterosexuals, usually men, who have formed an Internet subculture in the USA. In their misogynistic, i.e., misogynistic attitude, they assume that they have a right to have sexual intercourse with women, even with the use of violence. This is an expression of Toxic Masculinity. However, incels no longer limit themselves to the sphere of the digital, as the 2004 rampage by Elliot Rodgers in Santa Barbara (USA) showed.


Every individual combines different identities. These are different characteristics of a person that give him or her membership in different social groups. These characteristics – like the identities themselves – can sometimes be mutually dependent, complementary or even mutually exclusive. Thus, the idea of being identical to oneself is a misconception.

These multifaceted identities are accompanied by various Privileges and challenges, or even experiences of discrimination, that each person faces in one way or another throughout their lives. Accordingly, the stereotypical white old man would be privileged because of his race and gender. But he might live with a disability and thus face discrimination. He might be homosexual and also be discriminated against because of his sexuality. In this case one would speak of Intersectionality.

So these different aspects of identities are about noticing nuances. Each person has different experiences, most of which are rooted in historically grown hierarchical structures within a society. Knowing about the facets of identities with all their advantages and disadvantages and how they are structurally anchored facilitates self-location.


Intersectionality refers to the clash of multiple forms of structural discrimination. The term was coined in the 1980s by attorney Kimberlé Crenshaw, who used it to draw attention to multiple discrimination in the form of racism and sexism against Black women. Crenshaw was approached with a case in which Emma DeGraffanreid, an African American woman, sued an automobile company that refused to hire her because she was a Black woman. The court dismissed the suit, however, because the company employed Blacks and women: yet the Blacks were consistently men who worked in repair shops, and the women were employed as white secretaries. Legally, these forms of discrimination were intangible for a long time because these specific disadvantages were only considered separately, which made it almost impossible to recognize multiple discrimination.


The phenomenon of Categorization could be colloquially referred to as pigeonholing. In this process, people are collected into a defined social group, a collective. Various characteristics are ascribed to this collective as a unifying element, e.g. gender, race, culture, class or sexuality. Categorization occurs because people need uniqueness in their lives in order to more easily understand social contexts. The mechanism of categorization, which is close to essentialism, is therefore about unambiguity in a social context. At the same time, categorization counteracts ambiguity.

However, because a complete elimination of ambiguity is not possible, further subcategories are created within the categorizations. In this way, the greatest possible degree of unambiguity is created within a subcategory. Thus, this form of subdivision of people works against any diversity. For categorizations – which, for example, lead to a juxtaposition of cultures and people instead of a togetherness – do not have an inclusive or integrative effect; they separate. As a result, there is not more acceptance, but at most tolerance of the other in the sense of (reluctant) acquiescence.

Sexuality can serve as an example of categorization: It was not until the late 19th century that the concept of sexuality as an identity-forming characteristic emerged. People were divided into homosexuals or heterosexuals (further categorizations followed over the years). Previously, in what might be called “sex before sexuality,” persons had (non)same-sex sex that was morally valued but not considered an integral part of their personality. Thus, people were not categorized on the basis of sexual intercourse. It is only with the emergence of sexuality as a marker of identity that this category appears, by which people henceforth distinguished groups from one another.

The desire to categorize in order to make the world more understandable leads to ambiguity intolerance. Against the background of the accompanying feeling of belonging to a certain group, with which the individual identifies himself or with which he is equated from the outside, a demarcation also takes place. These demarcation mechanisms can result in racism, antiziganism, anti-Semitism, rejectionism, classism, sexism or homophobia, among other things.


Classism is the discrimination of a person on the basis of his or her social origin or social position. This can also affect privileged social groups, but classism usually aims in the opposite direction: lower income or a lower level of institutional education are often cited as markers for this. This is accompanied by various stereotypical ideas and attitudes toward the attribution of an origin milieu. The term originates from the 1970s and was coined in the USA by the lesbian collective The Furies.

Classism is one of the most common forms of discrimination, along with rejectionism, antiziganism, anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia.

Cognitive Consonance

In the course of his life, a person gains more and more knowledge about his environment through his experiences. These insights are called cognitions. Different cognitions can be in relation to each other. If they are mutually dependent or complementary, this refers to the state of Cognitive Consonance. However, when different cognitions are in contradiction with each other, cognitive dissonance occurs, as expressed by the social psychologist Leon Festinger (1919-1989) in 1957. This cognitive dissonance is experienced by the person concerned as a very unpleasant state. It arises, for example, when one has made a decision that in retrospect turned out to be a mistake.

Transferred to the spectrum of identities, cognitive dissonance means that a person’s value standards can be contrary to his or her behavior, i.e., that the person can be carried away, for example, to racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, or the like, without having an awareness of the expressed discrimination. Only made aware of it would she understand that she has exposed another person to an experience of discrimination. In this case, cognitive dissonance arises in the person who has made the statement, because he or she does not understand or want to be understood as a racist, sexist, etc.

Collective Subject

The philosopher Judith Butler coined the term Collective Subject. It points out that people who share an identity-forming characteristic are often spoken of in singular terms as a homogeneous group. Butler uses this term to reveal that the focus on social groups is no longer about a concrete individual and diversity, but rather an imagined collective subject is created through various attributions. In the example of “the man likes soccer,” “the man” does not mean an individual, but all men.

With regard to marginalized groups, the journalist and author Kübra Gümüşay speaks of the “burden of representation” that reveals itself in the collective subject. She reports on devout Muslim women who wear headscarves, describing them as “faceless beings, components of a collective [perceived] by society. Each of their expressions, each of their actions is attributed to the collective, individuality is not granted to them. […] Many people in our society can walk the streets and simply be themselves. They can be unfriendly, angry, give free rein to their emotions, without drawing a general conclusion about all those who look like them or practice the same religion. If I, a visible Muslim woman, jaywalk, 1.9 billion Muslim* women jaywalk with me.” With this example, Gümüşay holds that individuals fade away within a group, thereby equally linking the Muslim* as a collective subject to essentialism.

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation describes the adoption of cultural assets of one culture by members of another culture. The exchange of cultures is fundamentally to be welcomed, as it promotes mutual understanding and recognition. However, it should be noted that the concept of cultural appropriation is not so much aimed at claiming cultural assets on an equal footing. Rather, it takes into account a historically grown power imbalance in which the Global North makes use of the music, jewelry, clothing, religious symbols, etc. of the Global South – often in order to enrich itself. Designers who use the ornamentation of Yoruba textiles can serve as an example of this.

At its core, the problem does not revolve around who is the owner of a culture. The idea of ownership applied to culture is the wrong model to approach the issue, as philosopher Anthony Kwame Appiah notes. However, this does not mean that misconduct did not exist. It is not so much the aspect of appropriation that is in the foreground; much more important in this context are exploitation and disregard, which are made possible in the first place because of unequal power relations.

When Rhinelanders dress up as members of the indigenous populations of North America with feather ornaments in their hair and use redfacing to celebrate carnival, this is not cultural theft, but disrespectful and racist. When U.S. pop singers use the rhythms of South Africans’ music to make a lot of money, the question should be allowed whether they have given a fair share of their profits to South Africans.

The problem is therefore not rooted in appropriation per se, but in the disrespectful and exploitative treatment of cultural characteristics and traditions that are important to other people, if not even considered sacred in the regions of origin. On the other hand, a cultural transfer and exchange on an equal footing, in which all parties meet each other with decency and sensitivity, would be a gain for all.


Gender-neutral term for persons of Central American family background or Central American origin.


The abbreviation is intended to comprehensively represent gender identities and sexual orientations that deviate from heteronormativity and binary gender order. The abbreviation originates from the English language area, the letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual and Agender. In this context, + refers to other gender identities.


The N-word is a racist foreign term for Black people, given to them by white people. This word is deliberately no longer written out so as not to perpetuate racism. It is meant to be understood here as representative of other racist and discriminatory terms, such as the antiziganist G****.

Activist and author Tupoka Ogette says of the insistence on using the N-word, “There is no language police or censorship. You can and may say anything. But you must then also be willing […] to take responsibility for your own speech. If you use the N-word, do it with the awareness that you are consciously being racist and hurting people.”


Othering can be translated as making someone the other and is a significant part of identity processes. Othering is a mechanism of exclusion, which is determined by the fact that a group of people makes itself the standard and distances itself from another group of people, because they supposedly do not correspond to the standard. The consequence of this is the distinction between an Us and the Others, who are diametrically opposed to each other. Defining the Others within this mechanism is particularly important because the We can only persist if the Others serve as its basis of legitimacy. Thus, Othering provides the breeding ground for racism, sexism, transphobia, rejectionism, anti-Semitism, antiziganism, homophobia, and so on.


Prevailing social order worldwide in which men are given a prioritized position in all areas of life. This system leads to the oppression and exploitation of people read as women and girls at all levels of social life and fosters sexism.


Every person has a certain perspective on the world, which is conditioned by individual experiences, privileges and identity characteristics. Especially with regard to identities, the observation and categorization of the environment is predominantly carried out from a dominant white, male, heterosexual and educated point of view – that is, from a (supposedly) very privileged perspective. Because people rarely question or become self-aware of their privileges, they are seen as natural givens. At the same time, other identity characteristics and categories fade into the background: they are made invisible. Only when a self-reflective change of perspective is carried out does one’s own perspective become clear and can be expanded through empathy.

Power Sharing

People who are not affected by (specific) experiences of discrimination and use their privilege to address or redress grievances engage in Power Sharing. This power sharing can take different forms: For example, when spaces are opened up to allow all perspectives on a situation or circumstance to be heard. Power sharing also includes not derailing individual experiences of discrimination.

Martin Luther King’s (1929-1968) statement, “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” can serve as a guiding principle for power sharing. [“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”].


Privileges are opportunities and advantages that people who belong to the majority society, i.e. who are not marginalized, automatically receive and are therefore usually taken for granted.

The specific example of white privilege can be used as a proxy to trace criteria and mechanisms of privileged positions. For whiteness is primarily defined by the loss trace of non-whiteness. This means that white – like all groups – needs a counter pole through which it can legitimize its existence. Often, people are unaware of their privileges because they take them and the perspective that comes with them for granted and thus no longer perceive them.

The author David Foster Wallace developed a parable about this phenomenon in a speech delivered in 2005: “Two young fish are swimming along and happen to meet an older fish who is traveling in the opposite direction. He nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. What’s the water like?ʻ The two young fish swim on for a while, and finally one takes one look at the other and says, ‘What the hell is water?ʻ”

Perspectives on the world are always limited, rarely objective, and never all-encompassing. It is only with an awareness of individual privilege, as well as an awareness of specific challenges – one’s own and those of others – that one can reflect and open discourse. In this context, white privilege can be multifaceted: White people are not questioned about their race by strangers in Germany. They are also not praised for their good knowledge of German. They do not have to wonder if they did not get a job or an apartment because of this facet of their identity. Being white is not an obstacle, being read as BIPoC is.


Queer comes from the English language and means weird, peculiar, strange. It was often used synonymously with pervert. In this sense, queer was used for a long time as an insult for homosexual men. The term was reinterpreted positively and used as a self-designation in connection with the gay and lesbian movement since the 1980s, starting in the USA. Today, the term queer is widely established and is also used in politics and science. With the help of this term, polymorphous ways of living and thinking are bundled together that move beyond the heteronormative spectrum and also stand for sexualities that cannot be defined by the terms homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual, for example.


Race serves as a collective term to name the experiences and identity designations of non-white people in a cultural-sociopolitical dimension. In doing so, we deliberately refrain from using the German Rassebegriff, which refers to a subdivision of people on a biological level and thus corresponds to the English breed.

Accordingly, race refers to a social group embedded in a society that is endowed with comparable physical characteristics and also has a similar social horizon of experience. Race thus illustrates the theoretical construction on a social level.

Rape Culture

The term Rape Culture serves as a tool to name the trivialization and toleration of rape and sexualized violence as well as sexual harassment, which can be found not only in specific social classes but also in entire societies. In this context, the blame for a rape, for example, is often attributed to the person affected by implying that he or she provoked the act through his or her clothing or behavior, which can be described as Victim Blaming. At the same time, the behavior of the perpetrator is justified. Rape culture thus refers to a misguided idea of consent and consensuality, which reaches a peak in the Incel community, for example.


The concept of human “Rasse” (German for race)  is now considered scientifically untenable. Thus, the concept of race is now only used in relation to breeding animals. Nevertheless, in its historical dimension, it names a basis closely related to racism and race theory – especially in the 19th and 20th centuries – for the crimes of National Socialism, but also colonialism and the related trade with enslaved people, which was ultimately a condition for the Maafa.

In distinction to the German term of race, which usually works with biological factors to categorize people based on their appearance, the English race will be used, which describes a socio-political world of experience.


Racism refers to an ideological theory, now scientifically rejected, according to which people – based mostly on external characteristics such as skin color – could be divided into races. This racial theory goes hand in hand with the fundamental idea that some people are in some way “better” than other people (groups) and for this reason have the right to rule over others. In this way, various actions can and could be legitimized in the course of history in order to establish a certain world order and to establish hierarchies.

Racism is thus a historically grown and effective system of oppression with political, social and economic dimensions, which can come to bear in all areas of life. The hierarchization and categorization of people into groups enshrined in it was attempted to be justified on various levels: On the one hand, through supposed scientific findings that divided people – like plants or animals – into species and thus, in the sense of essentialism, attributed to them an inner being through the determination of external characteristics. On the other hand, one looked for justifications in written sources and found them in the Bible and in various philosophical writings, which one sometimes decontextualized or misinterpreted and thus instrumentalized. In this context, special attention should be drawn to the fact that the concept of racism is an invention of the 20th century. The excerpts from textual sources cited below date from a time when this theory did not yet exist as we understand it today. Not every racist statement automatically comes from a racist. Here it is especially important to examine the individual case and to consider the prevailing zeitgeist. Nevertheless, racist theories – in the case of Europe and the USA – assume white supremacy. In terms of colorism, this was mostly followed by People of Color, while Black people were at the bottom of this hierarchy. This is also one of the reasons for colonialism, the trade with enslaved people and the Maafa.

– Justifications for racism

In the course of the trade with enslaved people, which gained strength from the 17th century onwards, reference was made, for example, to the ancient scholar Aristotle, who understood slavery as a natural given. However, Aristotle did not choose race as a criterion for the legitimate enslavement of people, but rather the distinction between Greeks and non-Greeks. Only the latter were allowed to be traded as commodities. The Bible was also used to justify racism: Genesis 9:18-27 is about Noah and his three sons Ham, Japheth and Shem. Noah, drunk on wine and lying naked in his tent, was discovered by Ham, who, amused by the situation, called his brothers over. Japheth and Shem, however, covered their father and did not mock him – unlike Ham. When Noah awoke and heard of this, he cursed Ham and all his descendants: They were to serve Japheth and Shem and their descendants as “servant of all servants” (Genesis, 9, 25). Because according to biblical conception all people can be traced back to one progenitor, the reason for legitimate enslavement resulted from this passage. According to this conception, after the biblical Flood, the world population was formed from the descendants of Noah’s sons. From the Renaissance onwards, the question of where the descendants of the individual brothers might have settled was addressed. It was considered that Jafet’s descendants could be found in Europe. Shem’s descendants lived in Asia and those of Ham settled on the African continent. Accordingly – so one believed – Africans could be enslaved.

Philosophers, too, were repeatedly concerned with deriving reasons for racism that would justify individual and collective action. Among them was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the most important representative of the German Enlightenment, who divided the world’s population into races – in line with the prevailing zeitgeist, which wanted to categorize and explain everything. In Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764), he writes: “The [N-word] of Africa have no feeling from nature that rises above the lappish.” It should be noted that this publication fell into Kant’s pre-critical phase. If we consider his statements in the years 1781 to 1790, that is, the period in which his main works were also written, the philosopher continued to deal with racial theory, as in his essay Bestimmung des Begriffs der Menschenrasse (Determination of the Concept of the Human Race), published in 1785, in which he divides people into four races according to skin color and attributes certain character traits to them. A few years later, in 1788, in On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy, he again emphasizes the importance of the racial doctrine. He illustrates this with the example of the indigenous population groups of North America, whom he describes as “incapable of all culture” and places them at the lower end of a racist scale of values. This attitude of Kant’s is all the more surprising because he also penned the formula “Act in such a way that you use humanity, both in your person and in the person of everyone else, at all times as an end, never merely as a means” (Kant, AA IV, 429). Kant’s categorical imperative is thus also valid for non-white people. The philosopher thus moves in an open contradiction to himself when he denies BIPoC the gift of reason and, along with it, their autonomy – both essential components of being human. On the other hand, from the 1790s on, Kant turns against the trade with enslaved people as well as colonialism, which he still considered legitimate in the years before. How these statements and writings are to be evaluated and how they are to be understood with the rest of the philosopher’s work in terms of the spirit of the times is currently being researched.

– Dealing with racism in Germany

A frequently unnoticed problem in dealing with racism is that it is usually only considered racism if a statement or action was also intentionally meant to be racist by an individual. Thus, particularly positive racism, that is, a prejudice with a positive connotation, is rarely recognized as a racist statement. For example, “Latinxs are spirited and dance well.” Racism masquerades as a compliment here. The invocation of categorized people (in this case because of a person’s origin) as a collective subject is a racist statement, because the individual and specific talents are no longer considered, but as a representative of a group, the individual loses all individuality and is no longer perceived as an individual.

Another problem – especially common in Germany – is that racism is rarely discussed in a social dimension. This is because the concept of racism is still closely tied to the Nazi regime and has subsequently been largely banned. Ignoring structural racism, however, is the wrong approach: racism does not only take place in the form of police violence in the United States. Racism is also a problem in Germany, through which BIPoC are discriminated against, disadvantaged, threatened, insulted and attacked. The Federal Criminal Police Office recorded a total of 8,585 cases of hate crime against race and religion, specifically in the form of racism and anti-Semitism, in 2019.

To this day, racism is based on various justifications, most of which are unified by the idea of establishing the domination of white Europeans* over non-white persons. On the one hand, the naming of skin colors and the categorization of people according to them serve as characteristics for a racial-ideological scale of values – in the sense of colorism. On the other hand, certain characteristics, such as morality, intellect, autonomy and educability, were attributed to or denied to these groups. This sometimes still happens today, albeit in a modified form. Those who strive for an anti-racist social structure should recognize this historical structural dimension of racism and strive, among other things, not to perpetuate it. For the more realities of life an individual has in view, the more diverse the perspective on one’s own environment becomes and the more likely it is to be able to recognize and name imbalances.

Racism takes different forms. These include, for example, antiziganism and anti-Semitism or colorism. Racism is one of the most common forms of discrimination, along with rejectionism, sexism, classism and homophobia, among others.

Learn more about your own racism:


Reclaiming comes from the English word to reclaim and can be translated as to reclaim. It refers to a strategy of political self-empowerment in the form of appropriating discriminatory attributions and foreign terms. This includes, for example, the use of the N-word by Black people or the use of the derogatory term B*tch by women. In the course of reclaiming, queer has meanwhile become a term that – formerly used as a swear word – is now used to refer to oneself and others.


The capitalization “Black” makes it visible that it is not the use of an adjective and accordingly no color is meant, but a political self-designation. Thus, the term attempts to bundle social commonalities that result from the construct of racism. That is, it is about people who experience racism, thus “black” points to a political reality and identity. It is not at all about biological commonalities of a group. White is also a construct. To make it clear that this is also not a color designation but a political description, the term is used in italics.

Racial Segregation

Racial segregation in the USA, which was enshrined in law until 1964, refers to the so-called racial segregation, especially of white and black people, whereby Asian and Latinx people were also affected. This was based on the assumption of white supremacy over blacks and people of color. These divisions took place in all areas of life, such as education, medical care, occupations, and voting rights. For example, there were benches and drinking fountains in parks that Black people were not allowed to use. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Civil Rights Movement campaigned to repeal the discrimination against black people that was enshrined in law. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) played a key role in this.


The term sexism refers to discrimination against a person on the basis of gender. This is accompanied by stereotypes and attributions that are anchored within a culture and promote this discrimination. All people who are not read as cis men are more likely than average to experience sexism. People who experience or have experienced sexism are included under the umbrella term FLTI+ (female, lesbians, trans and inter people).

Sexism is considered one of the most common forms of discrimination, along with racism, antiziganism, anti-Semitism, rejectionism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, among others.

Learn more about your own sexism:


Slutshaming refers to the moral condemnation of women who lead a sexually self-determined – sometimes permissive – life. In this context, misogynistic insults are used to belittle, shame and disempower the person in question. In this context, women – in contrast to men, who exhibit identical behavior – are deprived of the right to position themselves as sexual beings. Often slutshaming also takes place in connection with rape culture and victim blaming.


The theory of Tokenism was coined in the late 1970s by sociologist Rosabeth Moss Kanter. She studied the hiring criteria of a large corporation, noting the “slippery slope principle,” or tokenism. Kanter noted that women who worked in this company had a symbolic role: Their employment served as an alibi to shield the company from accusations involving sexism and exclusion. They were used as representatives of the category of women. By becoming representatives of an entire heterogeneous group, they were no longer perceived as individuals. If one of these few women made a mistake, this mistake affected the external perception of the whole group. If, on the other hand, one woman was particularly good in her field of work, this was not inferred from the entire group, but she was regarded as an exceptional talent. Tokenism is thus close to essentialism. At the same time, tokenism does not only refer to women in a male-dominated environment – members of all marginalized groups can be affected by tokenism. In addition, people in their function as representatives are under enormous pressure of expectations.

Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is the term used to describe behavior by men that is harmful not only to themselves, but also to their environment and ultimately to society as a whole. The point here is not to label all men as destructive. Rather, the aim is to expose toxic behavior patterns that are linked to masculinity. Dominant and repressive behavior as well as homophobia, misogyny, aggressiveness, and violence may be mentioned here. In the case of domestic violence, out of a total of nearly 142,000 reported cases in 2019, 81% involved women who were psychologically or physically abused or imprisoned by their partner. In 125 cases, the violence culminated in femicide, the Federal Criminal Police Office survey shows. But men also fall victim to toxic masculinity: for 2019, out of a total of more than 181,000 violent crimes, the Federal Criminal Police Office recorded that more than 147,500 were committed by men against men. In addition, it is also about exposing clichés about the male gender role, for example with regard to which emotions men are allowed to show and which not.

However, the term is criticized because it is not clearly defined and has not yet been scientifically studied in the context of other concepts of masculinity. Nevertheless, since the #MeToo movement, it has been used as an instrument to name grievances.


The philosopher Judith Butler has coined the term Verlustspur (“traces of loss”). It points out that in the course of their identity formation, individuals adopt various identity categories for themselves. The conscious or unconscious decision for such a category is at the same time always a decision against another. Accordingly, what the subject is not always defines and conditions what it is. In this context, the category that the subject does not claim for itself is sometimes made invisible: a man is at the same time a non-woman; if we are white, it means that we are non-black, etc. Thus, the subject’s identities are formed from the trace of loss, which includes the negation of other possible identities as well as the demarcation from them.


Ableism refers to the social exclusion of people with disabilities or chronic illnesses from the majority society. People are reduced to (non-existent) abilities or characteristics. This is accompanied by othering.

Ableism is one of the most common forms of discrimination, along with racism, sexism, classism, antiziganism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.


The term Maafa was introduced by anthropologist Marimba Ani in 1988 and is Swahili for terrible disaster. Maafa refers to both the East African and transatlantic trades in enslaved people, as well as the genocides of African populations that usually accompanied colonialism. Their aftermath can still be felt today, for example, in the form of racism. Maafa thus serves as a term to summarize the crimes against black people.


Microaggressions refers to the emotional impact that experiences of discrimination – in a systemic as well as everyday sphere – have on marginalized people, thus bundling degrading messages, insults, degradations, etc. The sender of these (unconscious) messages are, for example, white people belonging to the majority society. Senders of these (unconscious) messages are, for example, white people who belong to the majority society. They direct these messages to Black people or People of Color.

Microaggressions can be divided into three different types, as suggested by author Tupoka Ogette:

  1. Microaggressions: (Deliberate) actions or statements that demean another person. This includes, for example, the use of racist symbols or language, such as the N-word.
  2. Microinsults: (Non-)verbal communication that is offensive, such as when a security person in a store assumes BIPoC are criminals and pays special attention to them.
  3. Micro-exclusions: Subtle form of communication that excludes BIPoC, for example, by asking where someone is “really” from. This is because this question implies that Germans have to be white and BIPoC are not allowed to feel at home in their own country.

Microaggressions are triggered by brief moments and encounters that, viewed in isolation, do not seem worth mentioning. They only become a structural phenomenon through their accumulated occurrence, which can be very painful for the persons affected.