„I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.“Martin Luther King, Jr.
Q: Please introduce yourself to my followers and why it is important to so speak up…
A: My Name is Amivi Petra Etou-Assignon. I am 29 years old, living in Stuttgart (Germany) and I am mom of a 5-year-old boy. It is important to share our experiences with one another to learn and grow from it, and to see that we are never alone facing difficult situations and circumstances.
Q:Back in school, you already faced institutional racism. Tell me in which way?
A: Yes, in elementary school I faced racism. Classmates used to assault me and calling me names and made fun of my black skin. Even my teacher recommended me to a Secondary Modern School, and I was told by an early age that I will get married and start a family, because this would be typical for people like me and it would be a waste of time to send me right to a Grammar school.
Q: Why is it important that (black) people tell their stories about what they have been through in context of racism?
A: It is really important to speak up and show people that racism and institutional racism exists to this. We refuse to be quiet and suffer in silence. This treatment we have to endure is not okay and we will never get used to it. It affects our emotional and phsyhical health. We should also be an example to our children. Showing them we speak up for ourselves and demonstrating them that we will not accept nor tolerate such behaviour. We have rights, human rights and we are ready to fight for it.
Q: In your opinion, where exactly is the problem regarding racism in Germany? What must change in order to overcome racism?
A: The problem is that people barely admit their racist behaviour. They will also compare Germany to the USA and say stuff like “they are not even that bad compared to other countries”. The first step is to realise racist behaviour, but the realisation is in short supply. I remember a German TV-show which is called “Die letzte Instanz” where famous Germans were talking about racism. They agreed that it is not racist to use discriminatory terminology even though people feel hurt being called in a specific way. Furthermore, they agreed by saying that one should not make such a fuss and always „put on the shoe“ (meaning that people should not take the blame when accused of racist behaviour). So, we see it is a deep-rooted racist mindset which still exists. I have really no idea how to overcome this. Awareness training has shown little improvement so far…unfortunately.
Q: You shared an emotional video few weeks ago, in which your handsome child cries and says that he does not refer to himself as beautiful because of his black skin. Tell what did you think those words coming out of his mouth?
A: It is really sad and hurtful to see your own child having a breakdown. Society proves that White people go through life easier than POC. It is sad that even children experience that.
Q: You are about to marry next month; but you had to change the plan. Tell me what exactly happened?
A: My fiancé and I planned to marry in a village near Ludwigsburg where we are building our house. We gave all the required documents to the register office there. A few days later, we get a writing from the register office that they doubt my identity. My fiancé is supposed to have said on the phone that I was born in Germany, which he never did. I was born in Togo and came to Germany at the age of 2 years. So now the registry office want to investigate and demands birth documents from Togo which prove my personal details . I instantly knew that I am dealing (once again) with institutional racism. So, we consulted a lawyer and he tried to mediate with the registry office. But, the registry office still does not believe my point of view. We ended up consulting another registry office about 20 kilometres away in Stuttgart. They were totally shocked about what had happened to me and told me that I am German citizen, so it is no problem for me to get married. So next month we will marry at the registry office in Stuttgart.
Q: Why do you think that your marriage is being made difficult (on purpose)? In which way?
A: I think its still a problem for some authorities to see people with an African background marrying their native citizen. Especially in villages, people are not happy about it.
Q: What would you like to tell young children / people dealing with the same issue?
A: Never give up fighting for your rights. There will be always a way for you to get your right.
Q: What would you like to change if you had the power to do so?
A: That people are treated naturally without reservations and prejudices. That racism disappears from people’s minds and life can finally take place without discrimination.
I have already spoke to another interview partner (Candy Frankenstein) about the issue of racism in Germany in my blog but this is such an important subject to discuss. And do not get me wrong, publishing those stories is not the attempt of telling that all Germans are racists. I do believe that most people are friendly and open-minded BUT I have been dealing with this issue as long as I am in Germany. Maybe not everyday BUT it still occurs – after living here for more than 20 years (!) – and sadly, I am not the only one. It is important to speak up and that is what I try by publishing such interview, like this one with Petra.
Dear Petra, thank you for your courage and sharing your story. I hope one day, we will live in a world where hate, prejudices and degrading people based on their appearance will not be an issue anymore. It is way too much to handle and to deal with . I wish you and your little family all the best and have a beautiful wedding – keep telling and fighting against racism – it is still necessary!