I am brown, which is one of the many ways of telling how I look. And it is okay to define me or tell someone that she’s brown or dark colored. What is not OK is, thinking, believing or treating me mediocre and your own self superior than me!
This blog has been for very long time, on my mind, and I honestly don’t know why and for what I’ve been waiting and how come I hadn’t penned it down. But, finally, here I am #brownskin, #skincolor, #lifeingermany, #racism!
Somehow, while watching some clips on YouTube, I came across this incident where a couple of months ago, an Indian student was rejected an internship proposal by a German univ. prof. and the reason was believed to be the racist attitude of the professor.
Well, before I say anything, I’d like to clarify, as it is essential for quite a few, the real definition behind racism. Racism is basically,
Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
To that end, I am brown, which is one of the many ways of telling how I look. And it is okay to define me or tell someone that she’s brown. What is not OK is: thinking, believing or treating me mediocre and your own self superior than me!
Sticking to this definition and essence of the word racism, I am, right now, very pleased to share my story of racism with you all. I came to Germany in March 2013. I came here as a stranger, I didn’t know anyone, literally no one before I stepped in to Kaiserslautern. I was picked up by a German student, working in an organization from my university that aids international students with their arrivals and loads of other issues throughout their studies. Directly after my pick-up, I was taken to my apartment (which was also booked by this organization’s help). After I signed my contract and settled my stuff, I was brought to the university, where I called my family to inform that I’ve reached safely. I was given a quick tour and told to come next day in office hours to do formalities related to VISA, bank and much more. Well, why am I telling you that? And how does it even help? It helps. Though I don’t believe in *the first impression being the last impression* thing, my first impression about Germany and its people can be defined in two words :: #welcoming and #pleasant.
But OK, slowly those initial days passed, I had lesser contact with the international organization and more contacts with other students, professors and management people. The students include, naturally, both German and internationals. It took me 5 semesters to complete my masters, during which I did two side jobs (to support myself financially and also to learn more than lecture material). During this phase of jobs, which lasted for almost 3 semesters, I often had interactions not only with German professors but, the non-professors like secretary and other PhD students or working students in the department. And to my surprise, none of them, ever gave me an impression or I should re-frame, never did I ever experience any sort of uncomfortable or racist vibe from them. I, in fact, for most of the time, was with problems not being able to understand or solve a task was always helped and motivated not to give up. Remember, #welcoming and #pleasant!
Of course, university is not where you spend all your time. I lived in student apartment, where there was one care-taker for all the rooms. This place was more like a normal apartment, just different because you had to follow certain rules like, don’t be too loud, else you could be answering police (just kidding😁). For a lot of my friends and acquaintances, this guy was annoying and a bit strange and happen to dislike internationals. Well, I had more than a dozen of encounter with this guy, and I never, not even once felt what I’ve been told. Instead, he’d been pretty helpful and understanding, though straight forward, when it came to following rules. So, I am again back to #pleasant and #welcoming! So far so good,
In 2016, soon after my MS, I began with my PhD in the same university, but this time in a different department. I’ve been working there since 2 years now, and till date, I have never, I know it is pretty boring to be repetitive, but honestly, I haven’t had one moment of feeling where I have been mis-judged, thought of inferior, mis-treated, or whatever you’d frame as racist behavior. Now, coincidence can happen once, twice or last 3 times, but forever, no. I still stand with my #pleasant and #welcoming hashtags!
Having said that, I have absolutely made experiences where old people in buses or supermarkets look at me, but never in a way that makes me uncomfortable. It is normal, I come from Jaipur-a tourist town, and I can clearly remember myself a couple of years back in India, when I always used to look at tourists with tangled hair, shorts, slippers in 40°C trying to get a taxi or a guide. These people who look at me, don’t judge me, or at least, I never felt discomfort, nor they make faces looking at me nor they tell me to get out nor have they ever misbehaved with me. The last they expect me is to, talk in German because for most the working class, English isn’t a language. that brings them to a comfort zone, rather some of them are shy. And so am I, while talking in German, but if ever I have tried even in the worst grammar, pronunciation or whatever speaking to them in German, I’ve felt welcomed and helped. And, I am, right now, very pleased to share that I have never faced racism in Germany.
And for sure, this doesn’t invalidate or imply that the people those who have faced any sort of physical, verbal or visual form racism are lying. Unfortunate things happen, everywhere around the world. What I am trying to do is share my personal experience, and elucidate that we can’t define a country or its people based on this unfortunate happenings, rather look out for positive experiences, and not be the reason for them!