– Cigdem Toprak is a journalist and author. Her book “This is our country too! Why being German is more than being German ”(Chr. Links Verlag) has been published
When a Turkish friend in the Bohemian district of Cihangir in Istanbul asked me in September 2014 at our regular cafe where I had been in recent weeks, I said: On vacation. ‘And where?’ She asked. I said: in Erzincan. She laughed out loud and said to her friend: “Is there even a sea there?”. She, a West Turkish woman from Antalya, an aspiring actress living internationally in Istanbul, joked about the fact that as a German-Turk I apparently did not understand the word “tatil” (German: vacation). This mainly means beach vacation. .
But she also joked that I was in Eastern Anatolia. According to their worldview, the summer weeks were spent at beach club parties in Cesme on the Aegean Sea, not in mud houses in the mountains of Eastern Anatolia.
It was a relegation – which I, as a German-Turk with East Anatolian roots, should feel twice. What she was doing was so obvious that when she didn’t want to stop rubbing her boyfriend said, “Okay, that’s enough, you know exactly what she means.” He shook his head at her behavior, like me and everyone else I’ve told this.
Your comment hurt me, but it didn’t make me pass out. Because I know, she’s not going to demonstrations to preserve Hasankeyf, the old city fortress in Batman province, which will be overrun by the Turkish government for a dam. She doesn’t tweet about how arrogant and marginalizing the Kemalist elite can be. It doesn’t pretend to be something that it isn’t. It is not the left, it is not politically active.
On the other hand, to find humiliation, arrogance, marginalization and racism where you least expect it – I’ve been through that in my German homeland since I can remember: under the political left. It happens in my personal relationships as well as in my professional environment. And it made my life difficult for a long time, it made me helpless because they tried to convince me that everything was fine with everyone but me – politically, socially and personally.
This isn’t left bashing. If I had to choose between right and left, I would stay left. My family has always defined themselves politically on the left. I have relatives in Turkey who belonged to the leftist student movement. And I know many leftists who struggle with the double standards of many of their comrades. However, I find that their disappointment with their political camp is causing them to distance themselves from it – because I feel they too are unable to wake up the left. That they wake up from their dream, that they are all and always human, good and correct. And don’t forget how inhuman, how bad, and how false they can be.
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The political left is no better than what they think they are fighting against. They too reduce people to their origins, they discriminate too much, they also represent a classism precisely because they prefer identity politics to the class issue, and there is also an incredible cultural racism among them.
When I think of the AfD, of right-wing populism and right-wing extremism, I immediately think of all the voices that heavily criticize it. For a moment, I am relieved that there is a strong movement in Germany fighting for people like me. The relief only lasts for a second, because then I remember all the experiences in my life that tell me: No, you don’t fight for people with a migrant background when you criticize the AfD or the police brutality against people with non-German roots. You fight for yourself.
Why else do I have to experience exclusion, arrogance and cultural racism from people who understand each other on the left? My class teacher on the left called me no less a foreigner than anyone else, and he also accused me of “we” (I myself am one of the Alevi Zazas) oppressing the Kurds in Turkey. A German fellow student in London who had a badge on her backpack that said ‘No one is illegal’ ignored me all year round. A journalist on the left said of my studies at King’s College London that I had escaped my environment.
I look like a street girl, unable to be intellectual
In college, my bosses used their power and abused it when they found that I had different political views from theirs, even though one of them initially yelled at the secretary for mispronouncing my first name out of ignorance. And also in journalism I notice that the left-liberal media prefer to avoid me because I think differently, speak differently and look different from them. And it’s not about my dark hair and brown eyes, but about my heavily made-up eyes, my earrings and my leather jacket. I look like a street girl, unable to be intellectual.
And yes, many leftists are also racist. I had to experience that time and again. It is a cultural racism that is noticeable in the way they deal with the “other”. Many of them also rule out other things, consider them inferior, want to rule over what doesn’t look like them.
Certainly if there is consensus in our society that racism is a no-go, the sentences of many right-wing extremists start with the well-known sentence: “I am not a racist, but …”. And the Left also hides their racism, but it works more skillfully for them because they say, “I’m an anti-racist, so I can’t be a racist.” So it is becoming increasingly difficult to denounce racism.
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Jan Böhmermann, who is not a leftist politician, but one of the prominent opponents of the political right and is funded by all of us, racistically insults the Turkish president and tries to make us believe that he is thereby protecting the rights of the Kurds, journalists and oppressed in Turkey. protects defended, although he is really only pursuing his own goals.
Because for him, like many on the left, the problems of people with a migrant background are merely tools for their political ideologies, or they serve to increase their awareness. The populism of the left today does not hope for high election results, but for likes and retweets – and thus the greatest good and the strongest power tool in our digital age: attention.
The people they claim to speak for are only a means to an end
The dangerous thing about many leftists is that the alleged victims for whom they are trying to speak, the weak and those with a migrant background, are dehumanized by them. They are treated as objects, not people. And their political opponents are in their eyes not individuals, but images of the enemy. All these conflicts, all these problems that exist in our society and that we think we only see with the right, don’t shy away from the political left.
But it’s not just about saying that racism is everywhere, but also about the fact that the left claims and exploits this topic for itself and then believes they are the heroes of people with a migrant history in Germany – that is, from people like me. They are not my heroes, they never were.
At the same time, however, they believe they can speak for me, stand up for my rights – and they believe that my political views can be derived from my identity, one of the many identities I have.
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The views of people with a migrant background are much more differentiated and complex than what the political left seeks to infiltrate the public debate about exclusion and recognition as the only truth. I observe and experience this time and again both in my personal environment and in my journalistic work.
Not all people with a migration background are bothered by the question “Where are you from?”. Not all communities want to be seen as “German,” and not all see this country as thoroughly racist. Their opinion about their experiences and problems in this country is not ideologically motivated. You are critical of society. More critical than the left.
Finding evil where you didn’t expect it makes you stupid
Why is this text directed to the left and not to the right?
Because humanity, tolerance, respect and recognition are not the maxim of a political camp. They are universal and show themselves, always revealing themselves when you meet a so-called “other”. And many leftists are anything but tolerant and respectful of “others”. They can be authoritarian, marginalizing, arrogant and violent. But finding evil where you least expect it makes you stupid, especially when you have to defend yourself the hardest. It’s also important to write this down because that’s where – on the left – I suspected the least discrimination and arrogance.