After an interview of the chairman of the police union in the daily newspaper “taz”, the Initiative Schwarze Menschen (ISD) Bund e.V. has written the following open letter:

Dear Mr Witthaut,

After reading your interview, which appeared in the taz on December 22, 2012, we, as activists of the Initiative Black People in Germany, unfortunately have to conclude that you, as president of the police union, also prefer to “explain away” the problem of institutional racism and thus continue to promote the structural racism with which Black people and People of Color are confronted in Germany.

After reading the interview, we would like to know what definition of racism you are working with? From our point of view, racism cannot and must not be reduced to the problem of right-wing extremism. Instead, racism also refers to racisms that emanate from institutions of society, from its laws, norms, and internal logic. The individuals who work in these institutions and are thus representatives of them carry their advantages into them and thus an entanglement of prejudices and power occurs, which is oriented towards the discourse of the majority society. Regardless of the extent to which actors within institutions act intentionally or not. Therefore, power asymmetries must be included in an adequate definition of racism.

People with migration histories are repeatedly confronted with unequal treatment, which ultimately results in the reproduction of racisms. This type of “disparity” is also found in your comment about police hiring practices. Here you said:

“Our requirements are high, including health requirements. But we’re against lowering the level of the recruitment tests because we don’t want to create second-class police officers.”

The assumption that people with a migration history are less qualified or unable to meet the health demands of the police is in itself a hierarchization process. So, are people with a migration history in principle unsuitable for the police service, and if so, what do you think explains this?

In the course of the debate on the NSU murders, in which the German security authorities were accused of failing to “recognize racism” and the widely discussed “racial profiling”, i.e. police measures that use discriminatory attributions (such as ethnicity, skin color, national origin or religion) as a basis for identity checks, those responsible repeatedly denied that there was a structural racism problem in their ranks.

It is all the more interesting that with your following statement you not only trivialize everyday racist experiences of Black people, but also legitimize the “racial profiling” just described: “In the region where I come from, for example, there is a home for asylum seekers where the police know that narcotics are being trafficked. There are a lot of people from African countries living there, many of them dominate the drug scene.” and “If a police officer then sees someone like that at the train station in Osnabrück, the likelihood that they’re carrying dope is pretty high.”

What does “someone like that” mean in this context. Do the police know all the Africans living in the asylum center? Or is it that the police are profiling based on external characteristics?

Those who fail to recognize here how racist and discriminatory such thinking is, of course, also fail to recognize what institutional racism is.

Mr. Witthaut, we are therefore not surprised that you do not like an independent complaints office and say “I think it is wrong to place the police under blanket suspicion” because “that is what is suggested by such a complaints office . Consequently, you can also understand why we feel the same way. We consider it wrong to be put under general suspicion and to be treated differently than the white majority society because of our external characteristics.

Nevertheless, you seem to have no sympathy for our criticism of “racial profiling,” as you retort “If I have nothing to hide, then I can be controlled, right?” and fails to recognize that it is discriminatory and exclusionary when people are constantly treated as if they are potential criminals. And here, too, the same can be said back to you: If the police have nothing to hide, why not introduce an independent supervisory body?

So it would be helpful for us if you could explain again why the police should be measured by a different yardstick than we are?

We reserve the right to publish this correspondence.

With best regards

Initiative Black People (ISD) Bund e.V.

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