I am of the opinion that massive, proactive measures against xenophobia, which is approaching dangerous levels, are long overdue, not in order to dissuade the hate-filled German citizens who display fascist tendencies or the supporters of those groups, but rather reinforce the positive attitude of those citizens who express openness towards foreigners (about 30 percent according to the latest poll by the Institute for Applied Social Sciences, INFAS) and to provide objective information to that segment of the population that might distance themselves from foreigners, but who do not yet have strongly negative feelings towards them (50 percent). Above all, emotional prejudice against foreigners must be prevented from becoming engrained and embedded in the minds of young Germans.
Depict Foreign Doctors in Elementary-School Textbooks
I can only briefly mention a few examples of what needs to be done:
• An American initiative that aims to break down prejudices against people of color could be used as a model, and foreigners could be depicted as students, teachers, doctors, etc., in German elementary-school textbooks.
• In order to dismantle children’s prejudices against other races and ethnic minorities, the preschool television series “Sesame Street” showed black and Puerto Rican children and figures in the original U.S. version. It is precisely these segments that are not shown in the Federal Republic! The development of these sorts of children’s programs in German society is urgently needed.
Also necessary are informative television productions and commentaries that include concrete statistics and illustrations emphasizing, for example, the billions that foreigners have contributed to the gross national product over the years. (What percentage of the average family income does that add up to?) Or information on their contribution to the state pension fund. (What does that mean from the perspective of the individual German pensioner?) Or information on the employment distribution patterns of foreigners. (What would their sudden return mean for the mining, foundry, construction, service, and tourist industries? This should include interviews with employers in these sectors).
To be sure, these short-term measures in the area of media policy cannot eliminate the actual causes of xenophobia, but they can act as a counterbalance to artificially elevated fears, the manipulation of emotions, and the deliberate destruction of our domestic peace.
Source: Elçin Kürsat, “Ausländerhaß zerstört den inneren Frieden” [“Xenophobia Destroys our Domestic Peace”], Vorwärts, no. 20, May 13, 1982, p. 15.
Translation: Allison Brown