What is the meaning of who is speaking? Hardly anything is more important for young colleagues than identity – and that changes journalism a lot.
The taz appeared three times on Monday in the ARD “Daily Topics”. Has had no text from previous years so explosive effect as the "Garbage" column the German-Iranian author * in Hengameh Yaghoobifarah. And for a very long time the editorial team has not quarreled like this.
After the publication, there were hailing statements of internal distancing and solidarity. And soon there was an objection that was incorrect, but it showed what it was about: "I find it interesting that so far only whites have positioned themselves against Hengameh," wrote a colleague. But in fact the dispute did not run between PoCs – Persons of Color – and whites, but between intersectional thinkers, mostly young colleagues, for whom identity is a central political category, and the rest of the editorial team.
It is a question of generations that will change journalism profoundly. The taz just never spoke openly about it. And that's their real problem right now.
There would have been an opportunity around 2018, when PoCs on Twitter described harrowing experiences of discrimination. They used the hashtag #MeTwo – based on the feminist # MeToo campaign, only for migrants, i.e. people from two cultures.
Not everyone was impressed. taz columnist Friedrich Küppersbusch grumbled: "At #MeDundundfuffzig it gets boring. Even if the left-handed, lactose-intolerant and hatefully misunderstood interior ministers have linked their misery to the world to their discrimination ”and“ sitting insulted in the corner ”.
The taz online and social media editor Juliane Fiegler was appalled: “You really can't believe it makes me almost speechless that these lines just went through and nobody said NO, STOP! called, ”she wrote. She was also for diversity of opinion. But this is about racism experiences. "And sorry: On the subject of racism, I personally find only ONE opinion ok."
In these sentences is where the differences lie: the question of what it means exactly who speaks. Younger colleagues in particular consider this to be crucial today. This was also shown by a colleague's tweet on Saturday: she would have "wished that all the white privilege people" had said nothing about the "rubbish" column. "The discourse should be led by those who really have something to say about structural discrimination."
Some colleagues saw a “ban on speaking” for whites roll on. A mistake. Because of course nobody is forbidden to speak. Rather, the expectation is to agree with the view that you have nothing to contribute to the discourse if you have no personal experience – and therefore to remain silent voluntarily, unlike Küppersbusch. In this way, the social debate should be able to be determined more by the disadvantaged and things may therefore change for the better.
And that is why a PoC author like Hengameh Yaghoobifarah also “everything” in the eyes of intersectional thinkers, as it was said. Anyone who denies that to her – and for example messing around with the column – is not a good "ally", ally of the discriminated, but defends his privileges. And whoever denies this to you and is a PoC yourself, is in this reading a "token", that is manipulated by whites. Belonging to a privileged or an oppressed collective is crucial. The latter is said to grow from the power of definition – the right to determine what is discriminatory. Racist is, for example, what is felt by one – in case of doubt only – PoC. This is imperative for intersectional thinkers.
Most of them came to the university around 2005 and were politically socialized there when identity, representation and privileges became central concepts. This goes back to theoreticians such as the Tunisian-French sociologist Albert Memmi, who died in May, who saw racism early on as a tool to defend individual privileges.
From the 1990s, this shaped parts of German educational sciences, especially adult education, and then parts of queer studies, social and cultural studies, ethnology, critical race studies and critical whiteness. Intersectional thinking has been booming since about 2010.
It spread so quickly that his followers did not notice it themselves. With the reference to expertise linked to identity, diversity quotas are called for today, which are supposed to bring “completely new perspectives”.
In fact, PoC are still clearly underrepresented wherever a lot of money is made and important decisions are made. At the same time, however, universities, foundations, advice centers, NGOs, parts of the public service and many media are full of young academics who think intersectionally. In many places, this is not marginalized, but in some cases has long been hegemonic. And these are also switching points of social power. This could now be seen from the massive solidarity with Hengameh Yaghoobifarah.
Older readers and editors at taz find it difficult to do this. Some see their blind spots in the worldview and in their own actions. Others are unsettled, fear accusations of racism and wonder where and how they should have a say as whites if they are actually only expected to "learn about their own racism". And still others find that the fixation on "private reflection" and identity leaves many important questions under the table. Or they come up against the fact that there is little room for the idea of mixed political organization and solidarity in the intersectional idea of anti-racism.
Conversely, younger colleagues accuse older people of offending the “garbage” campaign because they damage “their” taz, but not racist or sexist cartoons that only hurt others. For them, such a double standard is an expression of white privilege. And they don't want to let that go.
What can be gained from the political fixation on privileges is not clear. This primarily targets the subjects. On the one hand, change should come through moral appeals and the resulting willingness to cede unlawful advantages. Vassilis Tsianos, a sociology professor and co-founder of the "Kanak Attak" group, is supposed to give up whites and "actively unlearn power relationships" in a "neoprotestant self-discipline". "The organizational question is not asked, the ownership structure is not touched."
Criticism of the state is secondary at best. The other way in which intersectional thinkers want to bring about change is from above: Institutionally anchored diversity is supposed to provide nominally underprivileged people – who are, without exception, academics – access to power. "Reform elites without social movements," says Tsiannos.
One of the fields of this debate is the media. In addition to the stronger representation of minorities, there are three things that are required, some of which are required for good reasons, but have so far hardly been negotiated openly.
First, opinions should be treated differently, depending on who expresses them. Those who are suppressed are right at first. This is what imperatives stand for, such as those heard at #MeTwo: do not relativize, do not question, do not doubt. It's best not to say anything. Just listen. No matter how many wished for the “rubbish” column. It is not far to "not criticize". This is tricky for journalism that is useless without criticism, and also for social dialogue.
Second, expertise based on personal experience takes precedence. Today it is agreed that a roundtable discussion about racism without PoCs is unacceptable. The catchphrase is: barriers to knowledge. But what does that mean for other fields?
Thirdly: Discriminated persons should be guaranteed security against injuries. For journalism, this means preventing linguistic violence. The best known example is the ban on the offending N-word. However, the implications go beyond this: if the concept of violence tends to be withdrawn from social negotiation and transferred to the power of individual definition, it is bound to have no boundaries. Even a sentence like the one by Küppersbusch described at the beginning can then be interpreted as racist – and would therefore have to be deleted. Extremely delicate.
So far, this generation conflict has hardly been discussed in the taz. An exception is one Text by colleague Ambros Waibel from 2018. There he accused the “age cohort 50+”, who “certainly was always committed”, of “leaving the boy politically a huge disaster”. He recommended that they "listen to boys" for once. And he was not wrong. Because if earlier generations of leftists had been more successful, many battles would no longer have to be fought today.