Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Racist Campaign Posters and the Monocultural Bundestag

Returning to the issue of campaign posters, controversy over one that I previously mentioned is continuing. The poster in question comes from the Greens in a western German town (Kaarst near Düsseldorf) and depicts a naked African woman from behind being held by a white woman. The text says: "The only reason to vote black" (Der einzige Grund, schwarz zu wählen). From one perspective, this is a provocative and witty attempt to campaign against the CDU (black)--and reminds me of the CDU's own 1972 "Black is beautiful" poster. Despite the local party's attempts to justify the ad--citing the Greens' commitment to Weltoffenheit and tolerance, as well as its tradition of "sassy" ideas (See Critical Witness blog) --many individuals and groups such as Brothers Keepers, a well-known transnational anti-racism (musical) group have denounced the adds as "using and strengthening racist and sexist associations" (See Brothers Keepers).

This shows how sensitivities about ethnicity and race are heightened in contemporary Germany--and, at the least, a more wide-ranging discussion about these issues may transpire. Moreover, the continued lack of voice that this large segment of the population has in German politics might be addressed. According to the 2005 microcensus, fully 19% of the German population today has a Migrationshintergrund (migration background, see

But, there is certainly a lot of progress that must be made. The out-going Bundestag had a grand total of 11 (eleven, elf, onze) members with a Migrationshintergrund (See here). That constitutes exactly 1.80% of all members of the body (612 in the 15th Wahlperiode). Again, less than 2% of the lower house, which is supposed to represent "the people," shares the characteristics of almost a fifth of the German population. This segment of the population is larger than the population of the old East Germany.

Come to think of it, not only is the Bundestag disproportionally composed of folks without a migration background (I don't know what the correct term is today--white?), but it is also still pretty male. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 32.2 % of the Bundestag is female--not as equal as world leaders Rwanda (56.3%), Sweden (47%) or South Africa (44.5%), but at #19 better than Canada (22.1%), France (18.2%) or the U.S. House of Representatives (16.8%, tied with Turkmenistan) (See Still, there is a lot that needs to be done to make the Bundestag look more like the country.

--Eric Langenbacher

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