“Use your anger”
Tupoka Ogette refuses to leave the field to racism. She develops strategies to deal with it.
“I was born in Leipzig in 1980; my mother is a white German, my father a black Tanzanian. I experienced everyday racism as a child. Twenty years later I found the same thing happened to my sons. Then a whole new anger rose up in me. The civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said: ‘You should be angry. You shouldn’t be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It devours its host. It does nothing to deal with the object of its discontent. Use your anger.’ I did, and in 2012 developed a workshop for parents of kids of colour. There we work together to develop strategies for how parents can support their children in dealing with everyday racism. I also now advise and help schools, parties, editorial offices, cultural institutions, businesses and individuals in setting out on a path critical of racism.
“I don't think my children or my children’s children will ever live in a society free of racism. Racism has existed for centuries and is deeply rooted at all levels of society. But I notice that more and more we can talk about racism. As a child, I had hardly any words for what happened to me. That’s why as an adult I’ve made it my job to find these words. Because as soon as you have words for something, it becomes real.
There is a dangerous polarisation in our society.
“The attack at Hanau appalled me. The reason it’s so tragic is that it came as no surprise. Victims of racism have long warned of a dangerous polarisation in our society. I’m also afraid for my now grown-up children. At the same time, something in me fights against surrendering to this fear. I had a reading in Cologne shortly after the attack. It was touching to see how many people came there to mourn, and to ask: ‘What can we do?’”
Tupoka Ogette is an anti-racism trainer and advisor, based in Berlin. Her book Exit Racism. Rassismuskritisch denken lernen (Exit Racism. Learn to think critically about racism) appeared in 2017. In addition, she produces the podcast tupodcast – Gespräche unter Schwestern (tupodcast - conversations among sisters).
Report: Helen Sibum
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