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Violence against immigrants - March 1999 

From: Kerstin Otto <kotto@tak.schule.de>

Hello everybody- 
last week, students from a Hamburg high school wrote e-mail messages regarding violence against immigrants/foreigners in Germany. They cite the cases of immigrant homes being burned down or about an Asian woman being pushed down the stairs. When the woman reported it to the police they didn't believe her. They asked what your country does to help foreigners, what the police can do and what individuals can do? 

Violence against immigrants is a sad reality in Germany. But not only in Germany. In February, an unarmed West-African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, was shot to death in the hallway of his apartment building in the Bronx by four white New York City policemen who fired 41 shots at him. Many members of minority groups complain about police misconduct and brutality. Police officers are abusing their authority and their guns, they say. This was not the first incident of police brutality. The brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King by white policemen in Los Angeles in 1991, started a discussion about racism and abuse within the police departments in the U.S. 

Does your city have any programs to prevent violence against immigrants/minorities? Is it enough to employ more minority police officers??? Are there organizations who offer workshops to help ease racial tensions? Does your school offer programs that help prevent conflicts? If you were mayor of your hometown, what would you do? Put all racist people behind bars? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. 

I would love to hear from you. Maybe Germans and Americans can learn from each other ('s mistakes :-) ) 

Please send your thoughts to teenage_life@tak.schule.de

Thank you. 
Kerstin Otto 

Here are the initial letters from students in Hamburg and the responses:

Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 
From: Mona, Hamburg

My name is Mona, I am a 15-year-old girl from Hamburg in Germany. I am in the Matthias-Claudius-Gymnasium in the 9th form. Most pupils of my English group are on a classtrip now, so we can write E-Mails in our English- lesson. We have read in our Englishbook a story about a girl , who was attacked by hooligans because she is a foreigner. In Germany there are a lot of foreigners, for example Italians, Asians, people from Turkey and so on . I know an Asian woman who was pushed down the stairs by an old man. She was very angry about it and told a policeman what had happend. When the policeman heard that she was not badly hurt he said that everything was allright and he was sure that the old man hadn´t pushed her down the stairs. 

I think that is unfair. Some houses where immigrants live were attacked and burned down. But the police only comes when it is too late. Are there hooligans in your country who attack foreigners? What does the police do against it? Are there any groups against racism? What are they doing to help? 

Please write back. I´m very interested in discussing these problems.

Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 
From: Julian (PUL), Hamburg

I`m a 15-year-old boy. My name is Julian but my friends call me PUL. I live in a village near Hamburg. In Gearmany there are many foreigners and some have problems with hooligans who are often "Neo Nazis". The hooligans come at night and shout bad things about foreigners and destroy their houses and lives. And when immigrants phone the police the hooligans run away so the police can`t do anything because they have not any proofs.
What do you think about this problem? Have the foreigners similar problems in your country? Please write back. 
Yours PUL 

Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 
From: Lâle, Hamburg

I`m a 15-year-old girl from Hamburg, Germany. My name is Lâle, my father is from Turkey, and so I´m interested in what your country does to help foreigners. Here in Gemany the police only start helping when something has happened to these people. I know the police cannot do anything before something happens or before some people are threatened. In Germany there are some houses where only immigrants and foreigners live. It often happens that hooligans burn that kind of houses down. 
Are there similar incidents in your country? I hope you`re interested in discussing this subject. 
Yours Lâle 

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 
From: Brandon from Atlanta, Georgia 

In America we face the same problems you do in Hamburg about racism. Over here, it is not as bad as it used to be. Atlanta has many programs to help erase racial tension in the Metro Atlanta Area. I feel like in Atlanta people are employing others not because of their color or religious background . The employers are hiring people based on skill and how smart people are. If I was mayor of Atlanta, I would make sure that all racist groups were no longer existent and if they tried to protest, then I would throw them in jail. 

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 
From: Patrick from Atlanta, Georgia 

Hallo everyone! 
This is Patrick commenting from Atlanta, Georgia. I personally feel that it is very sad that people don't have the option to live where they want to live. A lot of people all over the world seem to think that just because they are successful or have more advantages in life that they don't have to help anyone else. It's almost like, I've got mine, you go get yours. A lot of people fail to realize that you have to help someone just like someone helped you. 

In response to the West African male that got shot 41 times in his New York apartment home, I think that there is a lot of hidden racism. Just think about it; a man comes home from a possible hard day of work, he sticks his key in the door and all of a sudden 41 shots are fired. What happened to "freeze!" or "stop!"? Most of the time people move to another place in search of better opportunities. These four cops should be sent to jail for this. 

There is not much that normal citizens can do because if we are caught possibly hiding an immigrant, then we could go to jail or be fined. Nothing can be done until laws or people's hearts change. 

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 
From: anonymous, Atlanta

Hello to everyone! 
I am commenting on the incident of the Asian woman being thrown down the stairs. Such news is quite disturbing. Such a cime should have a just punishment. Everyday people are being thrown into the mix with each other which may be the main problem. Crowding in our large cities may be the cause of our problems. People get very insecure when they are in a congested environment; which may lower a person's tolerance to everyday occurances. A prime example would be traffic and the work place. People as a whole must learn to change their overall perception of others. It's easy to criticize others by appearance, knowledge and backround. Is the world destined to be a world of hate and prejudice? Will such things continue to haunt us in the new millenium?

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 
From: (Angry and Upset) Stefanie of Georgia 

My opinion on violence against immigrants/minorities is that it is so wrong. My parents raised me in a very loving family with a lot of relatives. They've always told me that no matter who the person was, they should be treated with the same respect as everyone else. I feel that it is wrong to do things to people of different races or places of origin. Such as the Asian woman who was pushed down the stairs, and no one doing anything to help her because she's Asian. I hate that. It makes me sick to hear things like that. No matter what the race the woman was, she has the same right as I do. As we all do. 

Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1999 
From: Rob in Findlay, Ohio 

Hallo everyone! 

This is Rob H. in Findlay, Ohio. In response to the West African male that got shot 41 times in his New York apartment home, I think that there is a lot of hidden racism. Just think about it; a man comes home from a possible hard day of work, he sticks his key in the door and all of a sudden 41 shots are fired. What happened to "freeze!" or "stop!"? Most of the time people move to another place in search of better opportunities. These four cops should be sent to jail for this. 

There is not much that normal citizens can do because if we are caught possibly hiding an immigrant, then we could go to jail or be fined. Nothing can be done until laws or people's hearts change. 

Expressing views, Rob 

Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 
From: Ben in Findlay, Ohio 

Dear Pul, 

I think the problem you describe is a worldwide phenomona know as racism. It is evident in almost every place inhabited by Europeans/Americans. It is a part of the Western man's genetic make-up to hate. The things you describe happen all over the world every single day. I would not worry about them if I were you. Just mind your own and everything will be fine. People have the right to hate in America too, and believe me they use it.

yours, ben 

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 
From: L. Laux in Findlay, Ohio 

Dear Ben, I disagree with your thoughts on racism. It is NOT genetic. We are not born prejudiced. We are taught to dislike / hate people that are not like ourselves. Who teaches us this? Our parents, relatives, society, teach us to distrust and then dislike and then fear other people who do not look like us. Have you ever seen the musical / movie "South Pacific"? It's more than a love story. It's a story about our learned prejudices and how you can overcome them if you try. We must all try if we are ever to live together in harmony on this planet without war. These are my thoughts on racism. 
L. Laux 

Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 
From: Matt in Findlay, Ohio 

Too whom it may concern: Hello! My name is Matt C. and I am a student in Findlay, Ohio USA. I believe racist violence has declined by over 200 to 300 percent in history. From slaves who are not allowed to make a living and were treated horribly just for learning. To today when African Americans stand side by side in corporations, government, and social class. Racism is at an all time low and has been for years and years! Though, even where we are today is not enough. Rodney King, and others have been victims of racial violence. This is a dark blemish in the face of minorities. They have come so far, but things like this prove just how far we haven't come. We as a nation are supportive of all men and women, but as individuals competing in a spot on a job we are still likely to be accepted. The problem lies within individuals. We must recognize our own weakness into prejudice, and correct it. This is difficult, because there is a certain embarassment in allowing others to realize you have been prejudiced. I would try and face your fears. Realize that they are just as intelligent as you are. They have the same strengths, thoughts, and personalities that you share. Together we have waged a war with racism, but as individuals we must realize where our prejudice is and abolish it. How difficult it may be, I know that we can. 

Thank You. 

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 
From: Temin Wu


I agree with what L. Laux stated, racism does not grow within a person's heart and mind without some social influences. Stereotyping and generalization are also the causes of racism. If people see a foreigner as an individual instead of ''one of them'', racism would be eliminated. Maybe you had a bad experience when they encounter someone from a certain country, but that doesn't mean that all people from that country are bad (just think of how many times you get hurt physically or emotionally by the people from the same race as you are). A person from a different cultural background might not think and feel exactly the same as you do, but as human beings, we all laugh when we are amused, we all bleed when we wound, and we all hurt when we are discriminated, we are all people with feelings. ''You cannot judge a book by its cover'', true friendship and love can be established between people from different races, once you get to know a person from another culture, you'll see how rich and beautiful their life can be. There's more than one bright star on the sky. A homogeneous society is just as boring as shopping in a store with only one brand of goods. Diversity of cultures brings a brighter future with more ideas and improvement. We'll build our future together and share the joy. 

Racism, stop it. 

Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 
From: Angel in Findlay, Ohio 

Hello Temin Wu, 
I couldn't agree with you more. I look at the world and what I see makes me want to cry! It hurts to see so much hatred towards people who are different. I am fortunate to live in a town with little racism, but my heart goes out to all those treated so unjustly. I go to a school with many varieties of people, but it makes each of them a "somebody". Would't it be so boring if every one were exactly alike?! If people would look at others as unique creations of God, which is really the ONLY thing EVERYBODY has in common, then all people would be respected. No one is better than any body else! And I hope that every body will know this soon! 

Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 
From: Deutsche Schule Genua, Italy 

We'd like to give our opinion on the problem of violence against immigrants,
talking especially about our city, which has very special problems. 
Generally we have to say that there isn't so much violence against 
foreigners in Italy like in Germany or in the USA. That is maybe because
there are fewer strangers here than in other countries. 

But racism exists also here. Most of the foreigners who have come to Genoa are living in the historical centre; if you go there you hardly find any Italian. As Genoa has the most important harbour of Italy, there are many immigrants who have arrived by ship from Albania or Africa. Italians try to keep a distance to those people, but not seldom does it happen that Italians use violence against foreigners, or vice versa, sometimes even foreigners are fighting against each other. To prevent that kind of crime, police squads patrol through the alleys and the administration of the town tries to assure 
Italian citizens that the historical centre is a wonderful place to live in, 
in order to turn the centre again into an attractive place for the average

A high percentage of immigrants who live in Genoa are women, coming from countries like Albania, the former Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Senegal, etc. Some are very young girls who've come to Italy looking for a way to escape from poverty. But when they arrive here they're forced to sell their body to earn some money. This type of "slavery" is very common: teenagers have to 
prostitute themselves. Their living conditions are miserable, and that's why 
teenagers have to work without being able to respect the basic rules of
hygene: the consequences are serious and even dramatic, for the client and 
for the girl, too [AIDS is rather widespread here]. The only people who earn some money from this terrible situation are the criminals who use those teenagers and destroy their lives. 

Certainly we can't stop others from coming here, because they are forced to do so by poverty or by political reasons. But maybe we could help them a little bit in trying to support them with money, directly sent to their countries, in order to produce jobs over there. 

Bye! Francesca M., Maria Elisa R., Michela I., & Katrin L. 

Date: Mon, 05 Apr 1999 
From: Greg in Findlay, Ohio 

I agree that violence against minorities is wrong but no matter what you do it will always be a HUGE issue among people, but if there are truly people out there that believe God created all men equally then maybe prejudice will die off and go away but until that day we need to stand up for what we believe in, and for what is truly just and correct, we have to stop being intimidated by the people who are prejudiced and start intimidating them. But, right now all we can do is pray and hope that tomorrow will bring peace and prejudice will finally die. 
Thanks for taking the time to read my opinion, 

Date: Wed, 07 Apr 1999 
From: Angel in Findlay, Ohio 

Hello, It is very depressing to see what is going on in Kosovo, and I pray always for those people. Our school and town has sent relief boxes to the Albanians. We did the same thing for the victims of hurricane Mitch. I am thankful to live in a town with very little racism, and hardly ever is there a case of violence against some one because of their race. Unfourtunately, we are too small Albanians to come and stay here. But there are other larger cities in the USA that are setting up shelter for the people comming here. So we do what we can for those who are still in Albania. I hope that government officials will swallow their pride and accept that people are different, but are none the less people. My heart goes out to those homeless with no where to go and no one to accept them. 

Last updated April 30, 1999