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COMMUNITY: Zündstoffe

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Siegessäule - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 7/2020 vom 29.06.2020

Ever since the pandemic began in March, the message from institutions across the board is that “we“ can get through this together, but for (queer) people of color and refugees, it turns out this “we“ is quite exclusive

Artikelbild für den Artikel "COMMUNITY: Zündstoffe" aus der Ausgabe 7/2020 von Siegessäule. Dieses epaper sofort kaufen oder online lesen mit der Zeitschriften-Flatrate United Kiosk NEWS.

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Mahmoud Hassino startet Syria‘s first LGBTI* magazine and now works for gay counseling network Schwulenberatung

Queer positions and critiques

Although the coronavirus has been called the great equalizer, it has exposed the depth of structural and systemic discrimination in societies. Across the media and through public announcements, phrases like “We are all in this together” or “We will ...

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POLITIK: Zweitklassig
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... get through this together” emerged. But who exactly is this “we”?

Communities of color, refugees, and LGBTIQ people of color were exposed and, for the most part, cut out of the circulation of information. The efforts to provide information in several languages were minimal, with almost no information available for deaf and homeless people. Refugees were kept in crowded camps with preexisting hygiene and sanitary problems. East European workers were flown into Germany amidst concerns about their safety and working and housing conditions. Amongst concerns for the harvesting season, some officials suggested granting refugees work permits to help save agricultural crops. When the Flüchtlingsrat Göttingen warned against abuse of refugee rights, racist and classist comments flooded their online channels. The fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the economic effects of the lockdown prompted people to cling to the familiar. And the familiar is still entrenched in a long history of patriarchy, colonialism, racism, homophobia and discrimination. The “we” turns into othering rather than unifying.

The lockdown left the most vulnerable without access to adequate help and services. Organizations working with migrants and refugees had to shut down group offers and minimize contact with their beneficiaries. LGBTIQ migrants and refugees had to go through confinement facing hate speech, bullying and violence. When government public services were shut down, refugees had to survive lockdown with expired documents, which prevented them from being able to use banking and money transfer services. A valid identification document is mandatory for non-Germans. The government did not take that problem into account and did not provide solutions for it when it arose.

Many organizations resorted to online tools in order to provide services, counseling and psychosocial support for their beneficiaries. However, asylum seekers and some refugees lack the resources to be able to access these services. Asylum seekers and refugees living in camps and intake centers do not have access to stable WIFI connections. The mobile data plans could be very expensive for most of them and therefore inaccessible.

The hospitals’ policy of “only in case of emergency” prevented refugees and migrants, some of whom suffered critical conditions, from accessing health services. Their language skills prevented them from explaining their conditions. They were told by nurses, patronizingly and condescendingly, to seek psychotherapy to deal with their traumas. “We are all suffering in times of corona,” some were told. Another “we” that excluded the vulnerable from the right to medical care.

The conspiracy theories about COVID-19 reflected a white privileged attitude. The more vulnerable groups have greater concerns for their future and livelihood because they are more at risk of losing their jobs due to the existing systemic discrimination. The anti-lockdown protests were terrifying for migrant and refugee communities. The racist, xenophobic and antisemitic slurs that accompanied them were more destabilizing than the fear of the eminent economic recession. The support for reinforcing systemic inequalities was alarming.

Even before the ease of lockdown measures, people living in poverty and people of color became the foot soldiers exposed to coronavirus. Their work ensured that the more privileged can stay at home.

It is true that Germany’s lockdown measures as well as the aid packages helped the country to go through the most difficult months of the pandemic with minimal loss of life and economic hardship. Still, there is a lack of a holistic picture to help understand the impact of the pandemic on marginalized communities. The Robert Koch Institute’s statistics do not include disaggregated data such as the distribution of cases among people of color, refugee communities, people living with disabilities, people living in poverty and other affected minority groups. Public sector institutions avoid collecting specific data in order to prevent replicating human rights violations that took place during the Nazi era. This reluctance prevents communities from acquiring the needed information and knowledge to advocate for evidence-based policy responses

Moving forward from the pandemic is often described as returning to “normal”. The normal was never fair and just. The structural, institutional and systemic discrimination that were evident during the pandemic, have long existed along with the exclusive “we” that is being selectively used to reinforce systemic marginalization and discrimination. Shouldn’t the aim be a new normal with genuine intersectional change?