A State of Denial: Philipp Roesler and the debate on integration (Update)

by wullersd


(German Politicians Dr Philipp Roesler (front) and David McAllister, Picture: DPA, Source: http://www.ruhrnachrichten.de/bilder/fotostrecken/cme120693,3134588)

Yesterday, I published my first blog entry in which I concurred with the German left-leaning daily taz, arguing that the vice-chancellor and Asian German Philipp Roesler should have released his interview with them. In the piece, he was repeatedly asked if and how he has experienced racism in Germany (http://blogs.taz.de/hausblog/2013/09/09/philipp-roesler-fragen-und-keine-antworten/). According to a spokesperson of the libertarian party Mr Roesler chairs, the interview was to be about decency and not about aggressively pushing him into the role of a defenseless victim.

The debate has since gained a lot of attention (cf. http://www.freitag.de/autoren/timostukenberg/der-rassismus-bumerang-der-taz  or http://www.zeit.de/kultur/2013-09/philipp-roesler-taz-interview) with most commentators supporting Mr Roesler’s right to keep his descendance and experiences with racism a private matter. Some even started a twitter meme with the hashtag #tazfragen in which users submit offensive questions supposedly in line with the taz’s questionnaire. Example: Minister Roesler what do you think about the statement that dogs belong under, not on the dinner table (https://twitter.com/aranita/status/377790392122761217).

While the taz editors and journalists will remain targets of sarcasm and ridicule for the rest of the week at least, the question remains whether it is valid to ask a leading political figure to position himself in such an important discussion. I for one stick to the argument I made yesterday: Mr Roesler is the most powerful and successful Asian German or German with a migratory background at all for that matter. He has continuously asked for more responsibility. Now that he has it, he should accept it.

Even though I am sympathetic to his reasons as Philipp Roesler, the private citizen, as Dr Roesler, the political leader, he can’t shy away from topics on which his opinion could help the country a great deal. He should have used the possibility for the benefit of countless kids, teenagers and young adults whoare struggling to find their German identity and their place amongst the German people. Instead he has set a new tone for the debate and given other successful Germans with multiethnic backgrounds an easy way out.

What is necessary is a debate not between the far right and the far left but in the middle of our society. With his denial, Mr Roesler has passed on an opportunity to voice the opinion of the moderates, of the new-German middle-class. His sexual practices are private, his favorite brand of cereal is private but the vice-chancellor’s skin color cannot be private in modern day Germany with its ever-rising number of former migrants.

The applause of the amused bystanders on Twitter and Facebook has even reinforced this behavior. Most likely they have done  us all a great disservice and further cemented the integration debate as a brawl between extremists.