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A Question of Race

A cura di Sara Cortellessa

In June of this year, while in the United States there was an immense growth of protests against discrimination characterized by the slogan “Black Lives Matter”, in Germany it was proposed to abolish the word “rasse” (race in German) from the Constitution. The proponent of the initiative is Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck who pushed to remove the word from the third paragraph of the German Constitution, exclaiming that in fact “there are no ‘races’, there are human beings.”
The question regarding the term “race” has riddled leaders and citizens alike in various countries. In France, for example, the term was removed from its Constitution in 2018, and in Italy it still remains, yet the question has been a topic of debate for the past six years, with arguments similar to those employed by Germany. In particular, Liliana Segre, an Italian Senator as well as survivor of the Holocaust, stated on October 24 of this year that, while she is against racism, she is in favor of maintaining the word “race” in the Constitution as a warning against racism itself.
The German Constitution, which was created in 1949 right after the end of World War II as a memory against the third Reich’s horrors, states in the third paragraph of its article 3 that : “No person shall be favored or disfavored because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions.”
Most political parties as well as Merkel agree that the term is considered inappropriate and the Secretary of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) suggests changing the term to ‘ethnic origin’. The only party that believes the term should instead be maintained in the Constitution is AFD (Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist political party.)
The Minister of Justice tried to defend the Constitution by arguing that the enemy is racism itself and not our differences, highlighting that the term aims to make the defense against any form of discrimination stronger. This is one of the strongest arguments that made it so Italy didn’t remove the term, worrying that the article would lose importance and strength as a consequence of the linguistic choice.
Many polemics followed the proposal: Die Welt, a conservative newspaper, suggested in an article that “some Germans are now so evolved that they find the word ‘race’ unbearable … but they won’t send their children to schools with many Arabs and Turks, but to places where they find their same ethnic groups. And that is exactly what needs to change if one takes the Basic Law seriously, rather than abusing this noble document … for linguistic self-righteousness.’
In the end, the proposal was accepted by Linke Dirigents, FDP, SPD, partner of the minority of the Grosse Koalition and even Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives voiced openness to look at the issue.

The Constitutional reform project will be drawn up after Chancellor Angela Merkel, Social Democratic Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, former president of the CSU, will be able to form an agreement.
But will this serve to help fight racism? Surely it won’t be enough.

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