Ferda Ataman’s nomination to head the federal anti-discrimination agency will be voted on today. After a discussion of these personnel. It’s not always fair. A critical overview of what has been written about Ataman in the German media, Journalist Stephen Anbazagan’s website. He was repeatedly accused of one thing: he, the nominated anti-discrimination officer, discriminated against us Germans. Why is she doing this? Because she thinks it’s okay if you call her German potatoes. Or if you “joke”, “joke” or “offend” as potatoes, like writing “image” or “world”. So why are so many people protesting potatoes? Anatole Stefanovitch is Professor of Linguistics at the Free University of Berlin.
Tobias Stocic: Shall I call you a potato or will you end the interview angrily?
Anatole Stepanovich: I was called worse than a potato. I myself have an immigrant background, but I come from a family in which people decided to adopt an assimilation attitude very quickly, and as a result I acquired a German identity. That’s why I’m personally happy if you call me a potato, because that’s a sign that they accept me as a German.
… Do I count them in the majority community?
Innocently asked: What’s a potato for you?
The word “potato” first appeared in immigrant communities among young people as a generic term for Germans. Of course there are no great accolades or accolades associated with it, but there is also no personal discredit. It was a sort of fallback to the abstract words they had to hear so often.
You say that the creation of the word was originally relatively neutral. How come so many people — at least many media professionals — are so offended by this revelation?
Such a term cannot be completely neutral because it always refers to the designated group as a group. However, one does not want to be referred to as a member of a group, but as an individual. While referred to in different ways, this also applies to people with a migrant background. Sometimes with neutral terms like “German Turks” – or with derogatory terms like “Kanaken”.
A preoccupation with group identity is common to both. Of course, the word “potato” does just that. However, as a member of the majority society, one does not use it. That’s why older white men like to complain when they’re called “old white,” even though that’s actually a factual description. But they become a group, you no longer see them as individuals, and they don’t like it.
You would say that members of mainstream society generally enjoy the privilege of being referred to as individuals rather than as members of a group. By turning them into potatoes, does one evoke the feeling that they are not considered individuals?
You question it and you say: You are not just an individual. Your character and what you have achieved in life, your goals, your ideas and everything that defines you has been shaped not only by you and your own amazing career path, but also by the fact that you belong to a group. In this case, stick to the privileged group of the majority society.
But why does potato produce more resistance than expressions like “Alman” or “Biotetch”? They fulfill a similar function, which is to make the majority society look as a group, right?
I can’t be sure about the word “alman”, one really has to investigate whether it evokes less strong reactions.
… At least the discussion of Ataman has now returned to this potato revelation.
… Yes, because all the early articles focused on potatoes. This may actually be an indication that potatoes are considered somewhat inferior. Maybe that’s because there’s a very simplistic, dehumanizing metaphor for calling humans plants. With the word “Alman” you basically only have the Turkish word for German. In this regard, it may have less potential for excitement.
Culinary abbreviations are nothing new when it comes to nationalities. Brits sometimes talk about Krauts when referring to Germans. Some say spaghetti when referring to Italian, and Japanese mean sushi. However, I note that I feel uncomfortable expressing myself in this way, as such forms of speech are generally disrespectful. Why are potatoes different?
When used in Germany, it refers to the majority community. Members of the majority community cannot be discriminated against in this process, i.e., by virtue of their membership in the majority community, the majority community occupies a privileged position. Any person, any individual, any group can be verbally insulted. But of course, for an insult to work, it must actually have some connection.
If I understand you correctly, whether a Brit calls me a potato or a German of so-called migration background does so is important to the evaluation, because it is about real power relations.
It would be different if we were somewhere where Germans were actually a minority, where there would be a prejudiced minority about the hurtful cultural stereotype they were constantly reminded of. In such a situation, “potato” or any other word can take on these pejorative connotations. In Germany, one might take offense at this. Contempt is a very personal thing. But you can’t really feel denigrated as a group.
On the subject of insults: When it comes to prejudicial language, there’s this standard defense: ‘I never meant it that way!’ One can always counter that it’s not about that, it’s about how it matters. Doesn’t the same apply to potatoes? If the editors Build Closed The disgraced liverwurst Shouldn’t someone say, ‘Well, we’ll leave it at that, we don’t want to hurt your feelings’?
It’s easy to be mean. I can always say that I feel downtrodden, and that’s just an act of speech. Therefore, it cannot be said that anything that offends a person should be avoided. It sets a standard, and sometimes we really have nothing more to say. Because, of course, anything we say has the potential to catch any person, anywhere, in a vulnerable moment. This person may feel rightly offended or alienated from their subjective state.
That’s why you need to see if this perceived degradation someone is signaling is understandable. You have to support them with arguments. You can do it better with words used for minorities. You can see the history of these words and you can see the current usage of these words. For example, the n-word is not used with neutral intent, it is not used with positive intent. It is always used in contexts where at least a sense of inferiority is conveyed.
So if full Build-This term makes redaction feel inferior, then look at the experience that film editors have with this term. Are these people afraid of their lives, afraid of being recognized as human beings and so on. The editors of Bild newspaper do not represent a demographic group anyway, but the question does not arise much here, as each individual may belong to or leave the group again.