Women opposing trivialisation of racism in the cultural sector
21 October 2019
This report serves as summary of the controversy so far on the falsification of my Namibia book, trivialisation of racism and slander by director Benny Claessens. All my contributions are listed under the register Cultural Criticism in this magazine.
I received solidarity support from my family, from my friends and acquaintances and from political comrades-in-arms for the recent attack by Benny Claessens to equate me with the Hitler admirer Leni Riefenstahl. Thank you very much! That was really good!
All the expressions of solidarity stood before me to protect me. However, the attack of Benny Claessens targets not only me. Rather, it expresses a certain political trend. This trend rejects solidarity, common and political intervention against racism replacing them by an individual-psychologically oriented view on the belly button and much more. That is what I want to set out in more detail now.
How about that a book about Namibia that upholds friendship among nations, women’s projects and anti-racism is falsified as proof of the opposite, as proof of racism? This is what happened in the production of Benny Claessens at the Bochumer Schauspielhaus. To use a picture, how is it that white is turned into black?
What is the cause of racism? Where does it come from, who does benefit from it?
There are two ways to explain and fight racism here. The solidary, common, political way against racism and the individual-psychological way of the individual.
The solidary, common, political way against racism recognizes that we live worldwide in societies in which the rulers have the say over the working people. After all, there are the large corporations and the politicians working for them that have degraded Namibia to a German colony. Africa is not poor, it is made poor by laws that cheaply exploit African raw materials and flood African countries with cheap goods. This may make a small groupin Africa rich, but it deprives the majority of the local people of their livelihood.
The ever-growing dissatisfaction in Germany and worldwide with the prevailing conditions such as poorly paid work, oppression and wars against other peoples is being redirected into racism by the powerful through the media. The Mediterranean and the African deserts become mass graves for refugees. Fuelling fears of refugees, among others, is sad evidence of how racism is used as a lightning conductor in the sense of “divide and rule”.
The American sociologist DiAngelo propagates the individual psychological path of the individual in an interview with the newspaper “Zeit Campus” on August 11, 2018. In answer to the question: “How is it possible for white people to discuss racism at all?” Ms DiAngelo replies: “By learning to think differently about racism. Namely, no longer as individual, active and conscious actions of individuals, but as an internalized attitude that is in each and every white person”. (Underline ZQ)
This analysis does not only remain stuck to the surface and to the widespread manifestations of racism. Rather it saves the rulers, it completely excludes racism as a method of domination and declares ordinary people to be the main problem instead! Thus, the author of an anti-racist book becomes a racist who has not recognized her internalized racist attitude.
The way to explain and combat racism as the individual psychological path of the individual has two harmful effects: The actual perpetrators of oppression and racism are taken out of the line of fire. And: the united, joint stand of whites and People of Color against racism is torpedoed.
Those who, like Claessen, falsify anti-racism from whites to racism divide the joint solidarity struggle of whites and People of Color against racism. This division separates whites and People of Color, leaves the whites among themselves and draws People of Color to the side of the victims of racism.
Claessens is known as an actor in his victim roles as a “gay man”, an “unaesthetic person”. Claessens’ defamation of anti-racism as racism leaves People of Color in their position to be victims of racism and puts them close to his acting preferences, namely the victim role.
While People of Color remain in their victim position, whites need the schoolmanship of the intellectual elite. These elites explain to the anti-racist whites that they are actually racists. The freedom of art in theatre is thus transformed from an instrument of enlightenment, inspiration and help for working people into a ridiculous and vain proclamation of intellectual arrogance that must not be allowed to stand still.
The author criticized these falsifications by Benny Claessens in an open letter as well as in letters to the director of the Bochum theatre Johan Simons and to Benny Claessens, called for an open, objective discussion and finally invited her, together with the entire Bochum ensemble, to a public reading of the Namibia book with discussion on racism.
Such an open and solidary debate on different views about a common goal, namely to fight racism, would be the way to an understanding.
The reaction consisted of silence in the forest of director of the theatre and Claessens. At the same time, ensemble member Thelma Buabeng spread untruths about the conflict on Facebook, ensemble member Bernd Rademacher published a completely unobjective and primitive polemic in the city newspaper, and finally Benny Claessens posted a post on Instagram on October 16 in which he put the author on the level of Hitler admirer Leni Riefenstahl and stamped her comrades-in-arms as a criminal or semi-criminal gang.
So instead of an objective, open, and of course controversial debate, silence, backstage intrigues and public disparagement of the anti-racist author as a racist and fascist.
In content and form Benny Claessens proves his bankrupt political judgement.
The women’s movement, which is committed against racism and for international friendship, will criticize the falsification and trivialization of racism as an “internalized attitude of whites”, reject the resulting division of the common struggle of whites and non-whites against racism and practice open, objective and critical engagement instead of intrigue, cowardice and bullying.
Director Benny Claessens proves his bankrupt politcal judgement
19 October 2019
Director Benny Claessens published a story on Instagram on 15 October 2019. There he announces his transition from the theatre to the music scene. “So bye bye. I will be part of zilli quests gang in bochum aka leni riefenstahl of the ruhr”. (If you don’t know the prehistory of racism dispute, please read www.quest-travelmagazine.com)
Here are four points to this Instagram story by Claessens.
1. Claessens can’t distinguish racism from friendship between nations, can’t distinguish my democratic engagement from fascist botchs of Leni Riefenstahl. Thus Claessens proves his bankrupt political judgement.
2. As with the racism dispute, Claessens is afraid of open, objective debate. Instead, he again engages in an intriguing agitation in the backs of those affected. That is a cowardly, shameful procedure.
3. Claessens arrogantly denounces my supporters and political comrades-in-arms arrogantly as “gang”, i.e. as criminal or semi-criminal. What a bankrupt classification!
4. Mr. Claessens! I am not part of your theatrical production, with which you falsify reality and political points of view in a hair-raising way. You are a political muddlehead, intriguer and coward who rapes reality and abuses the freedom of art.
Zilli Quest 16 October 2019
Is that art? It has to go away!
24 June 2019
The 4th Bochum reading of the travel book “Namibia – Report by Mother with Daughter on a self-organized journey” took place at the women’s association Courage in Bochum. The travel book reports among other things on the visit to the two Namibian world women of the World Women’s Conference in Nepal, on women’s projects in Namibia and on the struggle of the people for daily bread.
Under the banner of “Freedom of Art”, the Bochum theatre also dedicated itself to the question of racism with the theatre performance “White People’s Problems – The Evil Dead”.
Director Benny Claessens and his team see “White People’s Problems” in all whites. According to this thesis, “whites” have already internalized racism by birth. Therefore one should not report critically from countries of the African continent. That is already racism and insults “People of Color“.
To back up his theses, Claessens quickly turned to a travel book about Namibia. He projected images from the Namibia book onto the wall, partly underlaid by his own texts and ambiguities that distort the meaning. He even used the black actress Thelma Buabeng from Ghana to underline his “truth” in order to put the crown on the whole thing.
All protests and demands to refrain from falsifying the book failed. Thereupon Courage Bochum organized this special reading together with the author and especially invited the Bochum theatre and its members. It should be discussed what the causes of racism are and how racism can be fought.
Unfortunately the Bochum theatre shone by absence and disregard, as well as it disregarded the many protests that had taken place before. Members of the acting team preferred to use Facebook and the press for an unworthy smear and lie campaign.
The reading of the Namibia book took place at the end of June. After an entertaining presentation with pictures, video clips, reading from the book, African music and discussions about racism, the 15 people rejected the behaviour of the theatre in an outraged way.
One participant: Art must have objective reality as its content and at the same time act as a driving force forward instead of spreading fake news, which is unfortunately becoming more and more common today. The theatre has a special responsibility. The Bochum theatre has inexcusably counteracted this.
One participant stressed how the fact-rich and warm-hearted presentation has created a desire to travel to Namibia and another participant, who is just preparing for a trip to Namibia in November, sees the most effective way of doing something for people today through travelling on location.
The Women’s Policy Advice from 1-3 November 2019 in Erfurt is another good opportunity to promote networking among women across national borders and continents.
Against racism instead of theatrical thunder
19 February 2019
My criticism of the play “White People’s Problems – The Evil Dead” by the Bochum theatre deals with the causes of racism.
Bernd Rademacher, ensemble member of the Bochum theatre, replaces a factual argument in the February issue of the district newspaper “Der Ehrenfelder” with a torrent of pejorative phrases about my Namibia book and my actions.
The performance of the play corresponds to the view of the American sociologist DiAngelo, who explains racism as an internalized attitude that is in every white person. (I published this on 9.12.18 in the flyer and on www.quest-travelmagazine.com)
This view declares all people of white skin to be the main problem of racism. However, racism serves the rulers as a lightning rod for people’s dissatisfaction, justifying poorly paid work, oppression and war. Racism is a method of domination according to the motto “divide and rule” and not an original attitude of the ruled.
If people of white skin are declared the main problem of racism, it is easy to falsify my book against racism as an expression of the “internalized racism” of a white person.
The play does not do justice to the fight against racism. My book openly supports this fight and Mr. Rademacher feeds the reader and editor of the Ehrenfelder with arrogant and unobjective rumbling. Too bad.
I cordially invite everybody to the reading of my Namibia book in Bochumer Ehrenfeld in June. Place and time will be announced soon.
Bochum play “White People’s Problems” pursuing wrong concept against racism
12 December 2018
Where does racism come from? Theatre director Benny Claessens tries to answer this question in the Bochum play “White People’s Problems – The Evil Dead”, which ended under his direction on 6 December 2018. This theatrical production falsifies the content of my travel book “Namibia – Report by Mother with Daughter On A Self-Organised Journey” into an example of racism. In reality, this journey served the purpose of friendship with the people at the grassroots level and further developed these connections for the common struggle against oppression.
How can it happento turn a travel book against racism and for friendship between peoples into an example of racism?
It is by no means an isolated case, an isolated inability to distinguish right from wrong. Rather, we are confronted here by a certain current.
The Geman newspaper ZEIT Campus ONLINE interviewed the American sociologist Robin DiAngelo on 11 August 2018 under the title Racism: “Most whites see only explicit racism”. One question was: “Then how is it possible for white people to discuss racism at all? Mrs DiAngelo’s answer: “By learning to think differently about racism. Namely, no longer as individual, active and conscious actions of individuals, but as an internalized attitude that is in everyone and every white person. https://www.zeit.de/campus/2018-08/rassismus-dekonstruktion-weisssein-privileg-robin-diangelo
Mrs DiAngelo, this remains completely stuck to the surface and to the widespread manifestations of racism! What is the cause of racism? Where does it come from, who does benefit from it?
We live worldwide in societies in which the rulers have the say over the working people. In Namibia as in Germany and the USA. “Divide and rule” is the motto of the rulers. And racism serves as a lightning conductor for people’s dissatisfaction with the prevailing conditions, as a pretext for poorly paid work, for oppression and for wars against other peoples. Racism is a method of domination and not an original attitude of the ruled.
Mrs DiAngelo’s declaration of racism excludes the rulers and declares ordinary people to be the main problem instead. So it comes down to falsifying a book against racism into an example of racism. This way, the actual perpetrators of oppression and racism are taken out of the line of fire. Yet there are the big corporations and the politicians who work for them who make laws that help flood African countries with cheap goods, including German monopolies. But they refuse to take in the people on the ground who are deprived of their livelihood as a result. At the same time, the courageous people and initiatives in Europe who take action against this are being criminalised.
“Once again the Aquarius (ship run by doctors without borders) is to be deterred by political manoeuvres from its humanitarian mission to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean … While humanitarian rescue ships are deterred from their deployment, the probability of dying while fleeing across the Mediterranean is higher than ever.” https://www.betterplace.org/de/projects/39351-die-aquarius-ein-rettungsschiff-im-mittelmeer/newsroom#ppp-sticky-anchor
Of course, the concern is great and justified that more and more people are falling for the xenophobic and racist spread of the ideas of the rulers. This requires open dialogue and solidarity.
Why then does the Bochum theatre choose the path of putting untruths into the world instead of seeking dialogue? My letters to the director Johan Simons and the director Benny Claessens have remained unanswered to this day, the end of the performance’s play. My demand to remove my book from the play was ignored and my personal rights were trampled on arrogantly.
The actress Thelma Buabeng did not realize an offer to talk that had initially been made, but then started rumors on Facebook and with colleagues that I didn’t want to have the conversation.
Those who really want to effectively oppose racism attack those who practice “divide and rule” and rely on open and solidary dialogue with those who oppose racism and xenophobia.
Open letter to the dramaturg of the Bochum theatre about the falsifying use of the Namibia book
5 November 2018
Open letter to the Schauspielhaus Bochum – Mr. Tobias Staab, dramaturg about the falsifying use of the travel report
“Namibia – Report By Mother With Daughter On A Self-Organized Journey” in the play “White People’s Problems – The Evil Dead”.
Dear Mr. Staab,
in the performance of the play “White People’s Problems – The Evil Dead”, the book “Namibia – Report By Mother With Daughter On A Self-Organised Journey” is read out relatively extensively and the book cover is thrown against the wall over a camera.
I am the author of this book. I firmly reject the falsifying use of my book in this play!
The play wants to thematize the problems of whites against blacks in Africa. My book is placed in a context that totally distorts the intention of the book and twists it into the opposite. The book and my trip with my daughter Nora to Namibia is not part of “White People’s Problems – The Evil Dead”, but on the contrary part of the solution.
We used our journey to meet people, to learn about their life situation, their struggle for daily bread, especially against the background of a bloody colonial rule 3 of German in this country for over 30 years. In addition, we met two women who had participated in the World Women’s Conference of Basic Women 2016 in Nepal and who reported on their activities in Namibia, how women fight on their own strength for an equal and free position in Namibian society. A women’s initiative told us similar experiences.
I wrote this book to spread these positive experiences in the women’s movement and to combine them with many other experiences in Namibia.
You did not understand this book at all, you turn its message into the exact opposite, rape it as an expression of problems that whites are supposed to have with blacks. The problems of life in Namibia as well as in Germany and worldwide have their roots in the capitalist greed for profits and power, the different skin colour, i.e. racism, is an instrument of capitalism.
Here lies a necessary, useful and helpful field of activity for the theatre.
I reject the falsifying use of my book for the play and urge you to refrain from doing so. Since the falsifying use of my book took place in public space, I distribute this letter to you as an open letter.