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German Parliamentarians Criticized for US Trip

The Guardian

A German diplomat has criticised a group of Bundestag MPs over their behaviour on a recent visit to San Francisco, accusing them of using a racial slur and of choosing sightseeing and shopping above meetings with US counterparts. Rolf Schütte, the German consul general in San Francisco, wrote to the foreign ministry in Berlin to express his outrage. His confidential letter, which is furious and frank in tone, has been leaked to the German press and created a public debate about the legitimacy of publicly funded foreign political trips and whether they should be more tightly controlled.

One of several articles in the German press: Die Welt: USA-Dienstreise wird für Politiker zur Blamage

Correction of the Guardian article: Not a member of parliament, but a parliamentary staffer is accused of the racial slur.

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Omar on :

please, be adviced to read the views of two of the politicians in question: [url=http://abgeordnetenwatch.de/hubert_hueppe-650-5942--f125815.html#frage125815]http://abgeordnetenwatch.de/hubert_hueppe-650-5942--f125815.html#frage125815[/url] [url=http://www.abgeordnetenwatch.de/annette_widmann_mauz-650-5835--f125911.html#frage125911]http://www.abgeordnetenwatch.de/annette_widmann_mauz-650-5835--f125911.html#frage125911[/url]

John in Michigan, USA on :

I have read your links with the help of Google translation, and I have to admit, I don't understand your point about the views of the two politicians. I see that they are both members of CDU. Certainly they failed to live up to Christian ideals during the trip, but is this a personal failure or a political failure? Is a CDU member more likely to be racist? Does the party have a history of problems?

David on :

Not unlike the Republican Party in the US.

Pat Patterson on :

Ok, now I'm terribly confused. Martin Luther King Jr. was a racist because he was a lifelong Republican while Bull Connor wasn't a racist because he was a Democrat. Sen. Dirksen-R of Illinois who was co-sponsor of the Civil Rights Act was a racist and yet Sen. John F Kennedy wasn't a racist even though he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The mind boggles.

John in Michigan, USA on :

David, you are a racist. See, we can all play that game. Actually, Christians in the US did more to end Slavery and Jim Crow than atheists did.

Pat Patterson on :

And considering the Democrats were first the party of slavery and then segregation into the 60's the flippant charge of racism in the Republican Party seems more wishful thinking than acknowledgement of the facts.

David on :

A telling fact is that there is NOT ONE sitting African-American Republican in Congress. Why do less than 10% of African-Americans vote Republican? They know the score.

Pat Patterson on :

That's a mystery to me as well considering how poorly served the black community has been by essentially becoming an loyal adjunct of the Democratic Party. Something like the mushroom system where the Democrats keep African-Americans in a closet and check on them every two or four years and ask for votes.

Zyme on :

I guess the "racial slur" is not to be taken too seriously in this context. Americans may have a differring view on this - apparently one female MP broke her leg before the trip but was assured of receiving a wheelchair at the airport. When it turned out that the wheelchair was rather difficult to move, on the other MPs is reputed to have said "Now we are in need of a Negro to move the wheelchair" I would not say that it is extraordinary to hear such a comment in a humorous tone among Germans. Surely this was not intended to offend anyone. Nonetheless, the entire behavior of this group cast a telling light about our parliamentarians. Probably not surprising for the national public.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Presumably she was speaking German, so I supposed it depends how one translates "Neger", should it be "nigger" or "Negro"? The first one is highly offensive in almost all cases. The second one was once normal, but now is [i]very[/i] out of date. It has been replaced by Black (which is still used often; can cause minor offense) and (since the 1990's) African-American. In this context, it may not make much difference. Even if she was merely using the out-of-date word, the idea that a person of a certain race is more appropriate or desirable for certain forms of labor (the fetch and carry stereotype) is itself very offensive.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"I would not say that it is extraordinary to hear such a comment in a humorous tone among Germans." That might be case. And that would be even worse than it being a singular case.

Zyme on :

Well let us be honest here - saying something like this in the presence of Blacks would be inappropriate and disrespectful on the one hand. Condemnation of this behavior conducted without such presence is hysteria on the other.

John in Michigan, USA on :

I disagree, it is not hysteria. These sort of attitudes need to be dealt with even if no one is offended at the time the are spoken. However, it should not be a criminal matter. Simple hate speech , absent any other criminal activity, should not be a crime since it would inhibit free expression.

Zyme on :

I am confused now. You say it should be dealt with, but then it shall not be a criminal offense. What then - part of the clerical jurisdiction? :) It probably is a difference in mentality. Most people here don't give much about political correctness and don't want to have somebody who forbids them their mouths as we say. Foreign people shouldn't be so touchy here. When they are, they are not unlikely to encounter the question what the offended is doing here in the first place. And when an African is making jokes about Europeans, well big deal. They are free to do so in my humble opinion.

John in Michigan, USA on :

When I say "dealt with", I mean: in a private conversation you should confront the person and educate them, or if that is not possible, shame them. In a workplace setting it should be a trip to the bosses office, maybe some sort of official reprimand depending on circumstances. Forgive me, Zyme, but you seem to have the instinct that every problem must have a solution from the government or the law.

Zyme on :

Well I would describe things here the following way: Enacting a new law does not always ensure that the people change their behavior. Without enacting a new law though it is ensured that nothing changes :D

John in Michigan, USA on :

I know what you mean. Some things can change if the law gets involved, and some things can only change if the law gets involved. However, any language (English, German, etc) is too varied and subtle in its uses to be regulated in any meaningful way. So even if we didn't have the ideal of free speech as a moral good, there would be practical problems. I just think the law ought to limit itself to regulating behavior. There are exceptions for slander, libel, intellectual property, fraud, commercial speech, etc. but these are limited to public statements regarding specific, testable assertions. They also have the benefit of 100's of years of common law precedent to clarify things. So, if we could freeze the language to lock out any changes for several decades, we could develop a similar set of precedents to regulate ethnic, gender, etc. stereotypes and offensive speech. But you can't do it; the culture, the mores, the language itself evolves too quickly, and this is a GOOD thing. While we still have a ways to go, racial attitudes are improving far faster than the law could possibly handle. For the German MP's and their staff, a note from the consular office is about the closest thing there is to a trip to the bosses office. I suppose there could be a formal reprimand from the Bundestag itself?

Kevin Sampson on :

'Most people here don't give much about political correctness and don't want to have somebody who forbids them their mouths as we say.' I wonder what would happened if the incident had taken place in Germany and the individual had said "Now we are in need of a Muslim to move the wheelchair"

Zyme on :

Such a remark would probably simply irritate the audience. In contrast to the stereotype of Africans, Europeans have faced Muslims for the biggest part of common history not primarily as slaves or cheap laborers but as opponents at eye level. So such a remark would lack the nostalgic humor the original comment contains.

Kevin Sampson on :

“Europeans have faced Muslims for the biggest part of common history not primarily as slaves or cheap laborers but as opponents at eye level” Why does roughly 30 of your ethnic Turkish population still not have German citizenship, despite three or four generations being born in Germany? Is that your idea of ‘eye level’? And if the Turks weren’t cheap labor, why were they encouraged to immigrate? Does your government make a practice of the mass importation of ‘opponents’?

quo vadis on :

Zyme, More nostalgic humor: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/sturmer.htm Your cluelessness on this matter is disturbing.

David on :

Reminds me of the famous speech by Germany's president Heinrich Lübke in Liberia which he began with: "Meine Damen und Herren, liebe Neger" ("Ladies and Gentlemen, and dear Negroes".

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