American Voices Abroad Berlin is a group of Americans living and working in Berlin, Germany, who follow political events in the United States and vote from abroad in their home states. We would like to add our voices to the many that have been raised nationwide and internationally to protest the brutal murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25. We also want to protest the harsh and militaristic reactions of the federal government as well as some state and local governments.
We are heartened by the hundreds of thousands who have already raised their voices. We are encouraged by the many progressive organizations from whom we have heard. We are cheered to see police officers kneeling during demonstrations in several cities. As Americans living and working in Berlin, Germany, we want to add our perspective to these calls for an end to racism, injustice, and inequality in the United States.
All of us living in Germany have become familiar with German history, including the rise of fascism. We are living in a place where, in the middle of the last century, state-sanctioned murder was the rule in a ruthless dictatorship that drove the entire world into war. We have seen how Germany has tried to confront its criminal past, to acknowledge and in some cases make restitution for its Nazi crimes. Acknowledgement of this past and trying to learn from it are tasks undertaken by German citizens and at all levels of government.
Along with the Germans, we Americans living here have learned from this country’s history and have become more alert to the warning signs of fascism in the United States: dissent is called treason; the judiciary loses its independence; corporations are privileged over labor; religious symbols are mis-used; the press is vilified and propaganda is distributed by the authoritarian leader; science is held in contempt; lying by officials is commonplace; conspiracy theories run rampant; the military is expected to serve the leader rather than the Constitution; racial, religious, and sexual minorities are persecuted; and a militarized police force acts with impunity.
People around the world who protest the murder of George Floyd recognize that his death is just the latest of many such incidents, exposing not only police violence toward Black Americans but also wider tolerance of and complicity with such violence. The President’s responses to the protests and his condoning of the backlash against protesters are just a continuation of the shameless suppression of minorities. American society is permeated by racism and white privilege. The systemic character of racism and inequality in the United States is exemplified by African Americans’ disproportionately high rate of infection and fatality from COVID-19.
To stop the murders of Black Americans at the hands of police, we must rethink and restructure the police force in every community. Ultimately, the police must be demilitarized. More fundamentally and comprehensively, we need a process of reflection and education about our racist history, a process that can be initiated in communities across the country. Our experiences in Germany show us that change is possible, that people can move from ignorance to knowledge, and that they can take moral responsibility for their own future and the future of their country.
Many people in the United States know little, if anything, about the nature of slavery, Jim Crow, the great migration, urban renewal, redlining, mass incarceration, and the history leading to current events. We need a process of truth and reconciliation that facilitates looking at our history, talking about racism, and understanding how the concept of race has functioned institutionally throughout our history. We do not think we can solve these problems as individuals alone; we have to address them collectively.
We would like to encourage and be part of a process in which our country, the United States of America, confronts its own racist history and finally lives up to its democratic ideals.
American Voices Abroad Berlin
June 13, 2020