Racist campaign poster in Germany removed (sans apology)

Tagline: “The only reason to choose black. Time for Green.”
This German campaign poster (tagline above) for the Green party was recently removed after folks quite aptly pointed out that it was a racist, sexist piece of crap.

The poster put up by the environmental Greens party in the western town of Kaarst contains a play on words: “Black” in German party politics refers to the color colloquially used to describe Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. Other major parties are described as red, yellow and, of course, green.

Sexualizing and dehumanizing black women and their bodies is hardly new, but I still was shocked at the blatant racism/sexism combo at play. Even worse, though, was the Green party’s response even after the posters were removed:

The Greens more than anyone else have always stood for policies characterized by tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and equality. Issues such as integration and women’s politics stand at the center of the Greens’ political work. Accusations that this poster is racist or sexist are thus untenable. (Emphasis mine)

You see the posters can’t be racist or sexist because they’re the “good guys.” Yeah, okay.
Thanks to Susanna for the link.

Join the Conversation

  • Kathleen6674

    I think exoticizing and fetishizing black people is really common in Germany. I know that was the case for a group of German girls I knew – they slept with black men, any black men, like they were going out of style, but if you asked them if they had boyfriends, they’d say ‘No’ because black men were just good for sex.
    I know that can’t possibly be true for all German people, but combined with the poster above, I’d say there’s some kind of message in German culture to that effect.

  • alixana

    Okay, when I read the translated tag line, I actually choked on the hot tea I was drinking.
    “Untenable”? What the fuck else IS that besides crazy batshit racism?

  • katemoore

    Oh my God, you are fucking kidding me. How the hell did this get past more than one set of eyes? I mean, I know why. But still. Disgusting.

  • magdamuh

    There are more campaign posters by the greens that are blatantly sexist, for instance, this one:
    (it’s the homepage of the greens in an area called Kaarst, close to Cologne)
    Check out the first poster from the left. It says: “51 would be ideal. Time for green” certainly meaning that 51% in politics would be perfect but it is showing a scale and what could be considered women’s feet (painted toenails).

  • sara

    Bizarre judgment on the part of someone there. Boggles the mind.
    In fact, the racism boggled my mind so much, I’m not sure I trust my vision–This is an image of two women embracing, correct?

  • Tara K.

    It’s definitely racist whatever it says, but I don’t understand what that slogan is supposed to mean with this picture. Heh?

  • thecynicalromantic

    The “so-and-so “can’t be racist or sexist because they’re the “good guys”” train of thinking is probably my #1 pissed off pet peeve of the universe these days. Got the “But Nerds Are Smart People” variant thereof from a housemate last week; still resentful that some people have the privilege of still being that oblivious into their twenties.
    Women are not freaking TELEPATHIC. We are normal, intelligent beings who, for the most part, understand what words and images mean, and if what you mean and what you say are two different things, we hear what you SAY. And we know what whatever you *said* means. And if that’s not what you “meant” to say than you are doing something called “not communicating effectively” and I am tired of it being OUR fault when OTHER people can’t communicate.

  • Desert Dragon

    Oh my fucking god. I’ve spent a lot of time in Germany (Hessen and Bavaria) and I’m utterly astonished and disgusted that something so blatantly offensive could have ever been released at all. While I can’t speak for people I don’t know, all of my German friends are totally accepting of people from other cultures/ethnicities/religions/what have you and are very sensitive to anything that could be construed as prejudiced. Going by what I’ve studied and observed, there’s a very real push in Germany to stamp out racism as the country has become more multicultural, especially in light of the still very clear memories of Naziism and the Holocaust. Christ, what the fuck was the moron who thought up this poster on? Disgusting. Completely, utterly, irredeemably disgusting.

  • Tenya

    WTF? Who thought this would be a good idea? And the Green statement is stupid in the extreme, first for assuming that because one states that they dedicate themselves to certain ideals they can never ever ever do anything against that (ie, the “feminist” [female or male] who is constantly putting down women). Next, there is something of a “it’s not racist, because it means you want to have sex with them” – the inability to see how having a fetish for a race is not actually encompassing being non-racist is appalling. Way to lose yourself to liberals and conservations, Green Party.

  • alixana

    I think they’re saying the only reason you’d “choose black” would be for sex with a black person, and they’re juxtaposing that with the idea that there’d never be a good idea to vote for the Black Party over the Green Party. Like “black” is only worthwhile when it’s equated with sex. It makes more sense in my head than when I try to explain it, it’s offensive as hell.

  • magdamuh

    @ Kathleen6674
    “I think exoticizing and fetishizing black people is really common in Germany”
    Be careful with generalizations. I think that you can find the kinds of racist statements you’re mentioning everywhere (I’ve heard them in the US as well)

  • Tara K.

    Okay, thanks. Yeah, I’m still not really “getting it,” though I get that it’s offensive. (Photo alone does that, of course.) Thanks for trying. Either this is bad racist copywriting, or it’s just not the day for my brain.

  • Hypatia

    What is it with the cheap, sexist campaign strategies in Germany? After that oh-so subtle jab at Merkel’s cleavage (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iyGKryrlqPTZ8hazS-lbPaY9L5gQ), I’m kind of confused; is there some cross-cultural misunderstanding here? Is there anyone from Germany here who could explain? Are these campaigns really endorsed by the parties themselves? I find it hard to believe that a country that chose a female leader (and that’s more than America could do) would accept something like this.

  • veronikoala

    I have a feeling using a cup of black coffee would have been less offensive.
    How someone saw this ad as a GOOD idea is beyond me.

  • Kim C.

    “Accusations that this poster is racist or sexist are thus untenable.”
    Someone’s taking the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” attitude WAY too far.
    Did anyone else besides me notice how the white person’s hands grasping the black person’s buttocks seem very possessive? It’s one thing for an ad to show someone caressing a black person’s body and equating the latter with sex: it’s another to have them looking as if they OWN that person’s body.

  • LalaReina

    That kind of picture just makes me think those responsible are too far gone to even deal with. I don’t have the strength.

  • Kim C.

    Well, yes, but “everywhere” only requires that such a thing happens once in one place: “common” requires that such a thing happen plenty of times. So it’s not really worthwhile to compare the two.

  • allegra

    I don’t get it either, probably because I don’t want to believe something so massively offensive was released by a goddamn political party.
    But, really, holy fuck. What is this, like the fucking heyday of nineteenth-century African imperialism? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

  • MLF

    seriously – just look at the American major porn companies.


    I asked myself the same question – is there some kind of requirement in German politics these days to have offensive sexist posters?
    First Angela Merkel’s cleavage – and now this racist, sexist Black-women-as-exotic-human-sex-toy bullshit?
    What the hell is wrong in Germany that anybody would think that was anywhere near appropriate?

  • elbu

    I don’t really know where to start… no, it doesn’t make any kind of sense except racist, sexist, exoticising/eroticising shit.
    But just for the record, there is no “black” party. Voting “black” is shorthand for Germany’s strongest conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) (chancellor Angela Merkel’s party). So the Greens are saying there are no good reasons for voting CDU – and are mixing this up in a highly problematic, inappropriate, injustifiable way with “Black is beautiful” ideas.
    Before the poster was removed, there was already a response (attempting to justify the non-removal of the poster) that included the same “we’re not racist – look at our program! – so what we’ve done can’t be racist” ‘argument’ and also said that the poster could also be read as anti-racist (presumably because a black and a white woman are embracing?).
    I have a post about this over on my blog but it’s in German.
    I don’t know where to stop either. It’s disgusting and very, very, very frustrating, because this is an instance of banal, everyday racism that it’s really hard to get the better of.

  • elbu

    This. Kathleen6674, I won’t argue with you saying that it’s common to exoticise Black people in Germany, but as you can tell also from postings on this blog, it’s not exactly uncommon elsewhere. Far be it from me to use this as a kind of excuse. There is a loooooot of anti-racist work to be done here in Germany and in many ways “we” are still lagging behind (critical whiteness, for example, is still quite a recent trend in Germany).
    But I’d thank you not to generalise from a group of girls you knew (and whose behaviour as you describe it I would have called out as inappropriate).

  • lefthandedpenguin

    From what I understand of Germany’s culture, the concept of political correctness doesn’t really exist there.
    So that probably answers why there’s more sexist, racist motivations behind their advertising and other what-nots.
    Just a thought/observation.

  • feministnc

    Thanks for posting the link to their site!. It’s also interesting that everyone in the posters (except the infamous one) is white. That is, when a black ‘body’ shows up it is in an objectified, sexualized form, but it doesn’t show up as a political subject, the one that supposedly will vote green, which seems to be white.
    I’ve heard that at least in some areas the Greens catter to groups that are otherwise conservative yet concerned with environmental causes. I guess one could call these groups ‘Prince Charles’ constituencies, given the British Heir’s dual role as environmental activist and future head of a monarchy!

  • Zailyn

    The hell, Greens? You are actually defending this bit of utter racist, sexist crap? And I was thinking of voting for you in the next election, too.

  • Phidi

    Hi, I’m from Germany and have to say, that this is NOT a cross-cultural misunderstanding. These campaign-posters and the already mentioned one with Merkel’s cleaveage created a HUGE uproar in Germany (especially german feminist-communities etc), too. The Green Party over here tries with that kind of campaign to be “edgy” or “funny” but it is simply grosse! The whole topic is discussed in news magazines, blogs etc. and many Germans agree that this is neither funny nor appropriate, but simply racist. And yes, these are OFFICIAL cmapaing posters, but not part of the nation-wide campaign. Every voting district (dunno if that’s the right word, I’m struggling with my English skills here) has it’s own campaign, most of them showing the local candidate, but some parties try to be….well, simply stupid.

  • Kappa

    These posters are all for specific candidates of specific districts, and their design and all is decided locally and doesn’t need to be okay’d by the state-wide administration of the party… it’s obvious that this leads to individuals and small groups making mistakes like this.
    I am not surprised that the party is defending the posters, it’s election time and you don’t want to admit mistakes and basically doom your own candidates, even though of course this means you end up saying offensive stuff. It must be a lose-lose situation from their perspective. ._.

  • Samantha of the Alliance

    While I completely agree that there are dangers in generalization, I have to admit that after years of living in Germany, I continue to be shocked at the level of sexism and racial exoticization coming from leftist and progressive groups or people (such as the Greens) who claim to be exactly otherwise.

  • Kappa

    I’m German, and the concept of political correctness *does* exist here. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t have been an outrage about these posters, for example.
    And just from what I’ve seen online, I don’t think it’s only people from Germany who carelessly use sexist and racist language or imagery in advertizing and elsewhere. o_o

  • Hypatia

    Thanks for explaining. I just find this shocking, such blatant, unabashed racism and sexism endorsed by the government?! I’m just glad that the people of Germany don’t support stuff like this, even if their government does. From what you said about the Green Party trying to be “edgy”, I gather that this is their (failed and offensive) attempt to be “hip” and connect with the younger generations.