What incident made you stop being racist?
Racist incident at Aldi in Berlin: "You won't silence me"
Berlin - His video went viral: At the end of April, Prince Ofori (32) from Neukölln was racially insulted at Aldi Nord in Berlin and sometimes also physically attacked. According to Ofori, the trigger was a customer who used the N word several times in connection with chocolate kisses. In the discussion that followed, an employee joined in, who finally tried to force Ofori out of the store with the help of security. Ofori filmed the scene and posted the video on Instagram. There you can see several people surrounding him, the employee throwing a cardboard box and justifying the use of the racist foreign name. The video has over seven million clicks, Aldi Nord has apologized and announced that it will fire the employee due to his misconduct.
Mr. Ofori, what has happened since the video was published?
I felt a lot of solidarity. Both by people who have experienced something similar and by whites who would not have thought it possible in Germany. Politicians and artists have also shown sympathy and offered help. But that's exactly how I felt the right flank. Also from politicians, but I don't want to mention any names. They tried to find the problem with me and, for example, called me a mask refuser. Threatening letters, threatening emails and threatening comments have been received. In one letter there was an edited picture of me with an ax in my head and a white powdery substance. I immediately forwarded it to the LKA. And that's just one of many letters that were outrageous. I don't know if my family is still safe. I cannot judge what was meant seriously. People feel threatened because they shouldn't use the N word anymore. That's why they want to kill me or intimidate me so much that I can't talk anymore. But they can't do that.
How did the discounter behave?
I'm in conversation with Aldi, initially only the social media team had contacted me, and now also an employee with a higher ranking. The employee who can be seen on the video also had a lawyer warn me that I should remove the video.
Are you going to do that?
No, I don't intend to. If a court decides like this, I will probably have to do it. In my opinion, this person doesn't deserve to be hidden. I gave him the opportunity to apologize. But he continued to mention the N-word and also the Z-word. Instead of rowing back, he poured gasoline on the fire. That did not need to happen. The fact that he threatens me with the lawyer afterwards shows me that he has learned nothing from it. He is privileged and the system protects him, he knows that and he uses it. In a normal world, I should be protected, not him. Incidentally, the police called in did not automatically see me as the perpetrator. I've already experienced it very differently. The suggestion was that we talk to each other to refrain from filing a complaint. I think that's basically good, but it didn't work.
It took you a few days to talk about the racist incident at Aldi. Why are you doing it now?
I have to do it. It's not the first time I've seen something like this. And it sure won't be the last time I don't. I had to digest it first, it was a traumatic experience. But I have two black * children. We have to fight this fight, talk about it and do educational work so that the descendants may be better off. This is not an issue for the majority because they cannot empathize with it. So we have to talk about it, I don't like doing it, but I have to.
So when you talk, does the white majority understand and change something?
I strongly doubt that. Most people confuse this with the role of victim, saying I have to stand over it. That's why I not only tell about my experiences, but also tell you what the problem is. Explain how they need to educate themselves so that they understand and how they should act. Because racism has been planted in people's heads for hundreds of years. In our society we now perceive these points of view as normal, we are racially socialized. This can also affect black people who grew up here. Because they only saw pictures of black people who need help. In Europe, black people are considered poor parasites. But actually Africa is the continent that gives the most of all. If we give a million development aid, we will pull many times more money out of the country in the form of raw materials, that is a fact and everyone should know.
Do you think we could reduce racist socialization if we recognized it?
Yes. First of all, I have to realize that I am privileged and that I don't have to deal with certain things compared to People of Color (Editor's note: common self-designation by non-white people, abbreviation PoC). If a lot of people understand that, including people in management positions, then I believe that something can be changed. It is about systemic education. Schools must teach what exactly racism is, how it came about and how it is anchored in our culture. That it was invented so that we could unscrupulously make money on other people's backs. And that certain pictures are systematically shown so that we believe these people don't deserve better. As a black person, it doesn't matter where you live, where you come from, your fate is linked to Africa. The way Africa is seen, so are you seen.
So it is particularly important to change something in schools. How can that work if the teachers themselves are racially socialized?
That's the problem. Many teachers do not see that they are racially socialized. It takes pressure to force these people to grapple with it. Then they will realize that something is damn wrong. Most teenagers experience racism for the first time from a teacher or someone above them. Someone who should actually empower this child and make him feel that it is worth something.
You work with young people yourself. How can art, or especially dance, lead to empowerment (Self-empowerment) contribute?
Art and culture are the be-all and end-all. I not only teach young people to dance, I also share with many of them the experience of being left behind in the system. What was projected onto me almost came true. I am seen as a danger so often that I sometimes started to behave like that. Because I knew that's how people see me anyway. You can escape such vicious circles through art, music or dance. I got to know recognition through dancing and that gave me a voice. I learned discipline through dancing. I was socialized through art. The majority of the young people I have taught have arrived in our society and have achieved a great deal professionally. You learned by dancing: What I put in is what I get back. When I have trained five hours a day for a year and compete against someone who has trained an hour a day, you can see that. That’s a very clear thing, there’s not much about privileges.
Why did Aldi customers see you as a threat?
I did not run away. I stopped and verbally processed it. I explained to them that we are living in the year 2021 and that even at 60, 70 or 80 years old, you don't have to stick to old customs. We humans evolve every day and let things be that we know are not good for us. I told them it was not okay to use the N word even if they had been doing it for 70 years. I've been working as a dance teacher for fifteen years, if someone misbehaves completely, then I have to tell him.
What strategies have you developed to deal with such situations?
I have to say, I reacted aggressively to it as a teenager, with insults. At some point I decided to ignore it. But the crucial point for me was that I had children. I have to try to make a better world for them. First of all, I trained myself further, wondering how people feel who feel it is right to act like this. Then I came up with words that I would then confront people with. I try to enlighten them instead of withdrawing. I'm not going out, I've done that too often, and most black people do that too, especially older people. Often they say, "Stop it, you're still getting into trouble!" It's so sad. But as a person who is sometimes privileged and who was lucky enough to grow up in Germany and get involved here, I see myself as someone who has to educate.
You can laugh at the video by now. Does humor also help to deal with something like this?
I don't know if humor helps. But when I watch the video I have to laugh at this absurdity. The woman who said I was a threat came in just before I started filming. She may have heard two sentences. Nevertheless, I am apparently their enemy. Humor doesn't help, but I had no choice. It couldn't be surpassed in absurdity.
* Black is capitalized in this article because it is a political self-designation. This does not describe biological properties, but socio-political affiliations, as Der brown Mob.eV explains on its website.
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