Recently in Zeitwissen, a section within Die Zeit, one of the largest news sources in Germany, an article was published on the need of Indigenous knowledge in natural sciences to help salvage and repair the climate crisis, a large part of which nuevo European values and practices unleashed on our world. Myself and other Indigenous peoples were asked to comment on how Indigenous knowledge can be of use in natural sciences. Me being me, I came at it from a slightly different, but critically important angle.
“Like Indigenous cultures and peoples, Indigenous knowledge is often “primitized” and stereotyped in a Eurocentric way. Yet Indigenous knowledge and methodologies are based on equitable values beneficial to all life, and they have positive application for everything from psychology to astrophysics, education to engineering.”
“Wie indigene Kulturen und Gruppen wird auch indigenes Wissen oft “primitized” und stereotyp auf eurozentrische Weise dargestellt. Indigenes Wissen und indigene Methoden beruhen jedoch auf gerechten Werten, die allen Lebewesen zugute kommen, und haben positive Auswirkungen auf alle Bereiche von der Psychologie bis zur Astrophysik, von der Bildung bis zur Ingenieurwesen.”
Much of the time, the majority insists on minimizing, defending or ignoring such practices, and fail to see how such behaviors extend to all aspects of life, particularly industries and business world, too. Some completely disregard the obvious intersectionality of Indigenous racism, to other forms of normalized bigotry, prejudice and bias, and to sexism, ableism, Eurocentrism.
“Your credentials are quite nice, and yes, more psychologists are needed in Germany, but we don’t have any Native clients.”
What’s wrong with this statement? Yet I’ve heard it time and time again, from supposed educated and non-racist people. Simply being Native in Germany, unless you’re dancing (oh wait, it has to be “traditional in feathers!” or in a job considered not academic, often finds you unemployed, politely rejected, even gently rebuked by puzzled professionals who are mystified how you, a psychologist, educator, professional who happens to be Native (or some other “non-white”) practitioner could possibly help their almost exclusively white clients. As if you being Native (or non-white) you are only able to help persons like yourself, in the way many of those prejudiced limited and compartmentalize themselves, excluding “Others”.
As if simply being non-white makes you less professional, less relevant, less well-read or that your methods (as if you haven’t studied the same materials as they the same 10+ years) are primitive even dangerous! When in fact, IN ADDITION to that, you have the experiences, observations, knowledge and intellect beyond theirs. They also know many of their clients or patients, or even other staff who are white German are unapologetically prejudiced against “Others”. So there are also times where you might be hired, but your co-workers treat you abysmally with the flippant comment, “Well, what did you expect!” or your work and person are so underappreciated and criticized, the emotional burden takes it toll. They also do this to “their own” also who might also try to improve racist, sexist, ableist, Eurocentic situations. “To name is the problem is to become the problem.”
So in this, they are failing their clients, don’t really want the best or better for their clients. Think this stuff through. It matters. It really does, but especially in psychology where non-European peoples have suffered greatly at the hands of psychiatrists and psychologists, many of whom are entrenched or apologists of racial hierarchies and eugenics. A pattern and history Germany shares with the USA.
But not only that, the abuses, subtle and unsubtle derision, dismissal and minimization are also heaped upon their own peoples and demographic group. There are many, many reasons why so many people distrust and avoid psychologists unless at extremis. I’ve heard so many horror stories. And the German equivalent of the USA’s Psychological Association, literally says on their website, unless its white psychology methods or beliefs, its dangerous! Deep deep racism and Eurocentrism.
“I can’t help you. I don’t come from an immigrant background” is a phrase actually told an ethnic professional by their therapist, who had taken their experiences personally and become angry, as if the client’s speaking about the racism they daily experienced was attacking her, the psychologist. Too many “western” practitioners with egoism and value system of self-centeredness, competitive and skeptical retraumatize their own patients, whatever their background or heritage. (Reference.)
And, of course, this is across all industries in western society but particularly done in an often polite yet still inherently brutal Eurocentric way in Germany. Whether you’re trained as an artist, an engineer, or whatever, these fear based privileged practices that revel in stereotyping and (mis)labeling are a huge part of the continuing and actually rising normalized (and structual) racism, hate, xenophobia and selfishness especially in this time of Corona Pandemic.