Dear Reginie, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your (professional) background, how you came to CHANCEN eG and what your tasks as an anti-discrimination consultant include?
I was born in Berlin and went to an international school here. Although I grew up in a multicultural environment, I was confronted with racism from a young age. To escape it, I decided to study abroad, worked there, and then traveled for 1 and a half years. Over the years, I realized that Berlin was my home, despite my experiences of racism. I returned to Berlin and worked in integration assistance, where I was again confronted with racism. I therefore decided to pursue a second Master’s degree in Cultural Relations and Migration and work in the anti-racism field. Through an acquaintance, I came to CHANCEN eG as an external consultant, which at that time began to increasingly address the issue.
Now I am the contact person for all people who feel discriminated against in the application process, as well as an advisor in the social committee of the cooperative. Here I can bring both my anti-discrimination and psychological perspectives to the table. I’m all about looking at people holistically. Since I am not otherwise involved in the organization, it is easy for me to build this holistic perspective. The people involved are my focus, not the day-to-day operations of the cooperative.
I would also like to emphasize that, as an external representative, I support all persons who have experienced discrimination. I am not embedded in fixed structures, but am there for the individuals.
What qualities do you think are particularly important for the role of an anti-discrimination consultant? And how does one become an anti-discrimination consultant?
I think it’s especially important to signal that individuals who have experienced discrimination can contact me at any time. I stand by, listen and support those affected throughout the entire process.
Basically, it is very important that the role of the anti-discrimination consultant is carried out by a person who has experienced discrimination himself/herself. Furthermore, not only academic know-how but also connections on a personal level are fundamental. In addition, it is important to bring and develop different perspectives. For example, I am aware of the normative roles I fulfill – I am able-bodied, cis, and straight. Accordingly, I work to understand through other ways – for example, what is important to the queer community. I have a lot of connections, but I also read a lot to find out more about different perspectives.
What does CHANCEN eG do well and where is there room for improvement?
The social committee in particular does a great job, as people are the main focus here. Of course, CHANCEN eG still has a long way to go. Structures can be changed to become more diverse, more experts can be brought in, and the work culture can be rethought. It is important for the cooperative to think about what it stands for and how these values are implemented in real everyday work.
Do you have any tips for businesses and individuals to strengthen non-discriminatory behavior?
For companies, there are great organizations that specialize in working in these structures in the most discrimination-free way possible and adapting the corporate culture. Appropriate training can be particularly helpful in achieving change at the organizational level.
On a personal level, I like to recommend the book exit RACISM – it’s a good starting point for introducing white people to the issue and pointing out where and how often racism occurs in everyday life. The first step is to open your eyes and notice how this happens day to day. In doing so, one’s own communication and behavior should be questioned and reconsidered. For example, questions like “Where do you actually come from?” have a completely different meaning for people of color than for white Germans. Here, it is possible to reflect on what the question triggers in the person asked and what is intended to be triggered with it – because people often want to position themselves at the center of German society with this question, and thereby push the asked person onto the edges. Dealing with this is an important start.
Dealing with anti-discrimination can be very exhausting. Why do you think it’s worth it anyway?
We want to live in a better world than the one we live in today, we want justice and fairness. If we want to implement the basic principle of democracy, we have to deal with anti-discrimination. I think the hard work is worth it, because you also develop a lot of joy, understanding and self-love.