Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Syrian Refugees, the Nazis, and the Slowly Bubbling Racism

Shocked by the evening news, I asked my sixteen-year-old what he'd heard about neo-nazis working as security guards in refugee housing. He rolled his eyes.
"Mom, what demographic likes to wear a uniform and carry a stick?"
Young men who post on their Facebook pages--Sagt Nein zum Heim--say "no" to the home for refugees--feel invigorated by statements like "Keep Germany White." They crack skulls during their spare time, which is most of their time, since they're jobless. They look like good bouncers, except that they're the ones you'd want bounced.
Aren't the authorities doing background checks? Yes, but only in one state, fortunately the one in which I am living. Why only here? Because here we have enough applicants for the job to be selective--and enough budget to pay them. Those with desirable political attitudes--Welcome, Refugees!--are not, in enormous numbers, signing up to be security guards. Guys who want "no foreigners in our town! In our back yard! Near our kindergarten!" instead apply, and abuse refugees when they can get away with it. A photo of a right-wing extremist working as a security guard in Bielefeld, his foot on the neck of a refugee man lying prone and handcuffed, showed no isolated moment.

It's not just right wing guards--it's the middle class. My son brought home a story: a friend's daughter, studying a technical field, switched degree programs from the "teaching" degree ("Lehramt") to the B.A. She therefore had to take the same courses all over again before taking exams that will probably ask the same questions. The university system has a Byzantine quality, and there's no getting around the problem. She blanched when she discovered that Syrian refugees whose studies were interrupted by war will be allowed to take the exams without repeating courses they've already taken. Anyone should be allowed to take the exams, in my opinion, and I teach in the system. You'll either pass or fail, whether you've taken the course or not. What really got the goat of the young German women was that Syrians are exempt from the tiresome requirement to repeat courses, but Germans and Austrians are not. 
"Austrians!" said she, in outrage. If they can't and she can't, why should the Syrians get this special treatment?
My answer would not please her. But I think it obvious. I'll pose it as questions: Haven't the refugees been through enough? Lost enough time? Why not let them try the exams and get on with their professional lives when they pass, instead of dragging them through an extra three or four years of university courses they have already taken?

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