German Activists Highlight Racism With #MeTwo Campaign

An activist in Germany has launched a campaign to highlight racism in the country, using the hashtag #MeTwo.

Ali Can, a German anti-racism activist who was born in Turkey, spoke on German television Monday, saying the conversation was "long overdue," the BBC reported.

The activist started the campaign following the decision by high-profile, German-born soccer star Mesut Özil, who is of Turkish origin, to quit the national team after racist comments surrounding his performance in the 2018 World Cup this summer. Özil had also been criticized for his decision to meet with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as was fellow German-born Turkish soccer star İlkay Gündoğan.

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Ali Can, a 24-year-old Twitter activist, shows the symbol of his social media slogan #MeTwo during a TV interview in Cologne, Germany, on July 27. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Can explained that he started the #MeTwo hashtag to represent how he and many other Germans identified with two cultures. It also nods to the #MeToo campaign addressing sexual harassment in the United States. The activist said his two identities, Turkish and German, "do not contradict each other."

In his letter announcing his resignation from the national team last week, Özil blasted the treatment he had received as a player, saying he "no longer want[ed] to wear the German national team shirt.

"I feel unwanted and think what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten," he wrote, The Guardian reported. "I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish."

Germany is home to an estimated 3 million residents of Turkish origin, and many have been in the country for decades. But racism remains a constant problem facing the minority community. With German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open border policies, millions of refugees and immigrants have flooded into the country to escape conflicts raging in the Middle East and other parts of the world. In reaction, right-wing groups and politicians have grown in prominence, and they blame immigrants for causing social problems.

Tens of thousands of people have used the #MeTwo hashtag to debate the topic of racism, with many taking the opportunity to share their own experiences.

I was born in Germany and had to take an oral exam at the university Essen. My German professor asks at the beginning "How are you? How do you like Germany? And when will you back home to your country? My answer was "I was born here 25 years ago and this is my home." #MeTwo

— Ardalan Hashemi (@ardalanhashemi) July 28, 2018

#MeTwo Every time I talk to my mother on the phone in English, people look at me suspiciously, one woman told me to learn German and was shocked when I told her in perfect German that she should learn respect.

— TheAMYoungProject (@TashinaTKeller) July 28, 2018

When i am in Germany, i often speak english, even though im completly fluent in german, as its my mothertongue along with turkish. Why? When i speak in english, im not prcrived as an immigrant background boy, and everybody is sooo much nicer to me! #metwo

— OzzyOz (@OzzyOzt) July 28, 2018

Hasnain Kazim, a journalist for German newspaper Der Spiegel, tweeted, "When I'm the only non-white person in a crowded train and the police gets in, I'm the only one who is asked to show ID."

The country's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas even shared his thoughts via Twitter, praising the campaign while also saying it was "painful" to read many of the stories.

"If you think racism in Germany is no longer a problem, I recommend reading through all the #MeTwo tweets," he posted. "Let us raise our voice with them: against racism, anytime, anywhere."