In appreciation and defense of international students in German Studies and beyond

A promise of solidarity from DDGC, WiG, the GSA, BGHRA, and the CAUTG Social Justice Committee, 

15 July 2020

Today we, teachers and researchers in German Studies, share the relief our students and friends feel at seeing the new restrictions on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), issued by the United States Department of State and ICE on July 6, 2020, rescinded without further delay. We recognize that this rescindment would not have been forthcoming from the federal government, were it not for a timely and expensive suit supported by over 200 colleges and universities across the country. We are grateful for everyone—aides, researchers, lawyers, plaintiffs, food delivery workers, officers of the court, and family members—who unexpectedly sacrificed a week of summer, during this pandemic, to head off a punitive policy that ought never have been conceived in the first place. 

We further recognize that such punitive policies will likely continue to be introduced and implemented, damaging our schools’, students’, and communities’ well-being over the coming months, and that we will soon need to rely again on these colleagues’ unflinching and courageous work to defeat the next such policy. We see clearly that the federal government is engaged in a chaotic shock strategy, designed to distract and divide us in a moment already marred by fear, pain, impoverishment, and hopelessness. We will not fall for it, if you won’t. We will never leave our students and friends defenseless and isolated, whether or not they hold US citizenship, permanent resident status, one kind of visa versus another, or documentation of any kind. We will stand by them today and permanently—in our institutional actions, teaching, and public work. 

The Diversity, Decolonization and the German Curriculum collective, the Coalition of Women in German, the German Studies Association Committee for the Initiative on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, the Black German Heritage and Research Association, and the Social Justice Committee of the Canadian Association of University Teachers of German join with one another in rejecting the spirit of punishment and intimidation that these recent policies represented. We also endorse the statement issued by our colleagues at the Modern Language Association, the statement by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and the letter by the American Historical Association outlining the damage and harm that these types of proposed restrictions cause.

We will learn from this moment, and we will not forget it, even as it brings us and our fellows, friends, and students momentary relief. We know that more and more judges are currently being confirmed by the US Senate who would gladly support policies that instill fear in students and sow enmity for generations to come. The intent and effect of the attempted SEVP restrictions (together with the recent restrictions on J and HB-1 visas) were always a xenophobic exclusion of international students from college and university life in the United States, as well as increased coercive strategy to force our colleges and universities into in-person courses despite the public health train wreck this would ensure. 

Despite the rescindment, many of the schools in which we teach are already feeling the devastating effects of these clustered and disruptive decisions, as our international students make the difficult choice to defer or cancel their participation in our programs, given the uncertainty they face both in terms of visas and in terms of US responses to Covid-19. Our international scholars and students play central, courageous roles as teachers and researchers in our communities. They provide integral contributions to intellectual life at all levels and in all areas of our academic communities. As a consequence of recent visa restrictions, institutions of higher education face significant barriers to fulfilling their research and teaching missions. Meanwhile, students in locations with insecure internet access or who are in insecure living conditions find themselves excluded from participation in college and university courses if they cannot travel to the US. Furthermore, any action that potentially leads to spikes in Covid-19 (such as in-person classes held when it is unsafe to do so) will disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities in the United States. The evidence continues to pile up showing the ways in which Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people are more severely affected by the spread of the virus (recently summarized in this New York Times article) – Black and Latinx people are three times more likely to become infected and twice as likely to die.

In other words, these visa restrictions and other recent changes in immigration policy mobilize bald-faced xenophobic ideas about who legitimately belongs in our intellectual and research communities, and perpetuate racist inequities that once again target the lives of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people. They impugn the invaluable contributions made to our research (and, of course, overall society) by international scholars and students. They threaten to decimate the standing of US colleges and universities in the world. 

In the coming weeks and months, we call on all of our institutions of learning to reject such restrictions as these outright, and instead to work to honor and defend the vital international intellectual exchange which our institutions have fostered over the decades to uplift research, teaching, innovation, and transnational collaboration.

WiG Leadership Statement: Black Lives Matter

We, the leadership of the Coalition of Women in German, condemn the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery amidst numerous other heinous acts of racist, white supremacist violence. We would like to express our condolences to their loved ones and affirm our support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

We want to express our solidarity with the protesters demanding justice and with our Black colleagues, students, and community members. The global pandemic was already setting into greater relief the inequities faced by People of Color, from horrific anti-Asian and anti-immigrant violence to stark racial inequalities with regard to access to medical care. These events further remind us of the work all of us, and especially white people, have to do in order to create a truly equitable society. 

To our non-Black members: If you are standing by, thinking that this situation does not apply to you, you are allowing structural inequalities to persist. It is never enough to simply not participate in overtly racist acts; it is about giving up your privilege and working to dismantle systems of oppression. As demonstrated most recently by Amy Cooper’s false report to the police, the racist anxieties of white women have long been central to the enabling of white supremacy. Thus, as members of a feminist organization with a majority white membership, we must commit ourselves to anti-racist action. 

Both as an organization and as individuals affecting our own spheres of influence, we must fight against all behavior that works to uphold systemic oppression and normalize injustice. Below is a list of resources to educate ourselves and take action.

Act Now: Call for Justice for George Floyd

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Critical Resistance’s Abolition Organizing Toolkit

Anti-racism resources for white people

An Anti-Racist Reading List

Resources collected by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility

Anti-Oppression LibGuide – New York Institute of Technology

Information for white parents having “the talk” about race with their children

WiG Leadership Statement after Hanau

In recognition of the intertwined histories and present manifestations of antisemitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Black racism, xenophobia, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy and as feminist scholars within German studies committed to intersectional understandings of social justice, we condemn the violence that has again come to a head in the last week. We are sorrowed by the attacks at two Shisha bars in Hanau and the resulting deaths.

Once again, a violent attack has made painfully visible the ways in which white supremacy and heteropatriarchy continue to wield power in our society. These attacks demonstrate the entanglements of gendered anti-immigrant racism and misogyny. The nine victims of this rampage were part of Turkish, Kurdish, and Roma communities in Hanau.

We express our solidarity with the families of those murdered and with immigrant communities in Germany. We note that our solidarity with the targets of xenophobic racism must include a commitment to fighting racism in all its forms as well as a refusal to normalize racist ideology, misinformation, and far-right radicalization on social media and in our societies. 

Many are asking how this could happen in a country with fairly strict gun regulations. While we affirm our support for the proper regulation of firearms, it is clear that such actions are not enough. Ending the violence of white supremacist heteropatriarchy is a task that requires our broad interventions through our daily actions and interactions; through education; through the speech and discourse we normalize in our culture, whether through art, literature, social media, news media; and through our organized activism.

As a feminist organization, we are committed to teaching and scholarship that challenges interlocking systems of oppression and power. Feminist goals must include the end of racism and white supremacy. The systems that promote and rely on racism; sexism; homophobia; transphobia; ableism; colonialism; and other forms of exploitation, hatred, and exclusion are interlinked and often support one another. We express our solidarity with all groups who fight these systems of oppression.

This continues to be a painful time for our members, students, and colleagues who are targeted directly, often daily, by racist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, xenophobic, and misogynist violence – whether as physical threat or verbal aggression. We express our solidarity with all of you. 

Individual acts respond to a social context, one in which hate speech enables and promotes violent actions. We call on our members, as teachers, scholars, and leaders, to name and challenge white supremacy and heteropatriarchy wherever it is manifest, whether in everyday speech, social media, political discourse, or elsewhere. We cannot allow violent speech to seem “normal.” We cannot allow an atmosphere that enables and normalizes such horrific violence to continue.

Coalition of Women in German Leadership Statement on Halle

In recognition of the intertwined histories and present manifestations of antisemitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy

and as feminist scholars within German studies committed to intersectional understandings of social justice,

we condemn the violence that has again come to a head in the last week. We are sorrowed by the attacks against a synagogue and kebab shop in Halle and the resulting deaths on Yom Kippur. Once again, a violent attack has made painfully visible the ways in which white supremacy and heteropatriarchy continue to wield power in our society. The attacks, and the livestream that accompanied them, demonstrate the entanglements of gendered antisemitism, anti-immigrant racism, and misogyny. 

We express our solidarity with Jewish and immigrant communities in Germany. We note that our feminist solidarity with the targets of antisemitic and xenophobic racism must include a commitment to fighting racism and misogyny in all its forms.

We note as well that the calls for more police protection will not solve the problems of white supremacy and racism that create a culture promoting racist violence. Yes, racist violence is a security issue: as are all forms of precarity that expose groups to the threat of violence and death. This is a question of human safety and security. All too often racist thought has proven to inform police action, and police action has so often resulted in targeting communities of color. Ending the violence of white supremacist heteropatriarchy is a task that requires our broad interventions through our daily actions and interactions; through education; through the speech and discourse we normalize in our culture, whether through art, literature, social media, news media; and through our organized activism.

As a feminist organization, we are committed to teaching and scholarship that challenges interlocking systems of oppression and power. Feminist goals must include the end of racism and white supremacy. The systems that promote and rely on racism; sexism; homophobia; transphobia; ableism; colonialism; and other forms of exploitation, hatred, and exclusion are interlinked and often support one another. We express our solidarity with all groups who fight these systems of oppression.

This continues to be a painful time for our members, students, and colleagues who are targeted directly, often daily, by racist, antisemitic, xenophobic, and misogynist violence – whether as physical threat or verbal aggression. We express our solidarity with all of you. 

Individual acts respond to a social context, one in which hate speech enables and promotes violent actions. We call on our members, as teachers, scholars, and leaders, to name and challenge white supremacy and heteropatriarchy wherever it is manifest, whether in everyday speech, social media, political discourse, or elsewhere. We cannot allow violent speech to seem “normal.” We cannot allow an atmosphere that enables such horrific violence to continue.

Coalition of Women in German Steering Committee Statement on Islamophobic Violence and the Murders in Christchurch

In recognition of the intertwined histories and present manifestations of antisemitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, heteropatriarchy, and white supremacy –

And as feminist scholars within German studies committed to intersectional understandings of social justice –

We condemn the Islamophobia, and all forms of white supremacy and racism, that have manifested in this last week in the murders at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, even as we mourn the victims. This is not an incident that has occurred apart from our own location in North America. The 2015 shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the 2018 shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the Christchurch murders are all part of white supremacist violence. This violence is not isolated to these individual acts of terror, but rather, a part of a wider structure of racist violence that is enabled and promoted by racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, and xenophobic speech, microaggressions, policies, and policy proposals.

We reiterate: As feminists, it is important to speak out in moments of oppression. We know that this violence is not new, but the murders last week in Christchurch painfully illustrate the ways in which white supremacy and heteropatriarchy continue to wield power in our society. We have joined in public protests, and we will continue to protest and speak out. We recognize that silence becomes complicity.

As a feminist organization, we are committed to scholarship that challenges interlocking systems of oppression and power. We recognize that feminist goals must include the end of racism and white supremacy. We recognize that the very existence of German studies in North America cannot be separated from a history of settler colonialism. We recognize that systems that promote and rely on Islamophobia; racism; xenophobia; sexism; homophobia; transphobia; ableism; colonialism; antisemitism; and other forms of exploitation, hatred, and exclusion are interlinked, and often support one another. For our members, students, and colleagues who are targeted directly, often daily, by these forms of oppression and violence – whether as physical threat or verbal aggression: we mourn with you and express our solidarity with all groups who work against these systems.

We once again call on our members, as teachers, scholars, and leaders, to name and challenge white supremacist heteropatriarchy wherever it appears, whether in everyday speech, social media, political discourse, or elsewhere. We cannot allow violent actions, speech and policies to become “normal!” We must interrupt a social context that enables such violence.

Women in German Statement on Antisemitic, Racist, and Transphobic Language and Violence

  • In recognition of the intertwined histories and present manifestations of antisemitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy –
  • And as feminist scholars within German studies committed to intersectional understandings of social justice –

We condemn the violence that has again come to a head in the last week. We are sorrowed by the murders of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the murders of two African Americans in a Kentucky grocery store, all at the hands of white supremacists. We denounce the symbolic violence that has taken place through the circulation of misinformation about trans people and transphobic language, through antisemitic and racist speech posted in social media and in the physical public, and the ongoing rhetorical attacks targeting immigrants and refugees.

As feminists, it is important to speak out in moments of oppression. We know that this violence is not new, but the convergence of these violences over the last week makes painfully visible the ways in which white supremacy and heteropatriarchy continue to wield power in our society. We have marched and protested, and we will continue to march and protest and speak out. We recognize that silence becomes complicity.

As a feminist organization, we are committed to scholarship that challenges interlocking systems of oppression and power. We recognize that feminist goals must include the end of racism and white supremacy. We recognize that systems that promote and rely on racism; sexism; homophobia; transphobia; ableism; colonialism; and other forms of exploitation, hatred and exclusion are interlinked, and often support one another. We express our solidarity with all groups who stand against these systems of oppression.

This continues to be a painful time for our members, students, and colleagues who are targeted directly, often daily, by racist, antisemitic, xenophobic and transphobic violence – whether as physical threat or verbal aggression. We stand with all of you.

Individual acts respond to a social context, one in which hate speech enables and promotes violent actions. We call on our members, as teachers, scholars, and leaders, to name and challenge white supremacy and heteropatriarchy wherever it is manifest, whether in everyday speech, social media, political discourse, or elsewhere. We cannot allow violent speech to seem “normal.” We cannot allow an atmosphere that enables such horrific violence to continue.

– Women in German (WiG) Steering Committee