She is 29 years old and the first black female minister in Germany. Green politician Aminata Touré has been a cabinet member in Schleswig-Holstein since the end of June. In an interview with Stern, Touré reports where she sees the fight against racism and what she criticizes about the federal government’s relief package.
You have been the official Minister for Social Affairs, Youth, Family, Senior Citizens, Integration and Equal Opportunities in Schleswig-Holstein since June 29. Ms. Touré, how did it feel to be the first black German minister to be sworn in?
For me personally it was a very special situation after the political work of the last five years to be able to take on such a role – even regardless of the fact that I am the first black minister. After the intense weeks from the election campaign to the coalition negotiations, it was a giant step that we managed to form this government. But of course I also noticed from the reactions that for many it was very special that I was the first Black woman minister in Germany. That’s another reason why it was a special moment for me.
How did people react? What messages did you get?
A lot of people were happy and wrote me a lot of nice messages. From Instagram and Twitter to emails, I’ve really had reactions from a variety of channels. Many people who have followed my political path are very happy for me.
Let’s take a step back along this path. Her family fled to Germany themselves. You lived in a refugee home for several years as a child, you know the fear of deportation and everyday racism. Was your own experience the reason you went into politics?
No, it was one reason among many others that drove me to want to help shape and change politics, but biographies alone don’t make politics – it doesn’t work that way. So for me it was more of a mixture of the aspect of being politicized through my own biography, but also formulating the political claim. If, like me, you were the top candidate of a party, you are responsible for all sorts of issues and must have the aspiration to want to shape politics that goes beyond your own interests for society as a whole. I had and still have this interest today.
Since the number of black politicians in Germany is so manageable, they attract all the more attention. Does that encourage you or do you see the constant limelight as a burden?
Politicians certainly have different biographies and backgrounds, but our politics is still not as diverse as our society. For example, we have too few young people who take on political responsibility.
Keyword different biographies. With the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the emerging “Black Lives Matter” movement, racism has been discussed more in Germany than it has been for a long time. It’s been two years now. Do you think things have really changed since then?
Yes, I do believe that something has changed, just in the self-image of many people who are affected by racism. In concrete terms: no longer quietly asking for these issues to be heard, but demanding with a strong self-confidence what is important for the movement. At the same time, many changes have taken place at the political level. In Baden-Württemberg, an action plan against racism and a state anti-discrimination law have been launched. At the federal level, we have a commissioner for anti-discrimination for the first time, and the federal government’s coalition agreement also shows that these issues are being dealt with – which in turn was made possible by the social debate and the growing awareness.
It is clear that the problem has not gone away, but it can no longer be brushed aside. Recently there was a survey on the question “Is there racism in Germany?”. 90 percent of those surveyed said, “We know there’s a problem with that.” And this awareness alone is important in order to actually achieve political and social changes.
An action plan against racism was also adopted in Schleswig-Holstein a year ago, in which you played an active role. What measures have been implemented since then?
We have launched 31 political measures in a wide range of areas. In the police department, for example, a separate anti-racism contact point was created so that people affected by racism can contact them directly and this also raises awareness within the police force. In addition, a scientific survey was carried out in the police force, where the results will soon be available. In the judiciary, we have started a project with the German Institute for Human Rights to train judicial staff on racism. In addition to the action plan against racism, we also formulated in the coalition agreement that we want to create a legal basis – an anti-discrimination law, so to speak, to protect people from racism. I am very pleased that I can continue to work on these issues as Minister for Social Affairs.
In your first speech after being sworn in, you focused specifically on young people and campaigned for a “youth policy strategy” for Schleswig-Holstein. What exactly is it all about?
In the last two Corona years, young people in particular have been excluded from many processes. It is therefore all the more important for us to involve them in political decision-making processes. That’s why our coalition agreement states that we want to develop a strategy for the next few years with which we can actively involve young people – and invite them to do so right from the start.
No matter whether young or old, many people are currently concerned with inflation and the question of what they can still afford. What are your specific plans as Minister for Social Affairs to help those who have to make every cent?
This is of course a question that affects all social groups, I notice that in both professional and private conversations. That’s why we worked on it in the first few days of our 100-day program. A very relevant point here is the emergency program for the food banks in Schleswig-Holstein, which we want to launch quickly and support with 500,000 euros. Because we see – both through the Ukraine war and the people arriving here as well as the rising food prices – that we have to support here.
On the other hand, we are working on a fund for social hardship and are considering how we can cushion the impact on middle and lower incomes. In the past, we have repeatedly registered at the federal level that certain social groups – such as pensioners, students, trainees or people with low incomes – have not been seen to the same extent. That is why the political demand that I, as Minister from Schleswig-Holstein, make to the federal government is that these groups should definitely not be left out when the relief package is designed.
Your new position includes six different areas, in which there are obviously a lot of construction sites. You’ve been in office for two weeks now. Where do you even start?
In politics, a thousand things always come up at once, and you shouldn’t let that intimidate you. Instead, I try to see the potential and the possibilities of being able to work on many different things. When it comes to my issues in particular, you have to have staying power in democratic processes. Therefore, when one shows signs of fatigue, I often think of how people fought for the right to human dignity, social justice, equality, anti-discrimination and against racism under completely different conditions decades ago – and still gave their lives in other parts of the world today take risk.
That’s why I consider it a huge privilege to be able to fight for these issues in a democratic framework. We have already achieved a lot. We’re still a long way from the point where you can say ‘everything is great’. But still within a framework where one can draw courage.