Sternenstaub | Stardust
— Work in progress —
A Black US-American soldier has unprotected sex with a white German stripper in Munich. The year is 1963 and four years later the sparkling green eyes of the unwanted child will meet those of his soon-to-be step-sister Carmen. A few decades down the line she recalls the admittedly strange moment she was visiting the children’s home with her parents. “I looked at him and stretched out my hand to point and said, > Mamma den da < >Mom this one<“. Robert grows up as the mixed-race adopted child of an upper middle class white family in a mostly white surrounding in Munich. He regularly got beat up at school and stuck in the trash can. Class mates payed him loose change to touch his hair and called him Kunta Kinte, after the enslaved African protagonist of the US TV series “Roots”, while Carmen states that the only black person she knew at the time was Roberto Blanco, a famous Black Schlager singer.
Without a black community around him Robert was overly exposed to a particular Aspekt of the black life experience. Alienation. Devoid of any meaning associated to the complexion of his skin, shape of his hair and lips. Devoid of any affirmative understanding of the strangeness of his body and in an environment that would not hold back from continually reminding him he was different. The black mind is riddled with doubt. What is a black person without their community? How do you collectively reinforce an affirmative stance without anyone to back you up, while your mind is tearing itself apart between indoctrinated self-hatred and a subtle sense of undeniable dignity? If you’re different, you feel alone. [...] I’m Black, and I’m German, but I had no way to learn what being black means. Is what Robert himself later utters in his most personal interview at the blinding height of international fame.
Against all odds Robert develops a sense of pride. Pride in spite of the toxic surrounding he was stuck in. Class mates recall that the boy who was stuck in trash cans would walk the world paying close attention to his outward appearance. Building up the courage to fight back while dressing up elegantly, cultivating his exoticism, as his youth collided with the rise of Black American culture on German TV and radio. « Suddenly Germany was excited by a black person, a hip black person, before they just knew the old stars, like Sammy Davis Jr., people that youngsters couldn’t relate to. Michael Jackson was bigger than you could ever believe in Germany. He opened the doors for black culture over there [in Germany]. Then Prince came along. »
Rap and hip-hip became accepted. Robert must have been glued to the television sucking up every single pixel of the Black musicians he saw, not just out of admiration but out of the necessity to develop an adequate mode of survival. He was an empty vessel ready to be filled with something meaningful. He became obsessed with Black American culture as it boosted his self-confidence to new heights. His class mates remember Robert as an athletic sportsman and a passionate dancer. He dived into sports and music the most socially acceptable roles for a black person in the white world. Running away from home at 14 years, overly motivated to find a sense of belonging. He wanted to become a DJ, a Model, a Breakdancer, a singer. He blossomed into a beautiful charismatic teenager of many talents and a relentless drive to — be someone. How much of this drive was attributed to a passion for the disciplines he practiced and how much came from a lack of self value? These are probably two inseparable causes and I challenge you to draw the line between: The passion to do something and the passion to be. Success was soon to follow. As a football player Robert almost made it into the Football club of Bavaria (FC Bayern-Auswahl), as a break dancer he was invited to a break-dancing competition in New York.
By then Denis was already at the threshold of puberty. Eleven years younger than Robert, born in West-Berlin, to an impoverished young German mother who had spent the last five years of her life in a rocker commune, drinking, taking drugs and living from one day to the next. She met a Ghanian who was known under the nickname Kidson. A sympathetic young man with a charming smile who worked as a DJ in Berlin on weekends. The couple fell in love and Sigrid, Denis’ mother, got pregnant. But their plans to get married were disrupted by the German immigration authorities. Kidson was temporarily obligated to live in a refugee accommodation hundreds of Kilo-meters away from Berlin. A residence bound by regular reporting requirements. In 1975 Denis was born to an African father who had been gone for months and was unable to witness the birth of his mixed-race son. Once Kidson had done his time Sigrid had fallen out of love and he was soon after deported. Never to be seen again.
Sigrid was homeless during the first years of Denis’ life. She lived with friends, acquaintances and her ex-boyfriend, until Denis was about three years old and she met the man who would become his abusive step-father. The man, also a Black American Soldier, moved in with Sigrid and fathered her second (and his favourite) child. Denis would now experience stable housing sharing the same roof with a violent alcoholic man who was unable to contain his resentment towards him. The unwanted step-son. Wether or not Denis’ step-father gave him any form of guidance towards the racism he was going to experience throughout his life is unclear. Yet Denis’ recalls a similar disconnect to his black heritage as Robert does. A lack of any form of identity. Er wusste nie so richtig, wo er hingehörte (He never knew where he truly belonged) is what his mother would state in an interview a few years after his death.
Being part of the Afrogerman community, both Denis and Robert grew up as part of the same microscopic minority of people (<1%, 2008) that are close to invisible in a central European country like Germany. However Denis spent most of his youth on the streets of Kreuzberg and Neukölln among the much larger communities of Arabs, Kurds and Turks. As opposed to Robert, Denis had people around him that weren’t white and a connection to non-white cultures within Germany. He was part of a racialised community that was marginalised, forgotten and ignored, with an abundance of poverty, criminality and street culture. A society that was much more diverse than Roberts surrounding but also not free of Anti-black racism. He stood one step in one step outside of the community around him.
By this time (the late 80s and mid 90s) there was a German audience of American hip hop and Denis grew up listening to US rappers like 2pac, Ice Cube, Dr Dre, NWA etc. Hiphop had manifested itself within the subcultures of oppressed minorities in Germany. Yet maintaining a somewhat vague relation to its Black American founders. While many Black Americans would probably joke about German rappers, rapping in front of windmills at Octoberfest, the non-white minorities of Germany simply didn’t care about Black Americas opinions. And strictly dismissed American values. Denis was able to associate himself with the Arch-type of a hip Black man and also to a certain extent with the middle eastern community. The former being a rather complex relationship due to his Black American step-father. However none of these factors would prevent him from experiencing similar humiliations as Robert did. Denis’ life, the life of a kid who was referred to as « der kleine Nigga-Junge » (the little Nigga-boy), was impacted by racist bullying and on top of this — unfounded violence and hate at home, expressed through a man with darker skin than his.
A situation in which he would learn to stand his ground by unleashing his draconic fury. Exaggerated blind self-defence mechanisms based on a deeply driven fight instinct. Getting into countless robberies, drug offences, brawls and knife fights. Good at fighting, intimidating, threatening and executing excessive violence. Qualities that would earn him a brutal reputation as a gangster. The scary young black man of a gang called the Araber Boys. He grew up in children’s housing programs, juvenile prisons and was subjected to resocialisation programs for extremely
troubled youth. All this while his body would bare the scars of his own self-harming. Deep cuts with razorblades and knives. Had he stayed on these streets he would surely have earned the honourable status of a Kiez Legende. His ruthless actions earned him respect while he also possessed a cunning understanding of how to position himself within the society around him. Denis was not an antisocial violent psycho. He was a prominent figure that was equally admired and feared throughout the neighbourhood. He had many friends, sexual partners, acquaintances and people he would call his brothers and sisters. There was barely anyone who wouldn’t know of the Black kid named Denis and barely anyone who wasn’t aware of the consequences that would arise if they were to openly disrespect him.
The burden of Denis’ Blackness led him to invert all the hate and violence directed towards him outwards. He opposed the hate around him with his own hate. For such a coping mechanism to function it was imperative for his own hate to be bigger and stronger than whatever hate he faced. A mode of survival which enabled him to hide his own fear and vulnerability deep down in order for him to overcome the most terrifying obstacles. His understanding of friendship, love and hate were pushed to the extremes. Total kindness and loyalty. Total hatred and destruction. Good and Evil were two strictly opposed forces. Among his peers he was known to be one of the best friends you could have by your side. Somebody who would risk anything to protect you, guide you and keep you out of harms way. As your enemy he was known to be someone who would put his own well-being on the line to hunt you down. The perfect companion to roam the streets in search for trouble. To drown the shame of your own victimhood by casting your manhood into the shape a dominant indestructible figure. An endless lust to affirm such power. An affirmation that doesn’t materialise through something as baseless and illusive as trust or love, but through the continual submission and humiliation of the opposed other.