It is another gorgeous day in Germany, unfortunately I had to spend most of the day indoors. Despite the train strike, we were able to find a train that was running that would get me to Heidelberg on time for my lunch time talk. So what have I been talking about so far on this trip? My first two talks in Freiburg and Stuttgart focused on antidiscrimination policies in the US and Europe. My main point in the first talk was how individuals from MEP Glyn Ford to the head of the Migration Policy Group, Jan Niessen were able to work with EU institutions to develop and ultimately pass what would be called the Racial Equality Directive. The talk is based on my book, Legislating Equality (Oxford University Press, 2014), but I also talked about how civil rights legislation developed in the U.S. 50 years ago and how it has become institutionalized in corporate cultures by personnel managers who worked to develop internal regulations, like making sure that jobs were broadly advertised, that would allow them to avoid being accused of discrimination. For this part of the talk I draw on Frank Dobbins’ book, Inventing Equal Opportunity.
During the Q&A it was clear that the audiences were interested in learning about how issues of discrimination were playing out in both the U.S. and Germany, particularly issues of racial profiling. Some shared their own experiences of discrimination, and wondered what it would take to change attitudes, or the way that people are conditioned to respond to people of different backgrounds and/or women. I talked about the development of training programs, but also institutional structures which made it difficult to discriminate, or made it easier to uncover discrimination. Some key issues we discussed included disparate impact and the need to collect data to determine indirect discrimination.
In the discussions I have had with my hosts, there is a strong interest in American politics, particularly the start of the presidential campaign season. Apparently Angela Merkel has said she is supporting Hilary Clinton, which is interesting that she would state a preference so early in the campaign. Merkel has had a difficult relationship with President Obama, so I’m sure she is looking forward to a change in the administration.
My talk in Heidelberg focused on the politics of immigration, which is a hot topic right now due to the drowning of approximately1,000 asylum seekers in the Mediterranean. I spoke for about 20 minutes on issues related to immigration legislation and immigrant integration. This was my biggest audience so far, about 75 people were there for the lunch talk. It was a very engaged audience, during the Q&A they asked a range of questions, including how we can integrate immigrants who come from countries that are not democratic. One man used the example of the Balkans, and I wish I would have thought to remind him that most Germans didn’t have a problem with a return to democracy after WWII. In terms of the drownings in the Mediterranean, I talked about the need to focus on the humanitarian crisis, but that for the long-term, the EU needed to agree on a series of measures working with the transit countries that goes beyond detention as well as addressing the conflicts in places like Libya that are causing the surge of refugees. Often in these kinds of situations, I’m seen as a representative of the U.S., so there were questions about how the U.S. has dealt with democratization in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. There were several comments about history, and how Germany has always had migrants like the Huguenots, Italians and many others going back centuries. I spoke with a local reporter after the talk about border issues faced by the U.S. and Europe as well as which country I would choose to go to if I was a refugee – my first choice would be the U.S. but if I didn’t have that option, I would choose the UK, I feel like I would fit in well in London.
Due to the rail strike, I took a bus from Heidelberg to Frankfurt airport and flew to Hamburg. I had a better experience in the airport this time, but I was surprised that I never had to show my ID before boarding the plan, just my boarding pass. As I drove to my hotel, I noticed that Hamburg reminded me more of Paris than other German cities. Even my hotel had a French-themed brasserie where I had dinner. More talks tomorrow!