Malcolm Ohanwe Christian Höferle

A Conversation about Identity, “Race,” White Blindspots, and Apfelschorle

How Malcolm Ohanwe shines light on inequality by nudging white folks to talk about it

He works for one of Germany’s biggest public broadcasting companies, the Bayerische Rundfunk. The country today is as diverse as it has probably never been, yet when Malcolm Ohanwe stepped foot into the BR offices for the first time he “thought I entered Narnia. Everything’s as white as snow here”. It was another reminder that even as he gets to play with the “indigenous Germans [Ohanwe’s tongue in cheek terminology]” his skin color is still being perceived as an exception by many. Born and raised in Munich as the son of a Nigerian father and a German/Palestinian mother, Malcolm has sometimes been at odds with how his country is dealing with the question of identity and the social construct of “race.”

I met Malcolm Ohanwe during his time in Atlanta where he spent a month as an exchange journalist. Somehow I even made it into one of his productions for WABE, the local NPR affiliate – a piece about German reunification and being German in the United States. In return Malcolm sat down with me to talk about being black, being German, being “different.”

Malcolm Ohanwe

During our conversation we touched upon a variety of topics:

  • (national) identity
  • Germans and “indigenous Germans”
  • European whiteness
  • the role of PoC in today’s society

Asked which “typical” German traits he resonates with most, Malcolm at first struggled to find an answer. Then he he quickly identified a few that matter quite a bit:

  • the German educational system which formed the way he forms and articulated his thoughts
  • the use of a bicycle as an everyday means of transportation (even though he learned the hard way how motorists in the U.S. rarely pay enough attention to bicyclists sharing the road; after getting hit by a car, he ended up in an Atlanta hospital with fractures)
  • his fondness of Apfelschorle (a mixed soft drink made from sparkling water and apple juice)

Finding his voice as an advocate for equality

Most recently, in the wake of the anti-racist wave of protests originating in the United States, following the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other PoC who died at the hands of law enforcement (or sick people who wish they were law enforcement), Malcolm became an increasingly sought after news analyst and commentator for many German media outlets. He has been behind the idea of asking white people to scrutinize their whiteness using the hashtag #KritischWeißsein which was featured in leading news outlets like Spiegel, jetzt, Deutsche Welle, et. al.

You can connect with Malcolm Ohanwe via his website, his Instagram profile, and on Twitter. You might also want to visit his YouTube channel or connect with him on Facebook. He is also the co-host of Kanackische Welle, where he talks about politics, racism, music, and gender.

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The music on this episode is provided courtesy of Sepalot.
“Duum Diip” – Artist: Sepalot – Label: Eskapaden – Copyright control
“Rainbows – Live” – Artist: Sepalot – Label: Eskapaden – Copyright control

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