Advertisements continue to capture public sphere in Germany.
While commercial ads mainly portray fashionable dressed White people, positioned in a „civilised“ environment, charity posters mostly depict Black people in rural, impoverished circumstances. Through constant presence and repetition, these black-and-white representations become an unquestioned reality for the observers.
The representations of Black and White people are not invented by NGOs, rather, they are products of a history of stereotypisation and have to be regarded in the light of this history. Still, the NGO are carrying responsibility for the reproduction of stereotypes.
Encouraged by scholars of Postcolonial Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies, we are analysing images are constructed.
Postcolonial Theory is deconstructing social power structures and analyses cracks and consistencies of colonial paradigms. The classification of countries in „developed“ and „underdeveloped“, for example, derives from a dominant scheme of modernisation, in which the norm of White, western countries is treated as universally valid.
Postcolonial Theory focuses on power structures which otherwise remain invisible and helps being aware of colonial consistensies behind concepts. While terms are replaced, concepts and images are often only modified: the term „civilise“ for example is replaced by the term „develop“. In the term „underdeveloped“, notions of inability, passiveness, poverty, nativeness and chaos go along, similar to the notions of the term „uncivilised“.
This tool enables us to view posters of charities in a social framework and to elaborate connotations.
Critical Whiteness Studies convinced us to not stop with the analysis of representations of the Other, but to redirect our gaze back to the Self, in our case whiteness.
The representations on the posters are products of the White German society, to which both of us writers belong to: We are defining the Others. In order to understand the set of problems which goes along these images, one has to take the foundation of our society into consideration.
Following writers of the Critical Whiteness Studies, we consider European history not only as the history of enlightenment and democracy, but also of master race thinking, slavery, colonialism and racism as foundations of our history.
Following both theories, we consider racism as a mainstream phenomenon of the White German society, in which right-wing extremism is only the tip of the iceberg. For this reason, we are dealing with established White German organisations, which basically have a monopoly on the depiction of Black people in public sphere.