Racists blamed him for Germany's World Cup woes. Now he's fighting back.
Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

The 2018 World Cup may be over, but the conversations about race and identity are not.

Most recently, German soccer player Mesut Özil is making headlines. Özil has decided to quit playing professionally for the national team after what he describes as experiences of racism and double standards against people with Turkish ancestry.

On July 22, the Turkish-German midfielder posted a statement on Twitter detailing the slander and ridicule he has received from far-right German politicians, the media, the German Football Association (DFB), his team, and soccer fans.


The statement comes in response to backlash Özil, a practicing Muslim and son of Turkish immigrants, received for posing for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The photo was taken after a charity event in London.

While Germany has over 3 million Turkish immigrants, some German politicians and fans questioned Özil's national loyalty after his photo with the Erdoğan. Some have gone so far as to say that Erdoğan was exploiting Özil for political gain.

But in his statement, Özil insisted that his meeting and photo with Erdoğan had no political motivation. "For me, having a picture with President Erdoğan wasn’t about politics or elections," Özil wrote. "It was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country."

Twitter users also pointed out the double standard and hypocrisy Özil received for posing with Erdoğan compared to other athletes.

Özil says he's been singled out because of Germany's failure to advance in the 2018 World Cup.

While Özil helped lead Germany to win the 2014 World Cup, he said that he has been unfairly scrutinized for the team's shortcomings this year — something he says has to do with his Turkish roots.

In his statement, Özil described in detail every racist incident he's experienced. He called out the German media for using the Erdoğan photo as right-wing propaganda, DFB president Reinhald Grindel for making "unforgivable and unforgettable" comments about immigrants and Muslims, and German politician Bernd Holzhauer for referring to him with an offensive expletive.

But Özil insists that his heart is still with Germany. "I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish," he added. Despite being one of the world's best midfielders, Özil said his mother has always taught him to never forget his roots and values. This is particularly why he wanted to celebrate his dual heritage.

Özil's resignation is a powerful and courageous act of defiance against the selective — and racist — celebration of immigrants.

By taking a public stand against racism, Özil shed spotlight on the double standard used against players of dual-heritage. At a time when debates about refugees and national identity are looming, he's bravely shaping the conversation on the meaning and purpose of European identity.

The disapproval of dual heritage isn't a problem exclusive to Germany. Trevor Noah received backlash in July 2018 from a French ambassador for celebrating the African background of some of the French soccer players. But Noah set the record straight: His celebration of their African roots is not denying their "Frenchness" but rather is pointing out the beauty in all "these Africans who can become French."

As a matter or principle, Özil said he would no longer stand to be a part of the scapegoating and racism. The only way for him to do that is to step down from the team and speak out against injustice.

"Racism should never be accepted."

Right on, Özil.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
True

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

Keep Reading Show less

As I was doomscrolling through Twitter yesterday, the wording of an Associated Press post caught my eye. "The Supreme Court will allow absentee ballots in North Carolina to be received and counted up to 9 days after Election Day, in a win for Democrats," it read.

A win for Democrats? Surely they meant a win for Americans? For voters? For democracy?


Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
True

When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

Claudia Romo Edelman saw a community in desperate need of guidance and support. And she created Hispanic Star, a non-profit designed to help Hispanic people in the U.S. pull together as a proud, unified group and overcome barriers — the most pressing of which is the effects of the pandemic.

Because the Hispanic community is so diverse, unification is, and was, an enormous challenge.

Photo credit: Hispanic Star

Keep Reading Show less

Electing Donald Trump to be president of the United States set an incredibly ugly example for the nation's youth.

We know how it's affected the national discourse of regular adults. But there's no denying the conduct of a president impacts how children around the world see the example being set for them. Every day for the past four years, children have been subjected to the behavior of a divisive figure that many of their parents chose to exalt to the most powerful office in the world.

Sure, adults can make excuses for him saying he's an "imperfect messenger" or that they "didn't vote for him to be reverend," but these are all just ways to rationalize voting for a man with zero character. What a message to send to children: Act awful and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

But what if you took away the "Trump" name and examined the character traits of him as an ordinary person? More specifically, what if your daughter came to you and said this was the kind of person she was planning to date? Well, one MAGA family found out and the results are funny, insightful and quite revealing about how we somehow hold our leaders to different and lower standards than we expect from ourselves in our day to day lives.

Keep Reading Show less

After years of advocating for racial justice and calling out police brutality and seeing little change in law enforcement and our justice system, some people are rightfully fed up. When complaints are met with inaction, protests are met with inaction, and direct action is met with inaction, maybe it's time to get specific in who needs to be held accountable for issues in law enforcement.

That's exactly what Keiajah (KJ) Brooks did at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting in her hometown of Kansas City this week. The 20-year-old used her approximately four minutes with the microphone—and with the commissioners' undivided attention—to unequivocally lay out her position to each and every one of the officials in that room.

"Fair warning, I'm not nice and I don't seek to be respectable," she began. "I'm not asking y'all for anything because y'all can't and won't be both my savior and my oppressor. I don't want reform. I want to turn this building into luxury low-cost housing. These would make some really nice apartments."

"Firstly, stop using Black children as photo opportunities, 'cause they're cute now, but in 10 years, they're Black male suspects in red shirts and khaki shorts," she said. "Eating cookies and drinking milk with children does not absolve you of your complicity in their oppression and denigration..." she added, before looking directly at the police chief and pointedly calling him out by name, "...Rick Smith."

Keep Reading Show less