Racist Realities

How does Germany deal with racism?

How do people in Germany perceive racism - in everyday life, but also in public authorities? How do they assess racist incidents? Are they prepared to take action against it? And how many believe that human "races" exist? Our representative study "Racist Realities" is the first to take a comprehensive look at how different social groups deal with racism.

Racism is part of everyday life in Germany. It not only affects minorities, but society as a whole, directly or indirectly.

Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan, Director of DeZIM Institute

The Study

The findings presented in this report are based on a telephone population survey (computer-assisted telephone interview, or CATI for short) on the subject of racism in Germany, which was conducted between April and August 2021. More than 5,000 people in Germany were interviewed.

In contrast to most existing studies, we not only surveyed members of the majority population, but also various groups that potentially experience racism, so-called racialized groups. The results therefore also reflect the perspectives of people who are themselves affected by racism.

The study provides initial indications of

  • how widespread racism and racist knowledge are,
  • how aware people in Germany are of the problem and
  • what mobilization potential exists in society to actively counteract racism.

Many of the aspects highlighted in the initial study will be dealt with in greater depth in future publications of the German National Monitoring of Discrimination and Racism (NaDiRa).

An astonishing number of people in Germany still believe in the existence of human 'races', even though science has long proven the opposite. This shows that there is still a lot of educational work to be done here.

Prof. Dr. Frank Kalter, Director of DeZIM Institute

Key Findings

The study demonstrates that racism is a central social issue which affects numerous people in Germany and which they deal with in a variety of ways. The realities of racism shape many people’s daily lives in Germany – this is the perception of a sizeable majority of the population. The data and analyses show that:

1. People in Germany know that racism is a reality.


  • Almost the entire population (90%) recognizes that racism is a reality. Almost every second person sees racism as a phenomenon that shapes everyday life and the institutions of society.
  • More than 80 % of the population mention racist mechanisms of exclusion in the spheres of school, work and housing.

2. Many people in Germany are directly or indirectly affected by racism.


  • Racism is a widespread experience in Germany. Only 35 % of the interviewees state that they have never encountered racism in their life.
  • Racism mainly affects members of groups potentially affected by racism directly, such as Black people, Jews, Muslims, Sinti*zze and Rom*nja.
  • The majority of the population is affected by racism indirectly. Being affected directly and indirectly both lead to a long-lasting affective impact.

3. Racist ideas persist.


  • Racist bodies of knowledge and ideas are to some extent deeply rooted in society. 49% of respondents believe that human "races" exist, although this has long been scientifically refuted.
  • Every second to third person surveyed sees biological differences between people or judges people on the basis of their "culture".

4. Reactions to racism vary.


  • The data show that a substantial portion of the population are defensive about criticism of racism; for example, they describe people affected by racism as oversensitive (33 %) and overanxious (52 %). Almost one in two people interpret antiracism as a restriction on freedom of opinion, or as inappropriate and excessive in other respects. The defense is most pronounced in the 55-64 age group and least pronounced among the youngest, 14-24 year old respondents.
  • Just under 70 % of the people in Germany are willing to confront and actively combat racism. It is evident that antiracist engagement increases when people experience racism indirectly and at second hand by witnessing it or having other people’s experiences of racism reported to them. The potential for involvement is very widespread in the younger age groups in particular.