Mayor Boris Palmer of Tübigen is facing severe backlash after using a racist slur in a social media post about a black soccer player. Now, members of his own party are initiating party expulsion proceedings against him.
The context behind Palmer’s comment
Palmer wrote a post on Friday decrying ”cancel culture” after former soccer players Dennis Aogo and Jens Lehmann were sanctioned for comments they made.
Lehmann was removed from Hertha Berlin’s supervisory board after he called Aogo a ”token black guy” in a text message, which was accidentally sent to Aogo himself. Aogo also resigned from his position as a pundit for Sky Sport after a verbal lapse in which he used the expression “training until gassed”. The comment was perceived as offensive due to Germany’s violent history in which millions of people were murdered in gas chambers in concentration camps. Both men have apologized for their comments.
Following the departure of Lehman and Aogo from their roles, Palmer proceeded to post a remark on Facebook denouncing ”cancel culture”, saying ”Lehmann gone. Aogo gone. Is the world better now?… The furor with which storms on the web can destroy existence is getting worse.”
The controversy continued when, Palmer posted a comment on his initial post that said: ”Aogo is a bad racist. Has offered women his n****r d**k.” Palmer was not the first to use the word in this exchange, but rather another user quoted.
Criticisms from the Green Party
It is not the first time that Palmer faces accusations from his own party for comments against minorities. Indeed, in 2019, members of the Green Party called for the mayor to be expelled from the Party. At the time, he elicited criticism after an advertising campaign by Deutsche Bahn showed pictures of travelers with different skin colors. In Palmer’s opinion, these people did not reflect society.
It seems that now the Greens have had enough. Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann harshly criticized Palmer, saying ”You simply can’t make statements like that. It simply can’t be done.”
According to an article by ZDF, he also added: “I also find it unworthy of a mayor to constantly polarize with provocations.” The Tübingen mayor is a “professional” after all, he said, who should know that “irony never works in politics.”
On Saturday, Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock also condemned Palmer’s remarks on Twitter, calling them ”racist and repulsive”.
“To invoke irony after the fact does not make it undone,” she wrote. “The whole thing joins ever new provocations that exclude and hurt people.” She added that Palmer ” has therefore lost our political support.”
Baerbock concluded by announcing that the Party would now be discussing ”consequences, including exclusion proceedings” for Palmer.
On Saturday, an urgent motion to the party expulsion proceedings was passed with 75.6 percent of the votes at the state party conference in Stuttgart, according to ZDF.
Palmer’s response to the controversy
In his own statement Palmer called accusations of racism against him “absurd,” since he was not the original author of the sentence containing the N word. He branded the controversy as ”a classic s**tstorm”.
Furthermore, he told the Bild newspaper on Saturday that his comment had simply meant to show the irony of calling a black man racist. Therefore, his intentions were to express ”solidarity with Aogo against his banishment from the screen because of an ill-considered sentence.”
About the party exclusion proceedings, Palmer declared that the motion was “virtually a lesson in the emergence of a repressive climate of opinion in our country” and that he wished to justify himself before a party body.
The Greens are currently leading in the polls ahead of Germany’s federal election. It is too early to say if this controversy will have an impact on the German electors’ view of the Party.