A half Turkish, half Korean journalist hopes to give the largely voiceless minorities in Germany a voice.
Esra Karakaya is quickly becoming a minor celebrity in Germany with thousands turning on her Youtube shows every month.
“The mainstream media perspectives are not only alienating minority women, but also invading broader society and becoming stereotyped,” said 29-year-old Karakaya TRT world.
The minority representation in the German media is minimal compared to other European countries.
According to the New German Media Professionals (NGMP) group, which advocates greater diversity in the media industry, almost a quarter of the German population has a migration background, but only makes up five percent of the country’s media landscape.
“We’re trying to change these perceptions,” says Karakaya, “we want the wider society to understand that people of color or religious minorities can do the job as well as white, non-Muslim women.”
Karakaya is hosting a recent YouTube show called Karakaya Talks, in which she features guests from across the spectrum of ethnic and religious minorities. In addition to current topics, they discuss topics such as discrimination, police brutality, interfaith dating and sometimes the latest fashion trends.
“We’re still in the development phase, but we have over 500 paying subscribers. Our target group are Generation Z and Millennials of Color – this market comprises around six million people. Our viewers are very politically aware, they understand that mainstream media and politicians are just “Pay us lip service, you know, politics of symbolism,” she says.
We are outsiders
Karakaya was born as the son of a Turkish father of an aeronautical engineer and a South Korean architect in the Berlin district of Wedding. She is proud that she never lived in Berlin other than Wedding,
Known as Little Istanbul and formerly popular with members of the Turkish diaspora, Wedding now welcomes most of the migrants who arrive in Berlin. While the spicy scent of global cuisine wafts through the streets, the legacy of the district also tells the story of a non-existent German inclusiveness.
Karakaya takes great pride in its immigrant roots. “All of my friends are also children of immigrants, we jokingly call ourselves foreigners,” she says.
The jokes mask the pain of a constant struggle for recognition and acceptance by a society that was all too happy to ignore “second class citizens” who were immigrants.
And life got even harder when Karakaya decided to wear the hijab at the age of 11.
While the ubiquitous question of gender inequality in the workplace is answered in Germany, women wearing headscarves all too often feel excluded.
“I still call myself ‘headscarf girls’ – because we used to be referred to as derogatory, only now, when everyone wants to be ‘woken up’, we are called hijab women,” says Karakaya.
The Austrian researcher Doris Weichselbaumer suggests that women with a Turkish name with a headscarf had to submit 4.5 times more applications than an identical applicant with a German name and without a headscarf.
“I remember very well that in 2005 when I was 15 years old I just wanted a part-time job in a coffee shop, I kept getting turned down and one of the coffee shops actually told me they were okay with my hijab but they feared that their customers don’t like to be served by someone wearing a hijab, “says Karakaya.
“We try to break stereotypes about Hijabi women, that they are oppressed, that they are anti-feminist, who have to be saved, victims of the ongoing Islamization of Germany”.
“I remember our first episode in 2018 where six women with hijab talked about a TV commercial where a model was wearing a hijab and we talked about how authentic it was because the model wasn’t wearing a real hijab Life, and we found that sad because in the name of inclusiveness they could have hired someone to actually wear the hijab, “she says.
Amid calls for further inclusion in the German media, Karakaya’s show was picked up by a public broadcaster; this partnership did not go far.
Convinced of the quality of their content, Karakaya is back with a revised YouTube talk show. “We develop new ideas, attract more attractive guests, our audience numbers are increasing and now nobody is telling us what to do,” she says.
She also figured out her target audience. “We have a persona, her name is Reema, she is 27 years old and lives in Berlin, she loves deep and complex political discussions, she loves Instagram – what we think would be well received by our audience”.
She says one of her best shows was after the Hanau terrorist attack in February 2020, in which eleven people with a migration background were killed by a right-wing extremist terrorist.
“We’re trying to show the other side of the argument of what the mainstream media is presenting. When we do community research, people tell us that they love the respect and empathy on our shows, they love the way we ask pose and raise topics of discussion that you would never see addressed in mainstream media, “she says.
She has the ambition to be part of the global media movement. “I want to work for inclusion and empathy, highlight stories about the most vulnerable in society and I want to connect with all hijabi women around the world who are trying the same global south who share a similar vision”.
The tide is turning in Germany, because people like Karakaya raise their voices in the hope of being heard and seen. The Karakaya talk show acts as a platform for such voices, but there is still a long way to go before a semblance of equality becomes apparent in the broader German context.
Source: TRT World