A woman who spent her childhood years living in German refugee quarters, haunted by uncertainty over how long her family would be allowed to stay in the country, has now become its first black female cabinet minister.
Aminata Touré, whose parents arrived from war-torn Mali in 1992, giving birth to her shortly afterwards, has just taken up her post as minister for social affairs in the Christian Democrat-Green coalition government in Kiel in the northern state of Schleswig Holstein.
The 29-year-old is being held up as a representative of the new spirit of cooperation between the Christian Democrats (CDU) under the leadership of the state premier, Daniel Günther, and the party to which she belongs, the pro-environment Greens.
Touré has said she will use her new political post to tackle deep-seated racism, which she has said is rife in German society, as well as its growing social inequality. “As a black woman in this society, it is basically the case that you are often underestimated and treated as a stereotype – that was the case before I took up this post, and as well now that I’m in it,” she said in one of her first interviews since becoming a minister.
She has also spoken of being deeply moved to discover the extent to which her presence on the political scene is viewed as inspiring by black people in Germany, who have very few role models within it. Recalling a recent election campaign event, when a four-year-old black girl waved at her, she said: “Her mother told me how she had been amazed to see me, a black woman on television,” she told Der Spiegel. “I gave her a massive hug, and was almost crying because I became aware just what it meant for that girl that I was in the public eye”.
Touré said she considers it a “downright privilege”, to have been given the brief she has. It covers no less than six areas of responsibility: social, youth, family, senior citizens, integration and equality. “These are topics about which I am 200 per cent passionate,” she said.
While she sees her appointment as sending out a signal to the country way beyond just Schleswig Holstein, she added, “This does not by any means signal that discrimination against people with a migrant background is over. Far from it.”
Touré said it was important for her to bring her own personal experiences to her new job. She would not forget the years in which her family lived in fear of being sent back to Mali – how her mother, an academic, was only able to work as a cleaner because her qualifications were not recognised.
“Sometimes my family was just hanging on, waiting from one two-week period to the next, to hear whether our stay in Germany would be tolerated or whether or not we would have to be deported. In fact for years I thought about nothing else other than ‘Will we be allowed to stay in Germany?’” She said. Twelve years after her parents’ arrival, they finally received German citizenship.
July 14, 2022 at 09:48PM Kate Connolly in Berlin