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Germany’s first black MP has said his landmark election has confirmed its transformation into a tolerant and open democracy but warned the country desperately needs to establish a new global identity.
Charles Huber, a former television detective, told The Daily Telegraph that Germany had reached a historic milestone by returning two black MPs in Sunday’s general election. Mr Huber, a Christian Democrat, is entering parliament alongside Karambla Diably from the Social Democrats.
“If we talk about 20 years ago Germany has changed a lot for the positive and I think we are a very tolerant society,” he said. “I feel very much integrated. People have come up and said you have different ideas, you see things from a different perspective.” The 57-year old has been a trailblazer for German diversity since he first hit TV screens in 1986 as detective Henry Johnston in the hit TV series The Old Fox.
“I was the first person of dark skin to be cast on prime time television outside the US that wasn’t a drug dealer or a pimp. I was a regular character,” he said. “If this is an issue now, it is just that someone who looks like I do is in parliament.”
The son of a Senegalese diplomat and German woman, Mr Huber was raised by his grandparents in a small farming village in the Bavarian countryside. He points out that his upbringing compares with President Barack Obama who was also partly raised by white grandparents and for a long time he was barely conscious of racial differences.
After quitting the show in 1997, Mr Huber remade himself as a cultural ambassador and consultant in Africa. It is an experience that will inform his efforts to change the way Germany relates to the world, especially Africa and eastern Europe.
“I always tried to convince the German government to put Africa on the political map because I felt it was not,” he said. “I have the courage not to just communicate third hand information but show how I personally evaluate integration.
“It is something that has been very well accepted, especially from the Christian Democrats. I have many ideas about our international relationships.”
The colour of his skin would have sealed Mr Huber’s fate under the Nazis but he said Berlin needed to broaden its outlook beyond its 20th century experiences.
“I feel very sorry that it happened. Logically I would have been affected myself,” he said during an interview with the Telegraph at a café not far from the remains of Checkpoint Charlie. “But I don’t feel attached to it personally. I feel very sorry for all people around the world who suffer anti-democratic government.”
Election to the Bundestag is the culmination of a political journey that has taken Mr Huber from the extremes of the radical Left-wing fringe – as a student he sympathised with the US Black Panther movement – to the heart of the centre-Right Christian Democratic Party (CDU) led by Angela Merkel.
Although nearly one in five of Germany’s 80 million people are immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, relatively few have made it into the federal legislature. Until now there were no black lawmakers in Parliament, despite more than 500,000 people of recent African origin believed to be living in Germany.
After working as an activist in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s last general election campaign, Mr Huber found himself courted as a candidate for her third term.
“It was not a case of we need a black man – she took it as normal I’d be interested,” he said. “The party took it as normal. They said this is Charles Huber, we know him – he is as German as we are.”
With two days of party gatherings under his belt since the vote, Mr Huber is forming ideas of how he will approach his new role. “I am a normal parliamentarian and I will chose my topics in the course of my work. The colour is not the issue,” he said.
Reflecting on the shape of the next German government – the CDU fell just short of an overall majority and is looking for a coalition partner – he has radical suggestions.
The conservatives should break with conventional wisdom and actively consider an alliance with the Greens.
“Angela Merkel has already changed the energy profile of Germany. We stepped out of the nuclear industry towards renewables, ” he said. “The Green party say they don’t want to stay in opposition for the coming parliament, so this might be an option. Why not, its new.” But as a conservative he places one condition on his offer. The Greens must abandon higher taxes as the price of shaping Germany’s future.
– The Telegraph