A German grocery store just took a strong stand on diversity.
The Edeka, in Hamburg, removed all foreign-made products from its shelves to illustrate how reliant Germany is on people from around the world. Confused customers browsed mostly empty aisles, where goods had been replaced with signs reading, “This shelf is pretty boring without diversity,” “This is how empty a shelf is without foreigners,” and “We will be poorer without diversity.”
“In our stores, we sell numerous foods which are produced in the various regions of Germany,” a spokeswoman for Edeka told the Independent. “But only together with products from other countries, it is possible to create the unique variety that our consumers value.”
The effort drew praise from the vice chair of the Christian Democratic Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, who praised it on social media as a “wise action.”
A customer, Sven Schmidt, shared images of the store on social media. He told the Independent that he liked the campaign. “Looking at all the mentions of hate and lack of understanding of other people I got, I'm happy that I posted it and showed my two cents against the racists, even though I know it was mainly about diversity,” he said.
But others criticized the store. Marcus Pretzell of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party called it “completely mad.” Others accused the supermarket of using a loaded political issue as a publicity stunt.
Immigration and Islam have become fraught issues in Germany, where citizens go to the polls next month to choose their new leader.
Much of that anxiety stems from Merkel's 2015 decision to allow more than a million asylum seekers and migrants into the country. Many came from Syria or other parts of the Middle East. Germany has a rapidly aging workforce, and Merkel said the newbies would be a boon to the economy.
The influx, however, sparked a backlash, particularly among the far right. Opponents worried that the migrants weren't assimilating, a sentiment fueled by news stories of crimes and rapes committed by migrants (many partially or totally fabricated). They warned, too, that an influx of mostly Muslim migrants put Germany at risk of increased terrorism.
Merkel's position led to a serious drop in her popularity. But she has since bounced back in the polls, and experts predict that she will easily win reelection.