Last week I took the underground at Wittenbergplatz on my way home after work. I sat down opposite to a young Arab guy who was taking a lot of space on his bench showing off his manliness. Next to me sat a girl with a head scarf crying silently. It looked like they had been fighting. The guy stood up and leaned over her and spoke in Arab with a loud and agitated voice. It wasn’t pleasant, he was obviously a macho and she was suffering.
Then another guy, a German workman, suddenly stood up and offered the girl a handkerchief. The Arab guy confronted him and told him to mind his own business. The German answered by shouting into his face: “Just go back home to where you came from. Just go home, we don’t want you here”. Then it looked like they were going to fight and I was getting ready to step in and tell them to cool it. But after having exchanged a lot of menacing gestures and mimics and go-home-we-don’t-want-you-heres, the Arab guy turned away and the workman sat down satisfied and continued reading his tabloid.
I left the U-Bahn angry and frustrated. I had been sitting there watching the situation without intervening. But then I didn’t want to get into a fight. I wished I had told the workman he was a bloody rotten Nazi before I got off the train though. The guy hadn’t even known what the real situation between the girl and the Arab guy had been. He just assumed the Arab was threatening her or treating her badly by watching his behavior.
What to do with this frustration? Well, write about it. And from now on directly confront racism whenever I come across it. And let me assure you – it’s everywhere these days. Even at work, in a fairly liberal and modern surrounding, I have to deal with folks who I know are deeply xenophobic. I think that today, the small-time Nazis feel that it’s alright again to express their views publicly. They think that all Germans (except stupid “Gutmenschen” like me) think alike.
Let’s stand up and confront them. Everywhere. Always.