A close encounter with racism

A wonderful few days in Germany had come to an end and I was waiting to begin my long journey home yesterday. My friend Mareike and her daughter were with me at the small railway station in Dulmen. We were enjoying a coffee outside the cafe and chatting away, when we noticed this agitated young man carrying a backpack standing some yards from us. He was talking loudly – in German, of course. “What’s he saying?” I asked Mareike. “He says we should not be speaking English. ‘This is Germany, you should speak German,’ he says.” I was surprised but before I could respond the man came a little closer and raised his voice again.  ‘He says he will hit me with a stick if we keep talking in English,” Mareike explained. I was a little shocked to be honest, never having encountered anything like this before. Was he serious? Just as that thought flashed through my mind I noticed a stick – in fact, a tree branch – was sticking out of his bag. Would he use it? I had no idea but there was the stick and it seemed best to take him at his word. Was he of sound mind or a genuine racist? Could we take a chance? Not likely. Was I afraid? He didn’t look particularly intimidating physically. In fact he looked nerdish. But who would take a chance when he had made a threat? And the threat was to Mareike, whose little girl was picking daisies just feet away. Best to say nothing and hope he would go away. We watched him make his way up the steps to the platform and after that I forgot him. We continued with our coffee and chat. When it was time to say our goodbyes there was our ‘friend’ sitting down waiting for my train. As I got on so did he, although he went to a different carriage. I never saw him again, thankfully. The incident has been playing on my mind a bit since. it made me realise that while this was an unusual occurrence for me, how much more serious it must be for those who live their lives in the shadow of racism. i thought of the prejudice they must endure as they go about their daily lives. It was my first encounter with racism and hopefully my last.

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2 thoughts on “A close encounter with racism

  1. I just put up these words on the facebook-pages dealing about Dülmen, because I life there:

    “It’s very sad to have just one donkey being capable of ruining the first impression of this beautiful city, where so many friendly people. do live in harmony with anyony from abroad. And to make this clear: This was written in English as a sign intentionally.”

    Generally speaking I’m sorry for you to have made this experience and that the situation didn’t get worse. When I was little and I was in England someone asked me, if Hitler was still alive. You see, these dumbasses are spread all over the world. I’m just thankful that there a not much of them and you are more than welcome to return to Dülmen and I’m pretty sure that you will never ever encounter racism again, especially true for this city.

    1. Thank you Lars. I have been to Germany several times and never encountered an incident like the one I wrote. Not for a moment do I believe it represents the attitude of ordinary Germans. Racism exists everywhere, unfortunately. I have several friends in Germany and it will not stop me going back to see them.

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