Wagon 1900

19th February 2020 in a train between two boarders:

I walk up the three flights of stairs. Push the electric door opener, most people mistake for a manual handle, and sit down on the first free spot on the right. To my left an African. Our eyes cross we both smile. His vital spirit, like sunshine.

Hours pass by and we stop at the first destination in Germany, in most cases this means: pass control.

I have been travelling over the boarders for a couple of years now and notices that pass controls are different from what I expected. Each time prepared to show my ID customs officials pass me and pull out individuals. The first couple of times I thought how nice, but then I started to realize they sort out. Not by accident, not by occasion, but by look. In visor: Africans, Arabs, tattooed or pierced people. I was shocked and felt uncomfortable yet sad. Every time I started to pay more attention to the controls and every time, I felt more sad.

A whizz in the near distance. Door opening. Entrance three customs officials. I see them coming towards me, steering right on my dear seat neighbor.

“Can I see your ID”, he says determined.

“Why? I am just travelling home!”.

“This is a passport control please show your ID”.

My seat neighbor gets loud: “I don’t understand why! I am travelling home. I have a house in Germany, I live here with my family and speak fluent German. Why would you march through this entire wagon and come straight to me asking me for my ID because I am black? Because I have a different skin color? This is so racist!” he yells through the train.

I was shocked. Shocked by the authorities, shocked by nobody saying anything but most importantly I was shocked I didn’t speak up. I had all these things in my head I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I didn’t see the option of changing something even though I believe I would have. Maybe not racism maybe not the procedure, but I would have supported my dear neighbor and would have given him the feeling of support but more importantly shared my wish for equality.

A couple minutes after the authorities left without any comment on his opposition, a Dutch woman walks up to him, sits next to him and asks: “Are you okay? I am so sorry this happened to you.” He says “No I am not. Every time I travel this route customs only walk up to me and ask for my ID simply because I am black. I am hurt and I feel discriminated.” I joined the conversation and shared my experiences and grief. But to me, this was too late.

Did you ever experienced a situation in which somebody clearly felt or voiced discrimination? Did you ever feel stunned because you were so sad of a situation?

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