Riding While Black

This term, along with "driving while black" or "black man on campus" have become a normal part of American vernacular.

I don't know one African-American man (working class, middle class, corporate class, east/west coast, south, midwest, young, old) who has never experienced harassment by the police at some point in his life.  They were all believed to be guilty of a crime, or, simply looked like a perpetrator of some sort, based on the profiles policemen are trained to be on the lookout for.

Racial profiling is as American as apple pie and it is also, apparently, a new feature of a slowly diversifying Germany.

This week a 26 year-old black man just won a  case against the German federal police for racial profiling. Born and raised in Germany,  he recalls being stopped by the police on several occasions, riding while black on the regional train.  He was asked to show his ID card to prove that he was not an illegal immigrant, at least 10 times in the last two years, he says.

But one day this black German college student didn't feel like showing his ID.  Why me?  he asked the policemen on the random check, his white fellow Germans ignored by the officers. (some of the other passengers, by the way, criticized the police).  When he refused to show them what they wanted, they told him to leave the train.  They searched his bag.  They asked him if he spoke English.  They pushed him even though he didn't show restraint.

It is not surprising, I'm afraid, that it happened.  But that this young man sued the police, (despite being told by even his friends that he'd never have a chance) and won, is a grain of hope in all of this.  He didn't gain any money.  His name wasn't even mentioned in the article I read.  He made a simple point and gave Germans an opportunity to look in the mirror and see their identity changing.

Photo: flickr


Heinrich said...

Yeah because only non-white people get asked for ID in germany.

Do you have any idea how often i have been pulled over ever since i got my drivers license even though i never did something wrong and have yet to get a single fine for driving too fast or under the influence of drugs?

Is the german police racist towards me?

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

What upsets me most about racial profiling is that it is always framed from the perspective of black men even though black women have been treated like dogs...even by black men themselves.

Mama Shujaa said...

Hi Rose Anne,
Long time! Have missed the blogosphere. Yes, African-American men, Africans, Hispanics, immigrants, esp. here in the South, in Georgia, USA.

That this young man sued and made folks think is good! Really good. Small steps.

Mama Shujaa.

currentsbetweenshores said...

Dear Heinrich,

Do you seriously believe that white German men get pulled over just as frequently as Germen men of color? Statistics prove otherwise. . .guess why?

Why, for example, did this young men get approached so often, while his white peers did not? Think about it. . .