Five things happened the weekend of 15 October:
- At a friend’s farewell lunch, I started chatting with the person sitting across from me. We introduced ourselves and when asked where I came from, I said Canada, born in Hong Kong. Then I forgot his name, so after a while I asked him for it again. “Lars.” The acoustics in the restaurant were poor and I couldn’t make the name out, so I apologised and asked him to repeat himself. Instead of repeating his name, he replied, “Oh right, the Japanese can’t distinguish between L and R.”
- At a dinner at my house, an Irish friend told the story of how she was smoking outside a bar in Rostock when someone yelled something at her in German. Afterwards, she learned that they’d yelled at her to stop speaking English. She asked around the table if we had experienced xenophobia in Rostock. Of the seven of us, four were foreigners, three of which were people of colour. But it was the white male German who immediately piped up with a story of how he’d once witnessed an argument between a Turk and two Germans, and decided to intervene by telling the Turkish guy that there was no way he’d win a fight and that he’d be better off packing it in. His intervention apparently caused more Turkish guys to show up and tell him to shove it. “I was just trying to help,” he told us.
- At the same dinner, some of them went outside for a smoke. While they were there, they saw a guy walk up to my building door, write SS in stylised Armanen runes (i.e. the SS of Nazi Germany) and draw a Celtic cross – a symbol used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
- Later on the same evening, they went outside for another smoke. While they were there, someone on the street yelled at them to speak German or go home.
- According to the local paper, two buildings in the historically infamous suburb Lichtenhagen were spraypainted with swastikas.
That’s a lot for one weekend. Racism takes many shapes and forms, and no matter how seemingly harmless to the uninformed bystander or perpetrator, each shape and each form wears me out.