“That’s it already. Can you see it. Wasn’t that bad, was it? ”The policeman gives me back my passport. He’s grinning. I don’t feel like laughing. Almost everyone entering from Greece would be checked, he says. I look demonstratively forwards and backwards. The only person who is stopped by the four officers and asked in English where I am going is me. From where I come. Where I live. What I’ve done abroad. Then it’s my travel companion’s turn. Wasn’t that bad after all.
This meeting was only a few weeks ago. What do I feel in such situations – anger, sadness, or humiliation? – I haven’t remembered for a long time, because I’ve developed an automatic mechanism for this: I ask why I am stopped, what the reason for the check is and whether others are also checked. After the inspection, I like to stand in sight and see if anyone else is stopped. So also on that day.
I am being watched by the officers. A short time later, they stop a couple. Both PoC, People of Color, so phenotypically non-white Germans. I can tell from their passports that they are German, at least on paper. That’s it So the four of us. The only non-whites from the plane. Nothing new. Another check out of numerous. They are so many. And yet I can remember almost all of them. Even those in my childhood. The one on the border with Denmark, when my father had to get out and sheepdogs searched our car. The one at Hamburg Central Station when I was out with my brother. The one at Mannheim Central Station. The one at the Berlin train station. The ones at every airport. The one on our doorstep.
And these are just the ones we saw before September 11th. After the terrorist attacks in 2001, racial profiling, i.e. unprompted identity checks based solely on external characteristics, achieved a special quality. General suspicion came with the raster search in the early 2000s. The logic: All Muslims and those who look like Muslims are terrorists or could be terrorists. Be that as it may, police checks are appropriate. Better safe than sorry.
With that, many lost their voices. And although we knew what was happening, we lacked the words. After all, it was about security. But who is protecting us? We can’t rely on the police. We’re too foreign for that. Too migrant. Too black. Too poor. We have nothing that is worth protecting. Not even our life. The NSU has proven that to us. And hall. And Hanau. And the NSU 2.0.
“We shouldn’t complain. Don’t provoke, ”said my mother. She grew up in London in the 1970s. She knows racist violence, whether by skinheads or the police. It’s 2006. We want to go to the train that will take us to her sister in Copenhagen. Officials have already followed us at the train station. They see which train we’re getting on, secure the exits and then go straight to my brother. They search him. There are at least 15 other people in the car. But the officers are only interested in my brother. When my mother calls her sister after the check-up to tell her in English, in a whisper and a shaky voice, what has just happened, the person in front of her turns around, rolls his eyes, puts a finger on his mouth and says, “Now but that’s enough. Wasn’t that bad after all. “
Wasn’t that bad after all. And actually I think to myself: yes. Wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe we were just lucky? But what about Oury Jalloh? Or Achidi John, Christy Schwundeck, Yaya Jabbi, Amad Ahmad or Mohamed Idrissi and the more than 160 dead who, according to the organization Death in Custody, have been victims of institutional racism since 1990?
The problem is, the people who think we should be quiet as long as it’s not that bad don’t say anything even if it gets bad. But as long as luck decides whether my life is endangered or not, the sense of protection is wrong.