It was 5 p.m. on March 10 at the Mainz central train station when an older white man stabbed and severely injured a younger black man. According to the report handed to me by a protestor, witnesses said that the older man provoked the altercation by hurling racial slurs at the younger man.
I found out about this attack after I stepped off the train in Mainz from the Frankfurt airport. A large group of people held a large banner demanding the end of racism in Germany. My first reaction was to make a joke about Florida.
“That’s nothing,” I said. “In Florida, old white guys shoot young black guys all the time.”
Not the most tasteful joke, I give you, but it actually got me thinking about how we think of racial violence in America. In America, people are attacked for racial reasons, and thanks to permissive gun laws, these attacks often have fatal consequences.
The event really brought the idea of racial violence, something I didn’t expect to see in Germany, back into my mind as an international problem that must be addressed somehow. It’s even more important now than to address the problem as often as possible.
I returned to the same spot just a week later, only to see the same protesters holding the same banner. A young guy wearing dirty jeans and an old baseball cap handed me a one-page pamphlet outlining their grievances.
Beginning with the description of the attack, the paper then moved on to describe how police said they cannot assign a motive to the attack.
The pamphlet then made a call to action, by not letting structural racism become invisible. They pledged to hold a discussion and vigil every Monday evening at the central train station.
So, in Germany, a young black man is stabbed by a racist and survives, and the people react by organizing group demonstrations in an attempt to highlight racial violence.
In America, young black kids are shot and killed by racists for listening to music a little too loud or knocking on the door in search of help. Racial violence is a real issue, and we shouldn’t stop talking about it or let it become invisible.