Sunday, August 09, 2015

This is something I experienced today here in Hamburg, Germany.

I was riding the bus with my girlfriend around 11 a.m. We had just bought a small piece of furniture and were transporting it back to our apartment. The bus was pretty crowded. At one stop, a man in his 60s or 70s got on. As he was walking further into the bus for a seat, I heard him grumble something that had the word "Ausländer" in it. "Ausländer" means "foreigner" in German. I didn't know exactly what the man said, but I definitely heard the word "Ausländer," and it did not sound nice.

When the man made this comment, it created a tension in the bus. Already I saw in my girlfriend's eyes that she was not happy. She looked at me and said something like, "Did you hear that?" I said, "Yeah; is he crazy or something?" But because I hadn't fully understood the man or the situation fully, I didn't feel like pursuing it too much further.

But then, I noticed this other woman. She was probably in her mid 20s and she had a baby swaddled around her chest in a sling. She turned to this guy -- she must have been max four feet away from him -- and said in German, "A little ignorant, what you just said, don't you think?" And she had a really cold and strong look in her eye. A few other people sort of snapped to attention when she said this, and my girlfriend said something like, "Yeah, exactly."

The man, who by this time was seated, did not respond to her comment. Instead, he said, "What a cute baby." But the woman wasn't having it. "Yeah," she said, "wonderful. A baby. A little stupid what you said." The man, trying to diffuse the situation or just plain oblivious asked if the baby was a boy or a girl. The women, still with this very cold and strong look in her eye, completely undeterred, said, "It doesn't matter if it's a boy or a girl. What you need to know is the baby is not a racist."

At this comment, which I initially didn't understand -- it was only later that my girlfriend translated for me -- several people on the bus laughed and nodded in agreement.

When my girlfriend and I got out at our stop, I asked her what had exactly happened in there. She said that what seemed to have happened was that there was an Indian woman sitting in one of the first few seats of the bus -- those reserved for the elderly and the disabled -- and when this man got on, he saw her in this seat and made a racist remark.

Hence, my having heard the word "Ausländer."

I gotta say, I'm sad that people still dare to make such remarks, but the reaction of that woman and the other people in the bus really impressed me.