Busted in Bavaria

I am sharing a ride from Berlin to Naples and want to give the driver some rest, so I take over the steering wheel just before the Bavarian border. On the backseat are two South-Asian men who came with us from Berlin.

The night before was short thanks to pointless police brutality and mob violence after a racist murder attempt at the Berlin Refugee Protest Camp. I am  tired and want to switch again, so I pull in to the next highway stop near the Bavarian city of Hof. The signs are crossed out with tape, but I don’t see the danger.  The stop is full of trucks and customs police cars. The cops set up a huge x-ray gate to scan each truck.

We try to drive past, but a Bavarian customs officer rudely tells me to follow him. He walks right in front of my hood. The car jumps as I start, and his colleague curses at me to watch out. So far, we’re not suspected of any crime other than looking for a bathroom. They address us in the informal second person singular (“Du”). In the routine stops I witnessed so far, cops normally used the more respectful form “Sie.”

The guys on the backseat get nervous. After checking my temporary German ID card and ordering me to get a new one “because it’s already 1 month old” and I’ve had “plenty of time” and seeing the driver’s Italian papers, the officer asks our two ride sharers to show theirs. He ignores that I’m driving on the highway without a license and that I look like a stereotypical terrorist, or at least a hippie of color. He knows which darkies to pick on, as long as the “Staatsbuergerprinzip” is in effect.

The two men are refugees and therefore prohibited from leaving their administrative districts without a permit (“Residenzpflicht”). Like a colonial official, the cop snarls at the men to get out of the car, take their bags and open them. “Us” Europeans he orders to stay inside. Then two cops  search the men’s tiny backpacks for ten minutes, in the vain hope of finding something incriminating.

After searching the men and checking their IDs, the officers tell me to park the car and wait. The older refugee signals to us to be calm; it’s just routine harassment.  The customs officers call the local police to record the “offense” of Residenzpflicht violation. The policeman who arrives in a black BMW is an easy-going, beer-bellied type. He speaks to us calmly. After checking all our IDs, he informs me that my address is unknown and I’m wanted as a court witness, but I tell him it’s an old story and he doesn’t bother further.

Then each of the men have to fill out a form because they will receive a fine of 80 euros for breaking the law. The cop tells them that they just need to give their ID details. If they want, they can comment,  but they don’t have to. They don’t understand a word, it’s a “sign here and go home” procedure. The policeman adds that the older refugee will get a stronger fine (“Vergehen”), because he is a repeat “offender.” He doesn’t seem to understand either. After almost two hours, we are let go.

It’s plain that the Germans use the apparently random Residenzpflicht law for administrative criminalization. The older man has lived in Germany for 12 years under “deferred deportation” (“Duldung”). It is hard enough to live legally in Germany without breaking administrative regulations once in a while. When these “offenses” accumulate, the “offender” becomes a “felon,” which is an impediment to her/his naturalization.

The administrative procedure, once set off, cannot be sabotaged by well-meaning individuals. The customs officers were assholes for not ignoring our car, and they seized the opportunity to bully the non-citizens. But the cop who arrived later might have rather stayed at the office. Even if he wasn’t an ueber-motivated darkie-hunter, he had to record the offense.

Oppression which works independent of personal prejudice or preference is institutional. I say oppression, not racism or discrimination, because the oppression is independent of personal likes or dislikes. Officials are ordered to harass minorities designated by the state. As soon as the cops noticed I’m German and speak with a middle-class accent, they  ignored me, even if I’m darker than the ideal German, because there are no laws against being dark. Even if they hate me, they can’t faze me. Historically, Germany has protected the majority of its citizens quite well, unlike the USA, the  foremost modern colonial state.

Even most of the people killed and exploited by Nazis were not German citizens. Before the Germans murdered their neighbors, they took their citizen rights and removed them from the national territory. There are two conclusion: a) My German citizenship and social caste are privileges even racist police officers have to respect (for now); b) Germans love to terrorize non-citizens within and without “their” national territory. As a German citizen and an opportunist, I can either support this barbarism and become an enemy of the world, or join the world and fight the German nation.

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2 responses to “Busted in Bavaria”

  1. naynay says :

    ..your conclusion is only the half-truth or even quarter-truth..institutional discrimination as well oparates on you as a non-white until you reveal yourself with holding this sheet saying your are a german…but until that point you are/can be seen and get dealt with as a “criminal” (as our lovely friend niqumal alsways likes to put it;)) or any other pariah category…

    • Emal Ghamsharick says :

      Go south of Rome, and your whole skin color-based worldview will collapse.

      Particularly German institutions so far discriminate more between castes than between races. Oftentimes, you are really discriminated for your caste, your “capital” in the widest sense, not your skin color. This explains why I am treated better by the cops in Kreuzberg than a “POC” my age who actually grew up here.

      Furthermore, I am no less criminal than the average street hustler, I just don’t get caught, because I look like an eso hipster. The issue in your example is how society’s enforcers deal with criminals in general, not with immigrants in particular. You’re implying it’s ok for cops to beat and lock up thieves of any color but wrong to mistreat foreigners.

      I am not ready to base political alliances on race, because that is the crudest form of capitalist nation-building, therefore, a perpetuation of the private property system (and also the reason Obama got elected).

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