Life of a #POC: Racist Jokes Aren’t Funny, Oct.29th Film Screening

A sincere thanks to everyone who joined us for the screening at the Refugees Welcome Festival, your presence was greatly appreciated. It was great to see old friends and make new acquaintances. No photos directly at the event, but a nice chill-out and conversation with another filmmaker and a friend afterwards nearby at Volksbar. These days I don’t stay out late from home, but it was necessary to “walk off” an experience with a staff member and presumably the manager/owner of the theater that hosted the event, Babylon Theater at Rosa Luxemburg Platz in Berlin. You can read my review at Yelp! HERE.

The director of film & a guest were told we would receive those tickets gratis, but there was some confusion about ticketing. I just needed one for me, and already knew that other film participants and guests must purchase tickets. Several people I know did. This wasn’t a problem. However, the manager/owner was there and decided to make racist jokes and comments about my understanding, and was openly derogatory that I might not be who I said I was anyway, though of course, I have any documents that could say so. He said,  “You could be anybody, maybe even Mrs. Tr*mp, then we make her husband put you out”. This was just one of the “jokes” he made.

As others witnessed this, we called him on this incredibly offensive behavior, especially considering the massacres, concentration camps and brutality being inflected on indigenous peoples and others by the US government. His response was, “Everything is open to jokes”, including (because I asked him based on his comments) jokes about racism, violence and genocide. “Yes”, was his response. He continued derogatory comments about me speaking German to a colleague (that I was making a big deal and just didn’t understand what was going on) who also participated in this inappropriate behavior. I was born in Germany, so naturally I speak German. They didn’t think I understood them. Whether for my own work, appearances or other collaborations I’m part of or support, POC and German alike, I frequently attend or am required to attend far bigger events than this. I know the challenges, procedures and processes on both sides. I also know that inevitably many of them make a problem for POC visitors or guests, even when you’re on a guest list. Like it’s “oh so tedious to deal with them!” They don’t really want you there, or question your worthiness in their minds and among themselves, then show it through microaggressions.

The theater itself is beautiful, and I love good films in comfortable venues, but I will never return or recommend Babylon because of this owner/manager’s unprofessional behavior that reflected poorly on the business. No guest should ever be treated that way. As a colleague who witnessed this agreed, this was deplorable. Considering it was a festival focusing on refugees and “others”, he’d probably been saving that up to specially use, very surely laughed about it with peers, and was gleefully excited to use what he thought so witty a comparison. Passive-aggressive BS too, which is unfortunately common, especially with a certain “class”, which no laugh makes okay.  This is  a facet of #RapeCulture rampant – harming or hurting others for your own gratification, exactly as my film helps show. He needed to see it, but probably would have gone right over his head.

Afterwards, there was also a pretty good Q&A, as those go, and a friend and a new someone we met wanted a chance to talk further about some aspects of my documentary. We went nearby to one of the many bars or cafés Berlin is known for. It wasn’t the point of our conversation but this situation came up, and I used it to illustrate how the harmless practices, behaviors, the “jokes” that many white people do, absolutely are harmful and traumatizing, even though this guy continued arrogantly laughing and smug in a very typical German elitist way I’ve observed and experienced. Many other POC and/or those considered stereotypes and of lesser understanding of the “fine” aspects of German humor. It takes you back, and this is how….

When you’ve had to deal with racist, demeaning, and insulting comments, practices and behaviors directed towards you your whole life. When you’ve had to witness such treatment of your parents, your relatives, your friends, your children, anyone who looks like you…in school, in doctor’s office, in the grocery store, on the street, EVERYWHERE? There is little or no respite, PLUS much of the time the ones behaving that way believe it is their right to treat you so? When they gaslight you, to make you believe it your own fault somehow, that you are not understanding, not getting the joke, you are being too sensitive? It is deeply frustrating, hurtful and infuriating feeling. It traumatizes and retraumatizes, and can affect you in so many ways, exactly as a research study I completed this study substantiated. His was VILE behavior, an a vile mentality to think it is okay or that “it’s just the way things are”. Again, rape culture mentality, “Just go with it, maybe you’ll even enjoy it!”

This is POC existence almost everyday in the white supremacist structures, institutions and societies that of the reformed western “civilization”. Structures bloodily, brutality forced on others, in places they invaded abroad and on certain of their own citizens, which Germany is still known for. Germany likes to forget it committed genocide and massacres outside of Europe, too, and violently invaded, colonized and tortured then stole from POC around the world. They participated with other European countries, which include the USA and former colonies, to displace and/or today, Germans like that manager make jokes and laugh about such acts, which are still happening RIGHT NOW.

So, yeah, I had to “walk that off”.

Not ironic that I received an offer this week to write a “shortcut” book for Germans to help them know what terms are racist and shouldn’t be used about Natives and other people of color. Germans or any white people don’t need short cuts. They need to learn empathy in the first place, and do hard work to stop the racist practices that hurt ALL peoples. We don’t get short cuts dealing with everyday racism. Why should they get a cheap hand-out in book form? Don’t be a racist.