Schwarzfahrer aka The Black Rider

German Director, Pepe Danquart, made a short film in 1993 about racism in Germany. The film went on to win an academy award in 1994 for best short film.

The short movie, Schwarzfahrer, is a play on the German word meaning fare dodger and that the man on the train is a black rider. In the film a black man boards a train and sits next to an old lady who verbally badgers him while people on the train sit and say nothing. The end of the film has a humorous twist, and allows the viewer to reflect on what the message of the film is. The film is highlighting the racism problem in Germany.

After WWII Germany brought over workers from other countries (mainly Turkey) as Gastarbeiter, literally meaning guest workers. Many of the workers remained in Germany, even though they were only supposed to stay there temporarily. Some Germans felt these immigrants were taking jobs away from German citizens. This parallels a to what some perceive as a similar problem in the United States, with Mexicans taking away jobs from American workers.

I have seen the film a few times, and each time I can relate it to the racism I have seen in the United States. However, I was unfamiliar with racism in Germany and never witnessed it myself.

That changed this past spring when I was in Munich for Easter, and stayed with a man who was half Algerian and half German. He said he has his public transportation ticket and his bag checked at least once a week because he doesn’t look German. That same day he told me this, both of our metro tickets were checked by an undercover police officer. No one else in our compartment was checked and I was in disbelief at what just took place.

Is racism a problem in the United States, Germany or another country? What will it take to stop racism? Can it be stopped?

Take a look at Danquart’s film and see if the film still is true today, 16 years later.