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Being Black in Berlin

Germany likes to think of itself as a tolerant country. People of color and victims of hate crimes have a different experience. Jennifer Neal, one of our editors, shares hers.

By Jennifer Neal
One night in May I was woken up by noise coming from my next-door neighbor. It wasn’t that unusual for the area. But one neighbor in particular, a woman, was drunkenly blasting music yet again, as she did on holidays, weekends, solstices, when it’s hot, when it’s cold and – as on this occasion — at 1am on the Monday morning before I was to start a new freelance job.

So I knocked on her door with the intention of asking her to turn down the music as politely as can be expected of a black woman from Chicago wearing a night cap, acne cream and an oversized bed shirt that says “FOODIE”. But she didn’t answer the door. Instead, a weathered older man turned up. As I later learned, this was my downstairs neighbor – the one who played death metal so loudly that it shook the laminate boards in my flat two stories above his. This man asked me what I wanted. I inquired after my neighbor, to which he responded in brusque German that my neighbor was none of my business. I said that in this case it was my business and asked for her again. ...

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