“Two Bulletproof Black Men”

In your new country you have met two bulletproof black men, and you need to be like them to survive. The first man has skin which could clearly stop steel; in fact, any projectile would shatter against it in terror. His frame is the result of careful sculpture, of long and private devotion to workout plans. Like the second man, his ego is made of fearsomely resistant material, treating any racial insult with the contempt of a guard dog watching an approaching burglar.

The second man looks utterly different to the first. He is far older and far more elusive, his clothes all drifting silks and soft cottons, he is as elegant and unreachable as a pool of moonlight. If a group of racists tried to attack him in the street, you could imagine their fists passing right through.

One of these men has designed himself to absorb force, the other has designed himself to evaporate, and you have done neither. You have taken what is probably a greater risk; which is that instead of working on either your fists or your flight mechanisms, you have tried to be understood. You have gone about your days armed with no weapon other than empathy.

This is a weapon that you have quickly found insufficient. Recently, in another large city, a man with mental health issues threw a woman and her boy at random in front of a train, killing the boy. The man was of African descent, and social media was aflame with anger not merely at the man, but what he represented; the utter inhumanity of the dark-skinned African male, who now roams German streets in horrifying numbers, multiplying, occupying. Outbreeding.

You watch the videos of the black men attending the death site of that poor boy, and you wonder at how a crime they mourn has been turned against them. You see one black man talking about how this murder is devastating to him not only as a human being but also as a father, and then he speaks of the pain of what he then saw on social media, of the days of hate directed at people with skin the colour of his, as if they were all automatically capable of such a killing. You then see an elderly black man, who closes the programme, saying that he is feeling less safe here than before; and you wonder, despite his advanced age and your own naivety, whether it is too late for you both to become bulletproof.

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