When traveling to Germany it is important to know that the country’s constitution prohibits racial discrimination in general, but there is basically no case law that specifically deals with it, according to Hendrik Cremer, who has worked with the German Institute for Human Rights since 2007. “Those who want to take action against racist remarks are only able to refer to Section 130 of the Penal Code, which refers to sedition.” The legal hurdles, therefore, are high.
However, racial insults may not be what Black travelers (Africans, Americans, Caribbean people, etc.) visiting Germany should be most concerned with. Former government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said in a 2006 radio interview that dark-skinned visitors to Germany should consider avoiding the eastern part of the country where racism runs high.
“There are small and medium-sized towns in Brandenburg, as well as elsewhere, which I would advise a visitor of another skin color to avoid going to,” said Heye. They “might not make it out alive” if they dared set foot in certain towns, he warned.
Africans and other dark-skinned people in Berlin, Wisner and other cities know certain areas in the eastern part of Berlin, such as Marzahn and Hellersdorf, are “no-go” areas where they are certain to be attacked or killed. It is also reported that German police routinely ignore these racist attacks and Germans, in general, are in denial about the depth of racism in their society.
Black visitors will also have to be extra careful when they venture outside of Moscow into the rest of Russia. In a chilling warning, the Russia expert of New Republic, Julie Ioffe, said, “There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be Black” in Russia, raising new fears about the safety of Olympic athletes, visitors and media attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ioffe warned that nowhere in Russia is safe for a person of color to visit, outside of Moscow’s city center.
During an “Ask Me Anything” discussion on the social media site Reddit, Ioffe was asked by a Black college student whether it is safe for an African-American to study in Russia.
Here’s her answer:
“Hmmmm, that’s a tough one. I think that, for the most part, you’d be okay — if you consider people glaring at you and cracking racist jokes okay. (Russians are, er, not the most tolerant bunch.) There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be black, which includes, in the Russian mind, people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. My advice is go, but stick to the city center and try to go to a bigger city like Moscow. (St. Pete is crawling with skinheads.) Be extra, extra careful and make sure the American Embassy knows you’re there. They have a special unit to deal with threats to American citizens, so you should report anything that happens immediately.”
Learn more about the history of African-American travel abroad: