Passengers tell fake racists where to get off

"Seat reserved for Germans only": A provocative experiment on a bus in Essen has examined how members of the public react to racial discrimination. A worthwhile study of racism in German society or pointless confrontation?

Passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Essen buses. Photo: DPA

Two non-white people are on the bus minding their own business, when a member of staff approaches them and asks them to move to the back, because they are sitting in seats reserved for Germans only.

Luckily these three people are actors taking part in a social experiment, rather than a genuine case of discrimination.

West German Television (WDR) set up hidden cameras, employed actors and faked discriminatory signs on a bus in Essen, in order to see if people would stand up to racial segregation, reports Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

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Ein WDR Team von “Quarks & Du” hat heute in einem Bus der EVAG einen Test gegen Rassismus gemacht. Viele haben das provokante Projekt kommentiert. Das Ergebnis gab es gerade in der Lokalzeit Ruhr und jetzt hier:

Posted by WDR Lokalzeit Ruhr on Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The phony stickers at the front of the bus read “This seat is reserved for Germans”, and at the back “Foreigners and asylum seekers please use the back row of seats.”

Luckily on each occasion when this situation was acted out, somebody on board immediately took exception to it, and challenged the fake transport worker.

One man butted in enraged: “On what basis? They are just people like you and me!”

An elderly lady further back added, “That brings anger and hate. These are old methods, so stop it!”

The man behind the experiment, director Dirk Gion, said: “You have to say that the citizens of Essen obviously won't stand for discrimination.”

The stunt is accompanied with a study by the Bielefeld Institute for Conflict Research. Madlen Preuß, who works for the Institute, said that “Above all, women take sides with those being discriminated against.

“There is scientific evidence for this, and it was on display during the experiment today.”

But men also weren't afraid to step in. An elderly gentleman shouted down the bus: “I was born in '35 and I don't want to see the return of the brown [fascist] system.”

A worthwhile stunt?

Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung conducted a survey below their article to find out readers' reactions to the provocative way of dealing with the issue.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 35% of readers voted for the opinion that “This was a worthwhile provocation that raises awareness about discrimination and promotes civil courage.”

But opinions seem to be split on the matter, because 28% of people, said that it was sensationalism that didn’t achieve anything. 

The experiment will be broadcast in full as part of the new science programme “Quarks & Du” on August 25th on WDR television.