Footballers respond to racist attack with blackface photo

Wednesday was a strange day on the Facebook page of Deinster SV, the sporting club from a small town west of Hamburg in Lower Saxony.

Footballers respond to racist attack with blackface photo
Photo: Deinster SV

“Our friend and teammate Emad was insulted and struck for racist reasons on Saturday,” a new post read.

“This is just sad! Violence against refugees is pathetic… Emad and Amar, you are one of us just like everyone else and we're glad you're here.”

While it was a sad tale, there was little to distinguish the message from similar missives posted on the social network.

But it was the picture, showing the entire team with their faces blackened using an image editing programme, that has ensured the post was quickly shared around Germany.

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Unser Freund und Mitspieler Emad wurde am Samstag, aus rassistischen Gründen, beschimpft und geschlagen. Das ist einfach…

Posted by Deinster SV on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Emad and Amar, two Sudanese refugees on the team, reported to their coach Sönke Kreibich on Saturday that they had been struck and insulted during the town's annual Easter party.

“I said they should stay close to us in the team… they said they wouldn't get into a fight under any circumstances, in the end they'd experienced enough violence in Sudan,” Kreibich told

But as the pair of refugees made their way home together after the party, they encountered the same attackers again, lying in wait.

“Emad was thrown to the ground, they struck and kicked him. When I saw him on Sunday he had a big swelling under his eye,” Kreibich said.

That's when the idea for the edited picture came up.

“We were shocked and asked ourselves how to react. We wanted to send a signal internally as well as externally that Emad and Amar are a fixed part of our team… and we wanted to show Amar and Emad themselves that we stood by them,” the coach explained.

“Their German is getting better every day, but it doesn't always suffice to pick up emotional nuance. That's why we chose the symbolic action with the picture.”

Kreibich told jetzt that both refugees would be presented with a large printed copy of the photo.

So far there has been no criticism of the football team for using blackface – which has more traditionally been used to make fun of black people – in their protest.

Germany has a history with the phenomenon, as young children are regularly made up in blackface when representing the Three Wise Men in Epiphany celebrations – often prompting protests.


Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added.