“I still stand by this action”: Sausage seller acquitted after blackfacing at the “Mohrenkopf” stand
With a face painted black and a curly wig, he sold “Mohrenköpfe”: the Rorschach district court has now acquitted the man of the charge of racial discrimination.
Snack entrepreneur Markus Heim made one thing clear on the stairs to the courthouse: If he was convicted of racial discrimination that afternoon, he would move the judgment on. “To Lausanne, if necessary to the moon.”
It was not necessary. The single judge acquitted Heim on Wednesday at the Rorschach district court of the allegation of racial discrimination. It is not up to the court to judge whether the entrepreneur’s action was in bad taste or not, the judge said. But it is not serious enough to violate the racism criminal norm. Last summer Heim had offered “Mohrenköpf” from the Dubler company for sale on a Rorschach company site – painted black, wrapped in a golden cloak, with a curly hair wig on his head.
Disguised as a person or a candy?
In court, the 58-year-old sausage seller, whose passion claims to be writing erotic novels, emphasized that he did not act out of racist motives. “The only thing I wanted to do with this campaign was to sell a lot of ‘Moor heads’. That also worked. At that time, Heim got rid of all 350 chocolate kisses in two hours. When he painted his face white at a later stand in Eschlikon, he was not so successful.
The public prosecutor argued that Heim, with his booth and the disguise that was supposed to show the connection between Mohr and Mohrenkopf, had to expect that he would offend dark-skinned people. Especially against the background of the global discussion of racism as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests in the USA. By blackfacing the “Mohrenkopf” stand, he equated people of color with his product and in this way reduced their human dignity. Heim had received a penalty warrant in September for this. Because he did not accept him, the trial started.
That is the racism criminal norm
Since 1995, the penal norm has protected against racism (Art. 261to StGB) from discrimination. Accordingly, among other things, punishments are imprisonment or a fine who «publicly through words, writing, images, gestures, assault or in any other way a person or a group of persons because of their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation in a manner contrary to human dignity degrading or discriminating against, or for one of these reasons denies genocide or other crimes against humanity, grossly belittled or seeks to justify. ” You can find the full article of the law here. Racism is an official offense. Thus, the public prosecutor will investigate ex officio if it becomes aware of an offense. (al)
Heim’s defense attorney stated that the role of blackfacing in Switzerland was still the subject of public debate and was not perceived as racist per se by the average person. “Blackfacing isn’t a problem with the star singers either. Nor with the Schmutzli. ” His client had also disguised himself as Dubler “Mohrenkopf”, not as a dark-skinned person; the focus was on the product. Heim said: “I still stand by this action.”
Free riders of the racism debate
The defense and the public prosecutor’s office agreed on one point: Heim had used the debate about whether the term “Mohrenkopf” was racist to make a profit. He is thus a kind of free rider in the racism discussion. In the course of the Black Lives Matter protests in June, Migros removed the “Mohrenköpfe” from the Dubler company from its range, which, in addition to a lively discussion, also triggered a rush for the sweets. For him, the “Mohrenkopf” is a good product for additional income in addition to selling sausages, said Heim. Up until now, he has made little money on his first book, “Harry the Sex Coach”.
Terms that are strongly influenced by the zeitgeist are a difficult basis for a criminal conviction, the judge finally explained the acquittal. When he was a child, the cat was called Negerlein. “Was that why I was a racist child?” The practice of the federal court is very strict with regard to the racism criminal norm. For example, from the point of view of an average person in the given situation, such an action must be assessed as clearly disparaging for a group. To sell “Mohrenköpfe” painted black may be tasteless. It is not enough for a conviction for violating the racism criminal norm. However, the judge did not award him the satisfaction that Heim had asked for in the amount of 1,000 francs.
On the stairs to the courthouse, Markus Heim spoke into the cameras after the hearing. He was relieved about the acquittal. “I already had doubts about the system.” He cannot say at the moment whether he will soon be selling sweets painted black again. In any case, he still had the golden cloak and black wig. The verdict is not yet legally binding.