“So how was Italy when you lived there?” “Is it really that racist living there as a black man? This was the question I ask my work colleague who was from Nigeria. He had lived in Naples for ten years before relocating to Germany. He stared at me for a moment contemplating the answer to my question. His response, “I don’t see racism, brother.” It was curiosity and innocence that prompted me to ask that question. Because even though I’ve been to Italy a number of times I can honestly say I have never faced racism from Italians as a black American. In fact, every time I go there I’m shown tremendous love from everybody I meet.
But it makes me wonder, when I visited Italy, I was with my wife who happens to be white and I was a tourist. How would I be treated in the day-to-day struggles of life there? But, I have to say, my eleven years in Europe as a black American has been mostly positive compared to the United States. But when I talk to my friends from Africa and they explain to me their experiences here, I wondered how that I was so blind to the covert racism that’s prevalent here. In the past, I’ve had people take a liking to me because I was from America but their interest wasn’t based on my personality, It was the idea of what I represented, Which was in their eyes, authentic urban black culture.
A real live import from the states, not in the movies, not in the music videos, but here …LIVE. And after a while, after their interest in me subsided, they would slowly withdraw from me. They expected me to know every hip-hop artist and when I didn’t they would say things such as, “are you really black? Really? Ok, yes, I’m actually from the hood, yes, I grew up around gangs and guns. Yes, I talk with a slight southern/northeast slang, and no, for the hundred time, I’m not a gangster, is that base on my swag or what? With all that said, I’m still an individual and not a fucking stereotype. Guess what! I listen to classical music, heavy metal, rock and sometimes techno! That’s right! I’ve even been to college and a private school, so sorry to foil your racist image on what you think black Americans should only be about. Africans on the hand, I’ve notice have been treated with disdain and disgust.
In Germany alone; harassment from the police, harassment from strangers on the street, racism in the work place. You can’t say that those African’s are this; but in the same breath, you say, but you are different. There’s no difference between me and them, what is it that makes me better? I’m black just the same as they are, maybe we do come from different cultures. But, we both share the same black experience which is a global fear and loathing of the black man.