Just An Observation

“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.

9 thoughts on “Just An Observation

  1. I can definitely attest to the mistreating of black Africans in Europe. In Italy, they would easily be profiled and questioned, because the police would assume they are illegal. But me, being a Hispanic American woman, I would never have to experience that kind of judgment because of where I came from: the United States. Although you can’t tell just by looking at me. It’s sad that they treat them a certain way when you or I feel no better than they do or with no more privilege, but just because we come from a certain country-I guess that makes it okay? Idk, it’s very interesting to me too.

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    1. That’s crazy, I never been stopped or harassed but I did run into a Nazi one time back in 2006, that was a crazy experience. This past April I quit my job at a catering company because of racism. I had to get a lawyer and all. As a black person living in Europe, sometimes you think, damn I don’t want to think about this. I just want to enjoy eating Buffalo pizza in Italy, chilling in Corfu or sitting at the cafes in Barcelona. But, then I talked to my friends from Africa and they bust me out of my bubble. I don’t talk to them about visiting different countries because It’s no interest to them. But I’m no better than no one living here. I don’t treat people base on background, color, religion, rich or poor. I have friends here who don’t have much money and then I have friends who are wealthy living in central Paris. It might sound corny, but I really do base my company on the character, nothing else.

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      1. I hear you and I’m the same way. I’m sorry to hear you had to leave your job because of that situation. TBH, Europe has a long way to go accepting people of different backgrounds and skin colors. Especially Italy. In the states, I’m so used to people of all skin colors having the same opportunities of work, school, being in interracial relationships, etc, but in Italy this is not the case. I rarely see white Italians hanging out and be-friending people outside their race. There is a lot of work to be done there.

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      2. Yes, I do remember feeling like I was in the 1950s the last time I was in Italy. And Europe does have a long way to go far as opportunities. I would say Europe is lacking behind the US when it comes to jobs and making money. That’s one thing I miss about the US. Because even if one doesn’t like capitalism we still live in a society where one needs money for things. Far as that job goes, it was stressing me out anyway and I didn’t want to be there anymore. But I’m happy I did it for peace of mind.

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      3. Yeah, I can definitely agree with you. I hope to move back to the US next year permanently. Italy’s economy is not so great and I am fortunate to be from the states, because that is giving me the opportunity to teach English abroad but like you said, Italy’s jobs and pay is just very low and not anywhere that I would want it to be to stay there long-term.

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      4. I will admit, sometimes I miss the states but I think it’s too late for me to go back now. I’ve lived overseas so long I wouldn’t know what state I should live in. Maybe California state or New York city. I miss the people and how we get each other’s jokes, those little things. I have only one American friend who is ex-military over here. He has lived overseas just as long as I have and I don’t think he is moving back. The rest of the people are all from other countries which isn’t bad. My friend Pasquali and his wife are from Italy and he tells me about how Italy has no jobs and that’s the reason he is In Berlin. I would love to live in the Mediterranean but it’s not possible. No jobs so I can’t do it.

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      5. Yeah, I was just thinking about that today. Thinking of the little things that I have now that I will miss when I go back next month. Like waking up to my dog everyday, being able to use my phone plan as freely as I want, etc. And the people..yes they are so different. It’s funny how Italians are leaving their country and we are moving there. They are so surprised when they find out we want to live there and chose to live there.

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      6. Lol, I get those same question from the Germans. They are completely confused on why I would want to live there.
        I will say, I’m envious. Living in Italy is a dream of mine. I was in the region of Tuscany for a few days back in 2015 and I fell in love with the region. I was there to see the town of Siena where they have the horse race twice every year. I know for you is different, because living and visiting are two different things.
        Nonetheless, I have a million question but I will hold off from doing so. Although, I do have one question. I’ve heard the apartments are cheap there, is it true? Because I have this fantasy about living there but I have a feeling It would probably be ruined if I lived there. And yes Italiens are moving out to other cities in Europe for work, Berlin has a lot of them. They all miss Italy but they all say the same thing-no work. Same goes for Spain, no work. I didn’t study economics in school but I can see these politicians in Italy, Greece, and Spain didn’t either. Because something is wrong they really can’t seem to improve their country’s unemployment problem. When I visit these countries It breaks my heart to see they aren’t doing so well as the Nordic countries, USA or Germany. If these countries good root corruption out to start then it would benefit us all I think. Sorry for the long rant.

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      7. Hey! No worries, I love engaging in this kind of conversation. And feel free to email me if you do have more specific questions about living in Italy. To answer your question about it being cheap to live in Italy, the answer is yes and no. In Rome, for example we will have our own place this fall. The cost of the apartment is about $1300/month, which is relative and definitely a little cheaper than major US cities. However, in smaller towns you can get away with paying much less than this-like dirt cheap. But of course since I choose to live in Rome, I am willing to pay more. Yes, I hear that there are a lot of Italians in England and the Italians that do stay in Italy usually move to Milan if they want good work. I’m fortunate that there is a demand of people who want to learn English in Rome or there would be no need for me.

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