I’ve never felt as black as I do here.
When I decided to do my Erasmus program in Germany, I thought I was playing it safe. After all, Berlin is 1h30 from Paris by plane so I thought that in case of an emergency in a few hours I could be home. And I also had the impression that I already knew a little bit about Germany because I studied German and German culture for several years.
But in reality, although Germany shares its border and currency with France, the proximity stops here. Germans and French, even if we often tend to think that they work in pairs within Europe, are ultimately profoundly different.
When I was in France I lived in a small suburban town 30 minutes from Paris. Nothing exceptional was happening in my town but in 30 minutes I could reach Paris and enjoy the cultural and social diversity of Paris. Today, I still live in a small town but 1h30 from Berlin and 5 min from Poland. Big change. I can literally move from one country to another in 5 minutes. But most importantly, I went from a time when seeing people with black skin was my daily routine to being able to count my interactions or even see a black person on the fingers of one hand.
In France, I have already been confronted with racism, inappropriate words, hurtful words… But here, I am confronted with something even more visible, palpable, the fact that I cannot be invisible, that I cannot blend into the mass because of the colour of my skin. I like to be original, I like to stand out from the others otherwise I wouldn’t have become a blogger but there is a difference between wanting to be noticed for what you bring to the world, your abilities, your talent and being noticed by your skin color.
Strangely, I can say, I have never felt as much a part of the black community as I did being one of the only blacks in the city. It was by being so under-represented that I realized that being Black was not my job as the french actress Aïssa Maiga says in her book but rather something that I had no other choice but to assume and wear with pride every day without possibility of breaks because no matter what happens it is what people perceive of me first. My skin color.
I am writing this article not to complain but to remind you that everything can go away with a snap of the fingers. All the things I took for granted like telling my mother about my day, seeing and interacting regularly with people who look like me and can understand how I feel. All of this is no longer possible. I only now realize the privilege I had as a black person living in a suburb near a large city full of diverse people.
I am also writing this article for white people living in a white environment (i.e. the vast majority). Be aware of the privilege you have. This privilege allows you not to to worry about whether or not the destination you want to go to is « black friendly ». This privilege allows you not to be targeted frequently by the police. This privilege allows you to not have to answer the question « Can I touch your hair, please? » all the time. Be aware of all these questions that you don’t have to worry about.
Click here to watch Hello privilege, it’s me Chelsea, a movie available on Netflix which I invite you to take a look at. This movie explores in details the issue of white privilege, privilege that is not perceived by the ones who benefit from it.
Take care of yourself and learn along the way.