Idk what happened but I was taking some books downstairs to my brothers’ room and I head grandma crying and saying to my uncle that “Christian values are gone” and that it’s the reason that bad stuff happens and if that doesn’t sum up how growing up in a very Catholic family is idk what does
@ my fellow white people how hard is it to understand that it’s up to us to police other white people? you don’t get to say “i know what he did was racist but he’s my friend” NO NO. call them out!! and if you lose that friend because of their racist behavior, ask yourself why you’re so determined to keep your racist friends in the first place.
“Ugh I didn’t like France. French people are racist”“Go to Italy! They’re so friendly and I hear they love black women”“Do Germans even have black people outside of the military?”
It’s something almost every black traveller fathoms before venturing abroad. How will my blackness be perceived in this predominantly non-black space? It’s a valid concern. At best, our otherness might put us on a flattering pedestal. At worst, we might get mistreated. Even traveling to remote areas of the U.S you will find people that stare at you and ask aggravating questions like “Can I touch your hair?”. I certainly wondered about how I’d fare as a black woman before moving to France.
But this post is really not just about me. Yes I am black. Yes I am in Europe. But that really doesn’t make me special. Because even though only a small percentage of African Americans travel to Europe yearly, there are tens of millions of black people that are already there: Afro-Europeans.
Black people don’t just live in Africa and the United States. Thanks (but like, no thanks) to colonialism, the African diaspora truly reaches some of the most unlikely corners of the earth. Most African Americans make the mistake of assuming that we are the only group of african descendants living as the underrepresented, mistreated, systematically oppressed minorities in predominantly white spaces. Tell that to the 55 million Afro-Brazilians. Or the millions of black descendants in the UK, Italy, and France.
But our egocentricism isn’t entirely our fault. I, too, had no idea exactly how many black and brown people lived in Europe until I came here. I assumed based on films, television, and images I had seen growing up that Europe is one homogenous white continent. Full of sameness with very little variation of color or culture (or at least not culture from an ethnic standpoint). It’s the invisible diversity of Europe. In the same way African-Americans lack representation in almost all facets of our society, Afro-Europeans lack it even more.
I had met a lot of people my first couple of months in France but I still felt something was missing. I yearned to connect with people that were like-minded. People in which I had an inevitable bond with. In short, I needed to make black friends. It sounds silly to some but anyone a part of a minority group in some way (race, sexuality, etc) understands this desire.
The problem was never the lack of black people, but how to organically make friends with them. Making friends as an adult is not an easy feat. When you’re a kid it’s so easy! All you have to do is say this:
But how do you tell a random person you think they’re kinda cool and we should hang out in the most platonic way possible without being creepy?
Several months later and I’ve met friends of friends, connected with random people through social media, and have even joined a Black Expats in Paris meet-up. By speaking with people I’ve gathered quite a few perspectives.
African Americans are both admired and envied in France. Believe it or not, we have the type of global visibility not afforded to others of the African Diaspora. African Americans are the examples of cool, the creators of pop culture. Our celebrities are their celebrities, our favorite TV shows are their favorites too. African Americans are vocal in periods of inequality and reactionary during times of social injustice. Mike Brown & Trayvon Martin are not only names uttered on American soil. “I Have a Dream” is familiar to all European ears, the “Black Lives Matter” cry has been heard around world and the Civil Rights Movement is a part of their curriculum just as much as ours. In short, the Black American experience has left a definite mark in world history.
For Black Europeans, however, their history tends to get shoved under the rug. I am not AT ALL an expert on this topic but here is a concise history of European colonization in Africa in my own words.
**Anndi’s Quick and Over-simplified History on the Conquest of Africa**
In the late 1800s, several European countries such as the UK, France, and Portugal had set up port cities in Africa for trading goods and resources. Everything was cool until this dude named King Leopold II of Belgium was like, “you know what would be awesome? My own territory in the Congo”. So homeboy sliced out a chunk of the Congo for his own PERSONAL benefit, not even in the name of Belgium. The other European powers (UK, France, Italy, Portugal, and Germany) started to freak out and thought, “Damn my ego is super big, how can I make it bigger?”. So they had a meeting in Germany, found a map of Africa, and literally cut the continent apart like slices of pizza. It’s worth mentioning that none of the African countries in question were invited to said pizza party. So NINETY PERCENT of the continent was colonized without permission, MILLIONS of Africans were forced into labor, resources were exploited, men were killed, women were raped, children were maimed, feuding ethnic groups were mixed…all under the guise that they were “saving uncivilized savages from eternal damnation”.
Flash forward several decades and the European Powers finally started to leave. Whether they left on their own accord or were driven out by revolutionary groups, the heinous effects of imperialism are evident for several African countries by way of corrupt governments, tireless civil wars, and psychological trauma.
**The End** ….Except not the end because these heinous effects still linger.
I’ve noticed a slight lack in community for Afro-French people. For African-Americans, there’s this idea of fictive kinship. I may not know you from Adam, but if we are the only two black people within a predominantly white space then we will acknowledge one another. But that’s only on a micro-level. On a macro-scale, we have become masters of creating spaces for ourselves. Hair salons & barbershops, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, BET Network, NAACP… we have a black national anthem!! All with the intent of uplifting and strengthening one another, for validating our place in a society not made for us.
But our sense of community derives from our shared experiences. Many of our ancestors were slaves. Many of our living relatives grew up in segregation. For France, and many other European countries, the experiences of black europeans, while similar, are not identical nor are they shared. At any rate, its hard to have a sense of community when you don’t even know how many people of African descent live in your country. Apparently, taking an ethnic census is constitutionally banned in France.
For Afro-french people, they’re not bound together by race as much as their family origins. If you’re a black woman from Guadeloupe, you might feel a bigger bond to people from the West Indies than to those from West Africa. Honestly, I envy greatly that Afro-Europeans know exactly where they come from and even have family that still live in those countries. I have never felt so shameful about not knowing my roots until moving here. Every time I meet an Afro-french person for the first time, the conversation goes as follows.
Them: So where are you from?
Me:I’m from the U.S!
Them:Yeah, I know. But like where are you really from?
Them:What’s your family origin I mean to say.
Me:Um…I don’t know? My ancestors were slaves so…
Me:…..Nice meeting you!
In general, there’s this idea that black people are never really from whatever predominantly white country they reside in. Afro-french people can be born and raised in Paris and never feel or be seen as “french”. Even when I meet White Europeans, they are generally skeptical about my origin story but for a different reason. Because I have a lighter skin tone than most Afro-french, many assume that I am “métisse” or mixed. During my trip to Italy, an italian man told me “You’re beautiful. I love mulatto women”. The assumption really bothers me because black and beautiful are not mutually exclusive concepts homeboy! But I do love their faces of disappointment when I tell them I am proudly, undeniably, 100% BLACK.
But let’s discuss some positives, for there are many. While Black French don’t organize against injustices in the same way we do, that doesn’t mean they aren’t having these important conversations. The Afro-fem movement seems to be really big here. I’ve seen countless articles, youtube videos, tweets, and have even been invited to conferences by Afro-feminists to discuss the interesting balance of race and gender.
I’ve met so many black french women who are smart and woke. Clever and funny. Women who want to be a voice for their community. Women who are artists, poets, and singers. Women who are beautiful inside and out. Women who are writers. Women who are fly. Women who are college educated. Women who want to uplift and strengthen their fellow sisters. Women who want to be a vessel for serious change in their society.
So don’t sleep on Afro-Europeans. They have a very real place in our world.
I would be remiss not to mention the Strolling Series by Cecile Emeke, which was in truth my personal introduction to Afro-European voices. Cecile Emeke is a British woman who brilliantly decided to film black individuals across the African diaspora. The result? Unraveling the generalized blanket of our black experiences into singular, personal threads of testimony. Emeke has filmed in the Netherlands, Italy, Jamaica, and many other countries and its widespread appeal has garnered a huge Youtube following. Of course, you’ll hear the familiar stories of micro-agressions, respectability politics, and self-love affirmation. But you’ll also hear views on mental health, sexual orientation & expression, capitalism, veganism, colonial reparations, and a plethora of other subjects not often heard from black standpoints.
So what does it mean to be Black in Europe? I have the same answer for someone who would ask what its like to be black in the U.S. There is no simple answer. The culture, the attitudes, the ideas, the joys, the struggles of black people are not monolithic. They are varied. They are nuanced. They may intersect but they don’t coalesce.
I write this to say there is more to the black experience than what you have experienced personally. I think its important not only to have conversations on blackness within the US but in a global context as well. And lets remind ourselves that as Black Americans, our global visibility gives us a certain level of privilege. The next time you say #BlackLivesMatter, mentally expand that demand outside of North America. When you think of the black community, challenge yourself to think beyond your own borders.
And if you’re able, travel abroad. Talk to people. Have these discussions. Your eyes and minds will open wider than you know.
[The following is a modified/corrected transcript of my tweets, found here.]
Do we have a word for white people making fun/targeting other white people in order to get ally cookies and avoid self examination?
I’m working on a post about racism in a fandom and I want to address how often supposed allies do the most direct damage to people of color because they truly believe that liking and shipping characters of color means they aren’t racist and can’t do anything to perpetuate racism.
Meanwhile it is hard work, as a fan of color, trying to find fan fiction featuring characters of color as leads that isn’t riddled with racist micro and macroaggressions.
The ugly truth is sometimes I read fan fiction about white characters to escape overt racism and “issues stories.” Because even well written and thoughtfully constructed fan fiction about characters of color often still focuses on racism or fetishizes the characters of color. At least I know what I’m getting into with a blatantly white supremacist romances.
In fandom, especially when white fans write about or ship characters of color they elect themselves as saviors and authorities.
They often deflect any criticism of their work or nuanced discussions about racism in the fandom by rallying people against white ships. “Look how racist they are. Ugh they’re the worst.”
Please note: Straight authors who write slash fan fiction do the exact same thing, even calling gay fans homophobic for not shipping their fave slash ships.
What’s even more telling is how fandom predominately ships men of color, while women of color are largely ignored or sidelined. Or worse, ships with women of color and white men are called homophobic.
To say nothing of the woeful lack of any ships who don’t involve any white characters. Or how even when there is a ship with only characters of color they’re rarely relationships between only black characters.
White supremacy is in every fandom, even when they’re writing about people of color. Colorism is especially a prevalent issue in fan fiction centered on characters of color. Where lighter skinned/non-black people of color are defaulted into the dominate, lead role a white character would typically inhabit. They’re the hero, superior, and savior to a darker skinned and/or black character.
I hate how factual statements about how racism informs shipping and character popularity in fandoms are used to dilute important specific conversations that could be happening. Because, yes, racism is why white characters and white ships are more popular and accessible to fans. Yes, racism informs everyone’s choices in fandom and reactions to the source material, but I’m tired of the conversation ending there.
This discourse is usually just “that’s racist.” The end. Which is fair for fans of color to do. Venting is an important cope mechanism for all of us. I’m doing it right now in this post.
However, now white fans are using this as an cheat code. Appropriating the pain and experiences of fans of color as ammunition to insult other white fans, and deflect their own responsibility for how they’re complicit.
Conversations about racism that only discuss fan fiction about white characters, started and steered by white fans is centering discussions of racism on white people. Sidelining and silencing people of color, real or fictional. That’s not progress that’s business as usually for white supremacy.
So we get mired in the sam old white dominate circular self serving argument. When we could be discussing all the ways we treat, mistreat characters of colors. Or discuss how much less attention and appreciation is given fan works about characters of color, and fan works BY fans of color get verse white fans.
That’s a real significant issue that none of these white savior fans seem interested in exploring or even owning their privilege as white fans writing about characters of color.
Don’t even get me started on the horror of being a queer woman of color navigating femslash featuring women of color with white women. The woman of color is always cast as the “butch,” which in most heteronormative femslash means she’s written like a hetero white cis-man often with jealous, sometimes violent rages. While the white woman is the epitome of idealized white femininity with a heavy helping of innocent purity.
This happens even when canonically the white woman is anything but passive or innocent. In fan fic she is transformed into a lily white ingenue, not unlike how m/f fan fiction traditionally treat white girls. Which is also a feature of white supremacy and misogyny.
So while all these white fans pat themselves on the back for being so progressive for literally doing the most basic thing anyone could do, see a person of color as lovable, people of color in their fandoms don’t even rate this much consideration.
isn't white a color? hmmmm 'colored people only' sounds like racism against people who are just transparent/ghosts ugh racists these days
In terms of a colour palette then white and black are tones but I kinda get what you’re saying. As a race, no matter if white or black, hating someone for their race, or treating them differently, is racist no matter what.
According to Kat Blaque white people singing songs by black people is racist. She makes me embarrassed to be black, I guess I can't sing Taylor Swift because that's racist--oh wait! You can't be racist towards white people! Ugh.
XD Yeah well, she’s touched by that whole SJW racist nonsense, so you’ll have that kind of ridiculous opinion. LOL
like you know how disrespectful it is for you to be a dominican and be antiblack and hate on black people (ie us) the way it was ingrained into us, especially to those dominicans who faught alongside their black brothers and sisters when we were all slaves and then again during the anti-haitian sentiments and many other times when we’d mask our antiblack behavior under different guises. it sets all their efforts back. I think of my grandfather who I never got to meet but heard stories of how he helped many haitian refugees during the height of trujillo’s abusive power reign and then I see these fuckin ass hat racist dominicans acting like white people and ugh. it’s like it was for nothing.
If only white people responded to racist shit from neo-nazis and blatantly racist white people with the same vigor they respond to people of color who express frustration over the racist shit white people do to them