So I wanted to talk to you all about my thoughts on Switzerland thus far, but I actually have some other things on my mind. I attend an all brown, all women’s institution. A major reason why I chose to attend an HBCU is because I was tired of being the black girl at white institutions. Upon attending a historically black institution my perceptions of white people completely changed; they just really made me feel some type of way. I think a great deal of those feelings can be attributed to the knowledge I gained at my HBCU. My school showed me the other side of history, it taught me to embrace my blackness in the midst of a white washed world.
My boyfriend and I have had many intense debates about the black experience and in a nutshell he feels that we should all try our best to look beyond stereo typical norms and accept people for who they are. His “color blindness” has definitely rubbed off on me, and I have been making valiant efforts to live a more racially inclusive life. When I came to Switzerland the last thing I wanted to do was segregate myself amongst the brown people. I was already a little nervous about living with a white family, but I entered the experience with an open mind…Then I landed in Switzerland and I was quickly reminded of my blackness. While waiting at the airport a young man in my program proceeded to speak to everyone except myself and my Spelman sister…okay. A few days later we met our host families. On the car ride to my homestay my host mother tells me how her and her daughter found my Facebook page and thought that I was so pretty. Then she proceeds to say that before showing my picture to her boyfriend she had to tell him that “my skin was different” but I was still beautiful. Not only did she say this verbally, but she pinched the skin on her arm to make sure that I understood she was distinguishing that I was black…ATTENTION ATTENTION
TELLING SOMEONE THAT THEY’RE PRETTY FOR A BLACK GIRL IS NOT A COMPLIMENT IN ANY LANGUAGE. I know that she didn’t mean any harm by the comment, but that does not mean that no harm was done. Once we arrived at her home the real questions began. “Where are you from” and I would respond “the United States” “Yes, I understand you’re from the U.S. but where is your family from?”…”The United States.”
This conversation was particularly frustrating for me because last summer I stayed with an African family in the South of France and they too had the same face of confusion and frustration when I couldn’t provide a satisfactory answer to “Where are you really from?”
Days later I faced a similar interrogation by my host mother’s boyfriend, “where are you from?” “The United States, I am American my mother is American, my father is American, my grandparents on both sides are American, and so are their parents.” Only to have him respond,
“I know you’re American, but are you African or Hispanic” BRUH. I told him “African” but I couldn’t answer any further questions regarding specificity. . If I had to assume where the source of his confusion lies, I would assume it is because of the long curly hair on my head right now. My problem is that I am so tolerant of their inquisitiveness even when it’s uncomfortable, but I have a hard time believing that my white counterparts on this trip have had to face any similar interrogation. I’m sure simply being American is always an acceptable answer for them.
I guess I just wish, that one day I could be neutral. I just wonder what that feels like. I wonder what it feels like to board the train every day and not face inquisitive eyes or uninviting glances. I wonder what it feels like to not have to wonder if you should sit next to, or speak to someone because you are unsure of their prejudices against you.
Sometimes I wish I could go places in this world and people just see me for who I am. Not black, not white, not racially ambiguous. Why can’t my presence simply be enough?