Hello! How are you?
Back in January 2017, I was writing some pieces for a magazine (Glam Africa), one got published but I recently found one of my unpublished drafts and I thought I should share it. I tried not to edit it as it transcribed how I felt then. I still ended up adding a couple of paragraphs at the very end. So, without further ado…
Europe made me a “woman of color”. There I said it. I can hear you say that this doesn’t make sense but think about it for a second: I grew up in Haiti where almost everyone is a different shade of black. I never thought of myself as a black girl because I wasn’t much different from my family, friends, or neighbors. I was just a girl. As soon as I moved to France and then to England, there I had a sudden realization that I am a woman of color and I have become a “minority in a white man land”.
Being a “minority” came with a plethora of inconveniences. In France, my name, although not native in any way, did not really sound “French”. It also came with pressure from my family: as I was not born there, neither were my parents or grandparents, I started with a disability therefore I had to work harder, get better grades, study something that will land me a good job, etc. There was a constant reminder.
Where I currently live in England, I am not only a black woman; I am what I call a token black girl. Don’t get me wrong: there is a number of black women around however, in my local community and especially my workplace I can count the number of people of color (men or women) on my hands and I would still be able to give you a handshake. I have somehow become a representation of all and any black woman or black person in general actually.
Here’s a report of an actual encounter I have had with a random male customer whilst working in a fast food restaurant: whilst chatting, the man asked me where I was from as he thought I had an accent… I said “France”. The guy looked at me dead in the eyes and with a smile replied “ Yeah but your color…. Where is it from?” I knew he wanted to know my origins or my heritage- not that it was any of his business or that it would change anything in his life. I laughed at his stupid question but then told him that I was born and used to live in Haiti. As I moved away, I saw the smile of satisfaction on his face. It was as if he finally had the answer he was expecting. The conversation did not need to go further.
He did not have to but used my alleged French accent to ask where I was from. But here is the thing: I don’t have an accent or to be precise, my “accent” is not strong enough for people to notice. There are some words that I can’t really pronounce like a native speaker but that’s as far as it goes. Most people are actually amazed or genuinely surprised when I tell them I’m from France but this man thought otherwise. Oh well!
Here, the vast majority of immigrants are Europeans therefore, in many ways, I don’t particularly feel catered for: finding makeup or hair care products is a problem. So is finding anything afro-Caribbean. It makes it difficult to find one’s place. This, of course, adds to the fact that I don’t really belong with the black British crowd. The reason is that I don’t fit the second half of the criteria. We only share our blackness.
Fast forward to the day the results from Brexit referendum came out.
Post Brexit vote, I felt a bit more unwanted in this country. People became more vocal about their resentment and feelings. I am forced to be aware and very conscious of myself more regularly.
In England, people see what they want to see in me: some see me as a French expatriate that is living in the UK whereas some people cannot see past the color of my skin. This is when students started to ask me if I “would have to go home now because of the Brexit”. Now, things are uncertain and that is exactly how I feel.
MR- January 2017
To be perfectly honest, I think that this applies to many people in countries where the majority of people are black.
It is true that black people in these countries have been doing everything the cay to change the narrative: I did not choose to be a person of color but the reality is that it is only ONE of my characteristics and I can be empowered through it.
If my skin color stops you from seeing the human being in me or who I am on the inside, that sounds like your problem and not mine. My only plea is: please don’t make your problem become mine.
Until next time, be blessed and remain empowered , always.
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