Monday, December 21, 2009

"Memoirs from Afar: The Overseas Diary"

My past autumn quarter with the University of Chicago (not to be confused with UIC), I studied abroad in Toledo, Spain. I was forewarned that Spain is generally one of the lesser racially tolerant countries of the world but was assured that it would still be a positive experience and it truly was. I lived with a host family, spoke in Spanish at all times, and traveled the larger part of Europe. However, I did encounter awkward situations involving race. Due to my complexion I more times than not was mistaken for a dominican or puerto rican woman, which is still "black" for Spaniards but it wasn't as bad as being "actually black" in their eyes. This aspect of my residency, while wrong and uncomfortable, was at the very least blatant and readily recognizable. What made my interaction with the people of Spain curious, was their tendency to associate me with black public figures of America. Once I was stopped in a street by a man just so he could pump his fist and yell "OBAMA!" and on another occasion I was beckoned by a man yelling "Jimi Hendrix! Jimi Hendrix!" I asked my friends, a black girl and two white girls, what they thought that meant. The two white girls viewed the gesture of the men as an affiliation between me and black Americans that they admire and it was a compliment. The black girl was at as much of a loss as I was on whether to buy into that explanation or be offended for being stopped on basis of race. I mean do these Spanish men stop white men and say "CLINTON!" or "JOHN LENNON! JOHN LENNON!"
In case you were wondering, I responded to both men with a smile and went about my day in case it was a compliment and even if it wasn't, I never respond to negativity with more of the same. While I do not loose sleep over these instances nor dwell on it in my daydreams, I have yet to come to a conclusion. The best I can say for it is I would have rather been called by two influential black men than a "nappy headed ho."

1 comment:

  1. Damn that is a crazy expeirence being able to go out of the country and get to live and interact with a different culture. As for the racial profiling that was going on there rather it was a compliment or not i feel like you handled it in the right manner because people are never going to see eye to eye and you should always keep your character.