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Living as an African in Italy – My Thoughts on Racial Discrimination

October 13, 2017

Racial discrimination, this is a very touchy topic many Africans would not dare to thread. Who wants to be reminded that their forefathers were tortured and sold to slavery? It doesn’t only sting the heart, but has left a stigma. 

When you are moving to a new country – especially switching continents, one of the first things you consider is how hostile or hospitable the citizens are towards people that are racially different.

In Italy, I have had a lot of funny questions thrown at me about Africa, like – ‘do you live with Lions in Africa?’ I just laugh out really loud because I have never seen a real Lion except on Nat Geo Wild. While an African friend finds questions like this insultive and downgrading, I find it amusing. This is what the media mostly portray of Africa.

For me, the word ‘racial discrimination’ is extinct. So when people stare at me, I do not feel embarrassed. Many times, I have come realise they do not stare intentionally to make me feel offended. It’s a reflex action when you see someone different. Back at home, I also stare at foreigners.

How do I handle the stares if they are in close proximity?

I smile back. This warm smile sometimes ends in a light conversation about Africa or they calling me words like ‘bella’ meaning beautiful. 

I would like to briefly paint these two scenarios I have experienced mostly at the park:

First, a little girl wanders up to me staring intently. I smile and her mum immediately comes to drag her away. Who wants their kid speaking with strangers? I do not think it’s because I am African and the mum is racially discriminative.

Second, a kid wanders up to me staring intently. I smile and the mum walks up apologising for the disturbance. I say it’s fine, so she stays while I make a conversation with her daughter. When kids come close to stroke my skin or hair, I let them. Is it even reasonable to accuse a kid that barely knows nothing of racial discrimination?

While some African friends in Italy say they often experience racial discriminations – I say I do not. If someone ignores you, decides not to speak with you, doesn’t give you a job you think you deserved or stares – don’t conclude it’s because they are racially discriminative.

Some citizens are simply hostile towards foreigners – for the notion that they have come to steal and compete with them in their job market.

I encourage you as an African to be rid of this ‘racial discrimination’ stigma in your heart, only then can you see that most actions you tag even discriminative are not.

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  1. I think there is no real racism only ignorance about Africa and the different African people contexts.
    Also true that milanese people are cultured and more open than others.

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