Apologies, February was MAAD and March was no better. I’ve learnt a lot and lost a lot. Made big decisions and bad decisions. But that’s not what this blog is about lol.
So for February half term (teachers, you know what I mean), my sister and I went to Berlin for 3 days. It was the first time we had been on holiday together, just the two of us and we had a blast! #sisterbonding.
Now, for those of you who are black and have travelled to Europe, you know it can be quite a problematic experience. And honestly, being Black in Berlin was exactly that. Problematic. Going to Europe actually makes me feel BLACK. What do I mean?
I am Black. I know I am Black and I know what it means to me to be Black. But in Europe, you are BLACK. You are staring eyes BLACK. You are looking in your mouth to see why your BLACK is so well spoken BLACK. You are what are doing here BLACK. You are My brother likes BLACK girls, can I take a picture of you BLACK. In Europe, in Berlin, I feel BLACK. And you’re still wondering I mean. What I mean is, being Black in London and being BLACK in the rest of Europe is DIFFERENT. In London, there is diversity in the sense that there are different people who are descendants of those from different parts of the world – Africa, the Caribbean, India, Brazil, Pakistan etc. And as a result, the feeling of being a minority is different than if I were in other parts of England, other parts of Europe and other parts of the world.
Now, before you start coming for me, I did not say we do not experience racism in London or England because that would be inaccurate – microaggressions are very much part of British culture. The point is, everyone in Berlin looked so surprised to see us. It was as if my blackness was being seen for the first time.
In a German Department Store, my sister and I were approached by a German guy.
“Excuse me, excuse me”
We assume nothing of it and continue on our quest for vegan treats.
“Excuse me, excuse me”.
Ashleigh turns around. I ain’t interested. I keep on walking.
“Can I take a picture of you because my brother likes black girls”.
We turn around.
We continue shopping.
This small interaction let us know the facts. Being BLACK in Berlin is a thing. This guy fully thought that because we were black, he could ask for our picture and was justified in doing so. When told NO, he was shocked and surprised that we were not compliant. As beautiful as it is to be Black, my Black will not be used to endorse European fetishes with black skin, black bodies and black women.
At public buildings, such as Museums, Ashleigh and I received poor customer service. We were often not greeted by staff, but those before and after us were. At an upscale restaurant, this one woman looked in our mouths the whole time because it is obviously appropriate to stare at two, young, black girls as they dine. Equally, on the streets of Berlin, people would do a doubletake when seeing us because obviously seeing two black girls in Berlin is such a Shock. We definitely felt a sense of surprise and shock amongst some to see us. To see black people in the flesh.
Whilst Germany is quite diverse, with a large immigrant population, we definitely felt a sense of underlying racism in Berlin. Although, I’ve been to Rome and had a more hostile and problematic experience (an old Italian lady put the paws on me), I feel that Being Black in Berlin had its downsides. As there were few other black people, it was easy to stick out and garner attention. Wanted or unwanted.
For those from diverse cities like London, thinking of travelling to Europe, I wouldn’t discourage it but I’d suggest being mindful. London isn’t everywhere but racism is.
A few places to go in Berlin:
- The Berlin Wall Memorial
- Altes and Neues Museum
- Berlin Cathedral
- Alexa Shopping Centre
- Mall of Berlin
- The Berliner Mauer (See Below)