Being Black in Barcelona 

Being in Europe I’m American before I’m black.. but I’m still black.

“Me being black does matter and needn’t be erased, but I am not the spokesperson for all black americans”.

I don’t want to talk about how racist you think Trump is, or your opinions on Obama, or about all of the cop killings and gun laws. Not that these aren’t relevant or important things –  but I dont want to nor feel like having to explain these things constantly.

Race isn’t as big of an issue here as it is in America, and in most ways thats for the better. I don’t really face racism, at least not blatantly; prejudice and stereotypes sure, but that’s more due to lack of knowledge. Not to say they don’t recognize race, they surely do, but they’re moreso on that “I dont see color” tip, which in some ways makes things even more awkward because of the greater ignorance associated with that. And I’m not saying they are not racist here, just not very openly so.

Everyone can see color. You can acknowledge and understand the differences of another’s culture without being racist. “Not seeing color” is in a way making it seem as though it doesn’t matter… but that’s me rambling and getting ahead of myself.

So anyway, there isn’t much black representation here in Barcelona, which I found odd originally because of how diverse and international this city is. On the surface it doesn’t seem as if Barcelona has many black people, the ones you do first see are African and selling things down Las Ramblas, but after being here awhile and exploring a bit more you do notice more black people of a variety of backgrounds in different facets… not in abundance but to some degree.

With that said:

  1.  I am now (without wanting to be) not only the representative for all Americans, but all Black Americans, and all Black people. So with that I’m expected to know as much about Obama as Mandela; know all the dance crazes (especially know how to twerk.. which sorry I don’t); like rap and explain hair changes. 
  2. I have to get use to being called negra, negrita, morena, africa, chocolate, or any other way to say black every day, walking down a block. Granted the intent isn’t usually callous and is meant to be “endearing” but rather makes me feel very fetishized.  
  3.   Explaining that just because most “black” people here know french (from either France or countries in Africa), does not mean I automatically do. 
  4. Explaining the difference between being Black-American, and African-American and what that means to me and my background. 
  5. People always feel the need to assume where I’m from, like it bothers them to not know. My features aren’t typical I assume of the black people they see here, so often it’s assumed I’m Brazilian or Dominican, or any latin country that would have an abundance of darker skinned people, or Ethiopian or any African country that would have lighter skinned Africans. 
  6. Wanting to discuss what I’m going through or feeling, but not having many friends who exactly get it. Some friends are great and can listen well, but I can tell, it’s hard for them to really understand how I’m feeling and I also don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. 

…just to point out a few of the things. 

The reason most of them act like this or ask these questions, and I get it, their biggest reference to the States and people of color are through youtube and music videos, or movies and tv shows. So most of these annoying and redundant questions are either based on those and this is their way to see if things are true. Sometimes I engage in these conversation, sometimes I educate them in a very open forum, and other times I give short replies or I simply dont indulge because rather than talk they just wanted to vent.

A bigger issue that I and many other black people I meet here have, is that there aren’t many things here FOR us. I’ve been here now 7 months give or take and I’m still just finding hair salons that can do my hair, clubs and bars that play music I like, stores that sell food and spices of my culture, etc. I will say I’ve been doing a good job of finding a few, and with that I started a “Black in Barcelona” page with another black friend {hey Abena}
that highlights these things.  (although i’m still organizing it and it’s not developed the way I’d like it to be yet). A simple accumulation of places and things that minorities may be looking for in the city.

I feel like this is pretty brief, and bit summarized. But I originally had no intention on writing a race piece. But every day it gets pointed out in one way or another. And granted I love all types of people and have no problem being in any type of environment, but every week I realize more how I tend to miss certain things about black culture and american culture, and the the comfort of having people around who look like me.


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