since I landed back in the United States, and I’m not too anxious to leave it again. Study abroad is all about learning about new cultures and making comparisons with your own.
Maybe you realize that you’d prefer to live in a different country because the life style appeals to you more. You realize that’s where you actually be long- where you fit in, but it was different for me. I actually gained a new appreciation for the United States.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve developed a new extreme nationalism and I now think that Americans are better than other nation’s peoples. I just appreciate American values so much more.
If you’ve actually been reading my posts (if you haven’t, then you’ve inadvertently brought shame and dishonor on you and your family- sucks), then you know I’ve seen at least one major unfavorable situation, and if you don’t remember, let’s recap.
1) Had beer thrown on me and a friend before witnessing that same friend get man handled on the beach after speaking up for herself. All before being called disgusting black women (oh yeah and everyone on the beach just stood and watched. Ha.).
The rest I didn’t actually post about because I didn’t want to seem as though I came to Italy to rant about racial issues.
2) A female in England asked me what tribe in Africa my family came from and was quite surprised to realize that my family had been in the Americas for at least 6 or 7 generations.
3) A guy in a club in Barcelona showed me a picture of a group of people and zoomed in to two people in particular. The first was a brown-skinned female with a large, curly Afro and the other was a brown-skinned male. As he zoomed in to each person he said “Senegal….. Nigeria” respectively. I don’t know if he was asking if I knew them, or if he was trying to appeal to my blackness by showing he has black friends, but he was pretty shocked when I said “Oh cool, yeah… I’m not from Africa.”.
4) As I walked down a street in Florence, messing around with my phone, an older woman stopped in front of me, looked back, and then screamed. She then back up against a wall and stared me down until I passed her by. She then jumped off the side walk and when I asked “what?” she scoffed and hid behind a car. She wouldn’t get back on until I was a good 15 feet away. So embarrassing. I wouldn’t have thought so hard about this had it not been just one of several other instances in which people avoided me on a side walk. This was the most dramatic of them all, but still.
5) On my last night, I went out to find a bar to hang out with my friends.and I didn’t look up the location of the bar because I figured that I could just go in the area and ask for directions after. Yeah- I should have just Googled it. Everyone I asked blatantly ignored me (as in, they looked me in the face and turned their noses up at me) or got scared and said that they didn’t know. I don’t think I looked particularly intimidating. I was wearing a sweater that was a size too big, jeans, boots and my black skull cap with my lipstick and fancy glasses. I don’t know. I just don’t know.
In the midst of all of these situations I found myself unable to feel comfortable in Europe because I felt like everywhere I went, people looked down on me for something I couldn’t change. It felt like I was back in the 1920s United States. I started to develop a slave mentality: a feeling of inferiority. I would look down when I passed locals on the side walk, and I tried not to speak to people unless I had non-black friends around as if to validate my presence.
Now, I am NOT saying America is so much better. As my sister said, in America, I probably would have been shot in situation number 4 as the woman pleaded self defense. What I am saying is that I believe America is better at realizing that not every single Black or Hispanic that walks down the street will want to rob you. They judge people often by how they carry themselves, so when I’m in America, I don’t deal with blatant racism because I dress respectfully, carry myself with dignity and show my education in everything that I do (things that I did in Florence, but seemed not to make any difference). In 20 years of my life, I had never dealt with what I witnessed in Europe in 3 months.
I was shocked when my aunts and I were in Macy’s in Florida looking for the down escalator, and an older white woman heard my dilemma and turned to tell me where the escalator was rather than comment on my stupidity in another language as I had witnessed in Italy.
Or maybe I’m just accustomed to America’s racism so I’ve learned how to deal with it better. That’s a pretty reasonable explanation as well. Regardless, I appreciate America so much more now than I did before.
There were still great things about Europe, the languages, the history, and I still had an awesome time during Fall break. But that just reinforced the fact that I would love to visit Europe again. VISIT. I don’t know if I could live in Europe, at least not Florence, but I would have to see what the future holds for my career. Gotta go where the work is.