Of course being in Spain puts race on the top of my reflections list. My Catalan teacher, despite our rough introductory sessions, is pretty cool. (well we don’t talk about Africa anymore…lol… and she’s an Obama supporter… whatever that means).
We were talking about the difference between people’s experiences in Catalonia vs. other parts of Spain. Of course she was proud that her region was more progressive than others, and I would have to agree with that.
Specifically, I told her about how living in Cordoba was difficult because there were so few black people in the town. Every where I went it was “negrita” this and “negrita that” and that was when people were being polite.
My experience in Catalonia hasn’t been perfect, but talking to my teacher about what I’m called made me realize that I’m referred to as morena here. I prefer this term because frankly “negrita” is to close to the N-word (cultural relativity aside… Don’t call me a NEGRITA!).
Case in point:
Walking through Placa Catalunya (more or less the heart of the center of the city). I heard someone yell out to me “hey morena que guapa estas” or something like that (hey black girl, you are so pretty!) Well, let me make it clear, I wasn’t smelling myself that day. One of his friends said, “that one over there?” and he replied “No, una morena- morena!” (no, not a brunette, a black girl!). I thought it was funny.
Today I went to buy a cell phone and all the clerks sat behind little stands scattered around the store. Customers just need to wait and then walk up to whichever one is open. When I came in there were two people standing at the door (a man and a woman talking on a cell phone) and two sitting down waiting for a friend. I came in and was a bit confused by the store set-up so I stood and watched to see what everyone else did. Two other people came in and just walked up to the empty stands and conducted there business. When one was done, I walked up and the woman begins yelling “hey we (i.e. the man that was at the door) have been waiting way before she came in!”
I am not about to cause an international affair because of some random rude woman. So I said, ok whatever, I will wait. The guy at the door took my place. But esa mujer did not stop there. She said something about me to the person she was talking on the phone with, I didn’t hear it all, but I did hear “una morena” (a black girl) and, “no they can’t just do what they want.” (something to that effect) WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was so mad after hearing that! But then she went up to her kiosk. Then again, what would I have said/done anyway? On one hand I know what I heard, I may speak Spanish with a stutter, but I hear it just fine. On the other hand, one must be absolutely sure. Raising a raucous in a room full of white folk in a country that is not my own, in a language that is not my first, is probably not the best thing to do either.
Actually I am even madder now, because its only as I write this that I realize that two WHITE people/Spaniards (whatever the heck they were) had come in after I did and jumped in line (hence the confusion) y esa mujer did not say anything. It’s only now that I am fully convinced that her actions ring of something that starts with an R and ends with an –acism.
Now, I am mad at myself, because if I had realized it earlier, I would have made that point. But the time is passed. I hate events like these because they for me they are the ones that cut deep. I was minding my business, just trying to grab a phone before catching a train ride home.
They were just words, but I hate myself for having such a delayed reaction/reflection time. I don’t remember her face in fact I could meet her tomorrow and not realize it. But I will always remember what happened today. That is what for me is the saddest part of it.
No, I’m not going to walk around ready to hit the next Catalan I see, but its events like these that give me pause and remind me that of what some people still think being black/of color signifies. It aslo makes me swear off living abroad.
Event like these, even if they only happened once a year, are much more than I care to encounter. No the U.S. is not the holy Grail when it comes to race relations, but it’s a dynamic that I have grown up in and like it or not, am a part of.
Dealing with events like these would make me one of two things: 1. Crazy/clinically depressed 2. Angry + volatile= dangerous. Life is too full of other things to add racist b&^%7@!, no matter how petty, to it.