“Just Black”

As a Black woman, there are many things that the world tells me that I cannot do. The pressures of stereotypes, racism, and misogynoir place an invisible weight upon Black women that we must lift in order to live fulfilling lives. Many African Americans have been manipulated into fearing international travel. There is a somewhat ingrained mentality that if you think racism in America is bad, just imagine how “they” will treat you “over there”. I am fully aware that anti black racism has no geographical bounds however, I refuse to uphold this toxic narrative. International travel can be an incredible opportunity for self discovery and interacting with different perspectives. This narrative fearmongers African Americans into closing themselves off from travel instead of holding different cultures accountable for contributing to antiblack racism.

This sculpture “Why born Enslaved!” by Jean Baptiste Carpeaux was made in support of the abolitionist movement but also to show the fetishization and commodification of Black women’s bodies by Europeans.

My experience in Toulouse has really changed my perception of blackness overall. My host mother, Carole, is of Angolan descent and she has lived in many different places across Europe including Russia, Portugal, Paris, France and now here in Toulouse. One of the first questions she asked me was what my *real* ethnicity and nationality is. This question is not unfamiliar in Toulouse, as there is a very large and diverse population of African immigrants and other members of the diaspora. However, for African Americans this question cuts like a knife. This was my first time being asked this question and when I responded saying that I didn’t know she looked very confused. Here in France, I have found that many African immigrants and Afro-French people face strong social pressure. Anti immigration and xenophobic rhetoric in French politics over the years has pressured many to assimilate the best they can into white French culture however, they still have a strong pride in their home countries’ culture and continue to support their communities. Due to my own personal experiences and America’s history, it is difficult to come to terms with an American identity, especially while in France. In the US it’s normal to identify as “just black” however, it feels like it’s not enough here. Black culture in the US is so diverse and vast but there is still a sense of cultural unity despite this. From my conversations here, blackness is interpreted more with a person’s distinct culture or nationality. 

Photo of me visiting the Eiffel Tower

Being a black woman abroad has sparked a more philosophical debate as to what blackness means to me as well as opened my eyes to the different ways African Americans are perceived. Overall, I am grateful for my experiences here and I am proud of the growth that this journey has brought me.