I took a trip to Italy not too long ago, mostly because a few family members were living there. My cousin spoke highly of the Italian culture, praising the food, wine and his experience before I arrived. He even raved that Italians “love them some Black women.”
He was right! The food and wine were more than my tastebuds had ever experienced. I thought I was a devout New York pizza lover until I bit into a whole pie from Pizzeria Da Alice, a restaurant in the small town of Ferrara in Northern Italy. The flavors were full, fresh and pure. The wine was intoxicating and slightly addictive. The architecture was immaculate, which made for great selfie backdrops.
There was, however, this overall feeling that I can only compare to when you accidentally end up at one of those back-roads spots in the South. It seemed like eyes were always watching, questioning. Sometimes the atmosphere felt thick with disgust, heavy with hatred.
Maybe I was being paranoid or over sensitive. But I knew something wasn’t right.
I wear a big Afro, so I thought the stares were because of unusual hairstyle. Or maybe because I’m medium skinned (not light skinned) and I looked ambiguous, not African and not mixed with Italian. I looked different.
What my cousin eventually revealed to me, after we talked about the Black presence in his town, was that his wife and two daughters experience some serious side eye and more from Italians because they’re Black. Apparently there is this extreme dislike of people of African descent. I was a little surprised because he hadn’t mentioned it before I came. But I was also relieved because I knew then I wasn’t hallucinating.
When racism meets you head on abroad
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