I wasn’t quite sure if there was something wrong with the way I was dressed , or if I had something stuck in my teeth but I felt like I was being stared at everywhere I went. I was well aware of the fact that I was the only black person in most places I went to but that didn’t strike me as reason enough to be stared at the whole time.
Back home, you only got stares from strangers for three reasons;
a. they thought they knew you from somewhere
b. they were checking you out
c. you looked awkward.
Whatever the case, you would never catch them staring. Zambians are very polite. Turks on the other hand will keep staring at you after you catch them staring and they don’t even flinch. They’re like ‘yeah buddy I’m looking at you. Whatchu gon’ do ’bout it?’
- Get ready to have your pictures taken.
I know I was different but so were they to me but I didn’t make that a thing. Everyone knows that people exist in different races so why was I such a wonder? I will never forget the day some high scholars took out their phones to take a picture of me. Without even asking. Who does that? I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in some countries.
In some cases some people actually did ask but they were already had their camera in my face before I could say anything. I love the camera but I dreaded this and wasn’t ready to live like that forever. I had to toughen up and learn how to say no. I don’t want strangers sharing my picture on their social media or with every person they come across. For the love of God what does one do with a picture of a stranger? I need answers.
2. You’ll get judged.
There’s two kinds of people. The kind that’ only seen black people on TV and is awe when they see one in real life. The other kind is the one that has watched every goddamn documentary there is and thinks you’re less than they are. Oh! Then there’s a third kind that will just treat your like they’d treat anyone else.
My last kind is the last one. Obviously. The second one is my least favorite because I don’t want to answer anymore questions about whether I wore clothes while I lived in Africa or if I have a lion in my backyard. At this point in my life, I’m pretty sure God or the universe is trying to make me a more tolerant person because I’ve had to say a silent prayer and stop myself from beating the hell out of someone for asking me stupid questions.
3. You’ll probably have to answer a lot of questions. like A LOT.
In a country that has easy and quick access to the internet I feel like there are a lot of ignorant people and that can be very upsetting as a foreigner living here. From the get go everyone assumes you’re from Africa because you’re black. Which isn’t at all a problem as I am African. My problem is the assumption that most people have of Africa is that it’s an undeveloped “country” where everyone lives in thatched houses, has huge families that raise elephants and has very uneducated and illiterate people. Where everyone is poor and starving to death.
I absolutely hate this because this is not the Africa I know.
Firstly you’re about to get cultured because Africa is not a country and we’re not black solely because of the sun. Like haven’t you ever heard of melanin? And please don’t get me started on our hair. Lord help me! I’d had to explain a thousand times about it and stop strangers from trying to touch or smell it.I think this is a universal problem for all my sisters out there. One girl from my class once called my hair an “event”. Damn right it is hunnay! I’m black and dripping of melanin.
4. You’ll have to deal with a lot of misconceptions.
Okay now back to my initial point. So I get why people assume we’re all dropping like flies due to starvation because that’s all the media ever shows. Africa is hardly ever shown in a good light and there are so many campaigns out there showing starving kids or war struck areas. Don’t get me wrong some things like this happen in some countries within Africa and I’m grateful for anyone who’s helping but that’s not always the case. I get so upset because I feel we’re constantly exploited but really it’s up to us to put an end to this and so I appreciate Africans are trying to change the narrative.
As soon as I spoke, most people assumed I was from anywhere but Africa, maybe from the United States which is totally far fetched because I don’t even sound American. They just assume Africans can’t speak proper English. Again, black excellence , hello? We speak English, French, Arabic , Portuguese and Zambia alone has 72 local languages!
If you’re a black person in Turkey you’re going to hear the term ‘ zenci’ (pronounces zenji) and siyahi a lot. Now all the black people I know here have mixed emotions about it. Some people equate it to the N word and take offense in it. Whereas others don’t feel offended at all. Then there’s me, who honestly doesn’t know where to stand on this matter and I think it depends on how it’s used. If someone says it in a demeaning way then I will take offense and let them know but if not I won’t get in my feelings about it.
6. You’ll most probably be sexualized.
However I do get in my feelings when black people are treated like some category on a R18 site or as some fetish. I get it, we’re really hot human beings and blessed in abundance , if you know what I mean *winks* but we’re not sex toys. There’s a lot of harassment and this isn’t something that only the girls experience. One of my closest Turkish friend has a black boyfriend and they’ve gotten so many stares in public and comments like “she’s lucky, how many inches does he have?”. And that’s not even the worst thing they’ve experienced.
7. You’ll get attention.
Depending on what kind of person you are, they might be a blessing or a curse for you. I think this something that’s inevitable. How often this happens will change depending on where in Turkey you are and eventually you just get used to it. A couple of locals might even treat you better because you’re black so this one and how you respond to it is all up to you.
With all this I definitely appreciate myself more because I see how different I am from others and that’s what makes me who I am. I do have times when I’m out off by the staring or being acted stupid questions but I’m much better at ignoring it all and hardly ever notice the things I’d get irritated by. I care less what people have to think or say about me when they don’t know me because I figured they’ll always stare so I’ll just give them something good to look at!