I’ve been out of Italy for about a year now and I cannot count on my fingers and toes the number of times people get excited when I tell them I’m Italian.
Sometimes I’d get the happy person, who would invite me to a cool Italian something (it has happened!) or would gladly transform me in a google translator app and would cherish every how do you say X in Italian question asked, not minding that it’s not that easy to switch from one language to the other; other times I’d get the curious (not interested) who’d give me dodgy and side looks because I am African, yet I declare to be European. And maybe this is the biggest deal I often have to handle.
To be Black and Italian for me it sometimes involve an apologetic and explanatory attitude I don’t feel comfortable with, although I have to say many of the times I did nothing to prevent or stop it; it requires unwanted questions and unasked answers people feel entitle to know.
I remember going to a gift shop in Venice during a school trip, and on one of the shelves there was a book about understanding Italians. Someone actually took the trouble to produce a manual to understand the social behaviour of people and surely everyone would have in mind what I understand to be the “typical Italian person” (loud, gesturing, smiling.. white). Someone should do a guide book about what to expect from foreigners when travelling while Black and Italian, it will be really useful.
Unwanted questions and unasked answers often throw shadow on my experience as a person and darkened the positive things that can be found in a personality with a broad background, perspective and culture. (In relation to this please take time to read a blog piece by The Afropolitan, it’ll give you some wonderful clues about what I’m discussing.) I think it all can be gathered under one term really: “knowledge”, but unfortunately I see people much more interested in stereotypical speculations, rather than spending time to acknowledge what they don’t know.
I’m African, yet I’m Italian because I eat, I breathe, I am, I see, I do and I think in and about Italy and, yes, I need no one to validate it before it becomes valid.
When it comes to writing, because one is African, one is not expected to write about certain things; ego is expected to write about the spicy and assorted African food or the colourful African print. In fact one is not expected to write at all.
When it comes to writing, you don’t talk about race because Africans don’t really care about race, even if they care they don’t bother, they don’t have time for that; or maybe you really do care but you don’t want to be labelled with the playing-the-race-card tag. (Dear reader if you have any experience to share in regards, please do, or email me.) You don’t talk about history or about books, because Africans don’t read, says a guy I went out with a while ago. Now the idea is to delete him from my world.
It happens that because one is African, it is not expected of him/her to talk about photography or architecture; so consequently it happens that when my friends Angela and Alisha, amazing blog writers with vivid passion for culture and innovation, give themselves and their brilliance to what they do, and although their aim is not to redeem a race, I feel a sense of over-proudness because their work is changing the conversation and shifting into other spaces common places.
Because most people choose not to do something, choose to tolerate something or are simply not interested in changing the conversation, it does not mean that one situation can be applicable to everyone; it’s where, how one live and who one live with that determine its person.
When I think about these realities my feet grow heavy of sadness and I refuse to believe that in this day and age we need to talk about how over-proud we are of the things we do.
 Dear reader, please understand that this article is fruit of my own experience as individual and in some instances as individual with a story in common with friends/acquaintances. I do not pretend to talk for or on behalf of others, because different people from different backgrounds may have a different view of the world. Please feel free to share your views and experience.