Living as an African in milan
Journal,  Personal Experience

Racial Discrimination – Living as an African in Italy

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Racial discrimination, this is a very touchy topic many Africans would not dare to thread. Who wants to be reminded that their forefathers were tortured and sold to slavery? It doesn’t only sting the heart but has left a stigma.

When you are moving to a new country – especially switching continents, one of the first things you consider is how hostile or hospitable the citizens are towards people that are racially different.

In Italy, I have had a lot of funny questions thrown at me about Africa, like – ‘do you live with Lions in Africa?’ I just laugh out really loud because I have never seen a real Lion except on Nat Geo Wild. While an African friend finds questions like this insulting and downgrading, I find it amusing. This is what the media mostly portray Africa as.

For me, the word ‘racial discrimination’ is extinct. So when people stare at me, I do not feel embarrassed. Many times, I have come to realize they do not stare intentionally to make me feel offended. It’s a reflex action when you see someone different. Back at home, I also stare at foreigners.

Do you consider stares as Racial Discrimination?

When a stranger smiles at me, I smile back. This warm smile sometimes ends in a light conversation about Africa or they calling me words like ‘bella’ meaning beautiful.

I would like to briefly paint these two scenarios I have experienced mostly at the park:

First, a little girl wanders up to me staring intently. I smile and her mum immediately comes to drag her away. Who wants their kid speaking with strangers? I do not think it’s because I am African and the mum is racially discriminative.

Second, a kid wanders up to me staring intently. I smile and the mum walks up apologising for the disturbance. I say it’s fine, so she stays while I make a conversation with her daughter. When kids come close to stroke my skin or hair, I let them. Is it even reasonable to accuse a kid that barely knows nothing of racial discrimination?

While some African friends in Italy say they often experience racial discriminations – I say I do not. If someone ignores you, decides not to speak with you, doesn’t give you a job you think you deserved or stares – don’t conclude it’s because they are racially discriminative.

Some citizens are simply hostile towards foreigners – for the notion that they have come to steal and compete with them in their job market.

I encourage you as an African to be rid of this ‘racial discrimination’ stigma in your heart, only then can you see that most actions you tag even discriminative are not.


  • slindokuhle

    I completely disagree with you that ”racial discrimination” doesn’t exist towards Africans. I had an incident at my university where even my Italian lecturer acknowledged some racist incidents and gave us the option of reporting the matter to the school authorities. I met a Kenyan girl who told me of an incident where she was being harassed by some young Italian adults that where calling her a monkey and making monkey sounds as she was walking past them. Just because you have not been racially discriminated upon that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

    • gim

      I cannot disregard the fact that some people are truly discriminated for their race. But I have also met some Africans who exaggerate or tag every action as discriminative, such as in the cases I have described. They are true life instances that a friend somewhat described as racist. Racism still lives in the heart of many Africans and some would never even consider themselves as equal hence they are always in the mellow or think they shouldn’t be doing some certain things because they don’t deserve it. Sometimes you just need to be bold and stand up for yourself. Many times you are addressed the way you portray yourself. So first get rid of racism in your heart, then only would you see some actions you tag as racist are not truly are. And I really do feel sad when I hear story as such about being bullied and discriminated for being African.

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