I am Racist

We were driving down the highway

Me on the steering wheel

You next to me

I see your face freeze

As my sister from the back

Merrily touches your hair

Grabbing into it, massaging your skull

“It really feels like sheep’s’ wool!

You’re our family’s little black sheep, sweetie!”

It painfully reminds me

Of how I learned

That I was racist,

Too

 

When we first met

I used to tell you:

“I don’t think Germans are racist.”

And specifically, I wasn’t racist, of course.

We don’t really have much of a history with Black people in Germany, do we?

What are even the stereotypes we hold of Blacks?

I couldn’t see any issue.

 

Racists are those Americans

Where policemen shoot Blacks without proper reason

Or the South Africans

With their long history of Apartheid

 

But with time

I learned to understand the kind of racism

That left scars in your heart

Because racism

Isn’t just the punch in the face

The angry yell

Or the shot of a gun

 

Racism is

The hundred unthoughtful remarks

The curious gazes

And the closed doors

That you encounter

Solely

Because of the colour of your skin

The frizzy hair

The full lips

 

Racism is

When I say:

You dance so well

You got the rhythm in your blood

Probably from your tribal festivals

 

Racism is

When the photos I bring back home

Portrait only the mud huts of the Massai

But not the skyscrapers of Nairobi

 

Racism is

When I say

You’re so good in bed

Much more driven by your instincts

Wild, like an animal

 

Racism is

Anything, really

That feeds stereotypes

Tells the same old story

Of Africa as the uncivilised continent

With people close to nature

Not quite

So head-driven like us

Not quite

So materialistic like us

 

Cause in the end

What does that mean?

Underdeveloped, underprivileged and less intelligent

Just put in a different way

 

Ignorance is bliss

They say

And ignorant

Are those who are unintended racists

Ignorant of the pain they cause

 

The catch 22 is this:

The ignorant doesn’t know about his ignorance

 

I was ignorant

And I learned my lessons

Through exposure

Through discussions

 

The world will only become a less racist place

If everyone

Who is racists without intend

Gets the chance to learn their lesson

Learns

That even well-intended, even curious remarks

Can cause another scar

 

Awareness can only happen

By making what may seem obvious

Visible to those

Who don’t see it,

Yet

 

(Painting: Sam Spratt)

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