Skin colour is such a strange construct. I have had to learn being an African in Denmark. In all honesty, I never had to think about race until every Dane I meet has to mention something about Africa or rather an African friend they know. I guess it is to create some common ground. However, I absolutely find it unnecessary. Most of the time it starts with an innocent question. For instance, how I am fairing on in my new country. Whether I have managed to make new friends yet. In addition, they ask if I have met any Africans or rather Kenyans here. They go ahead to suggest of an African friend they have met and she is so beautiful. Perhaps it would be great to connect both of us if I do not mind.
I definitely do not mind knowing or even meeting all Africans in Denmark for that matter. However, I am more than just an African. How about you ask me things like if I have met other Lawyers or even bloggers in Denmark. What about a danish mum I have met and connected with because of a simple thing like our babies sharing the same age group. I choose not to focus on how much I always stand out here, simply because of my skin colour. Nevertheless, I try to focus on different things that unite us as human beings. A shared interest for instance. Our diverse cultures maybe.
Recently, I had a very important person visiting me and Bernie. We chatted about so many things and race was not a part of it. At least not until she asked me whether I was HIV positive. This is how she asked, “I am so sorry to be asking you this, are there many people that are HIV positive in Africa? And, are you HIV positive yourself?” I started by explaining that I actually did not come from Africa but rather Kenya which is a country in Africa. More so, there are some people suffering from the disease, but it is now being managed with the use of ARVs which actually are free of charge from the the government hospitals and other non governmental HIV management organisations like DREAM KENYA. I further assured her that she did not have to worry about me. I was negative.
Being an African in Europe means carrying the troubles of Africa on my back. Having quick answers that will offend no one. We recently visited our doctor for Bernie’s eczema check up. He is a warm guy just like most Danes are. They are a very closed up yet a smiling polite community. It is so hard to navigate through a Dane to the point of building a friendship. At least It has been my experience. When we got to the doctor’s, I undressed Bernie so that he could examine his skin. He somehow felt the need to tell me of how hard it is to see the ashy white patches on my son’s skin because he was not experienced with his type of skin colour. It was a genuine explanation. However, he used words like ‘he has such beautiful skin’ and ‘it’s so soft… not dark skin.
The thing is, here in Europe race is not a factor,or rather it’s not supposed to be. It is not America after all. There is equality in this free world. There is no ugly race history with a group of minorities who feel the need to be noticed. I have been in company of Americans, black and even mixed for that matter, and they have always felt the necessity to clarify that they were from USA. The fact that they knew each other because they were from USA. To alienate my kind of black from theirs. My kink and accent from theirs.
In my experience though, it has been a sensitive topic especially with the locals. They try so hard not to sound racist. After all, Africans are barely labeled racists. Even during those times we tag them and think that every mzungu is rich and will save us from our school fees bills and corrupt government officials we are not racist at all, we are real. We don’t see skin colour. I consider this inconsiderate.
It is very interesting that they also see differences in each other. For instance the blue eyes, brown or even green. Their hair is either straight or curly, blonde or dark, ginger or brown. They are not familiar with kinky hair which is what I have. Whenever I mention that my hair type of kinky, some smile in a kinky way. How will I expect them to know anyway? We are just so differently beautiful. Our skin colours may be different, my hair is kinky and hers straight but most likely, we share the same blood group. We are white, olive or black but we are not our skin colour.