On Wednesday I was at my college’s BOP – a party where people wear costumes. And at some point as I was out of the club talking to a bunch of people, a first year asked me where I was actually from.
I didn’t get offended. I’m not from Britain even though I’ve been living in the UK for the past 5 years. But I found it weird that she would ask me that.
The guys who happened to be part of the conversation were shocked and apologized profusely for her actions. I don’t even know if she remembers, or if she was too drunk. But anyway this debacle made me think about the instances of micro-aggressions people face.
Micro-aggressions are a fact of life for many people. Do they piss me off? Absolutely. So I’ve decided to make a list of the most common micro-aggressions I’ve faced so far in my life.
1. Oh my…you speak Italian so well?/So where are you really from?
I’m Italian. I have an Italian passport. I was born there and lived there until I was almost 17. I go back whenever I can just to see my friends and my dad who still lives there. I love Italy. Following Italian politics infuriate me and I wish things were different there. Hopefully they will improve in the future.
I know my national anthem, I have a distinct accent having lived in Brianza all my life. I am skittish about trying new foods and I move my hands quite a lot when I speak. I understand the dialect of the Lombardy’s part where I am from.
I’m Italian. And it just annoys me when people question it constantly.
Until a week and a half ago I was home, in Italy. My dad and I went to the supermarket to buy a bunch of last-minute things and a random looked at us surprised and ‘complimented’ us for speaking Italian so well. I looked at her, mastered my best annoyed expression and answered in a duh tone “I was born here.”
People may think what’s the big deal? She was just curious! (See here why micro-aggressions actually hurt)
Yes, she was curious. But at the same time she questioned my identity. I don’t think if she had seen two white people speaking Italian she would have said anything. It’s the disbelief and the back-handed compliment that I cannot stand. She was assuming, like many of them, that I was not from there, because in her mind black is associated with being a foreigner. There is no way that an Italian can be black, and hence if I see a black person speaking perfect Italian I’ll automatically assume that they want to be praised for having made an effort to learn the language.
So I appeal to all those who happen to read this and happen to be in Italy. Please don’t ask me where I’m really from or why I speak Italian so well. You’re basically calling me a fake Italian, and I do care about my nationality. You’re making me feel like I don’t belong, and I know for certain that I feel more Italian than Ivorian.
2. You’re such a coconut/an Oreo/ You’re white inside/ You’re the whitest Black girl I’ve ever met and etc.
I have to admit that I was once upon a time guilty of this as seen in my post on my relationship with race. But no more! I educated myself and understood what was wrong with using any of those expressions.
It’s the use of the stereotype. ‘Black people are like this’, and ‘White people are like this’. There is no possible overlap.
I’m educated, I like Indie music more than I could ever like rap and hence I’m white inside.
Please stop saying that. Don’t reduce me to a stereotype. I’m a complex human being who enjoys music from Côte d’Ivoire, loves pizza and risotto alla milanese. I speak roughly 4 different languages with my parents and I prefer reading to clubbing.
3. You’re not really black because ______
You don’t know who he is? Oh my God, you’re not really black if you don’t know who he is! You haven’t listened to this latest song by her? Gee, what is wrong with you? I’m seriously more black than you.
What I said above counts here too. I beg you to stop making me a freaking stereotype. And don’t say that I ain’t black just because I don’t fit your preconceived notion of what makes someone black or not.
This list is clearly not exhaustive. There are instances when they want to touch my hair….I’m not an animal to pet at the zoo.
Here is a final message to all those who might be perpetrators of micro-aggressions and may not know it. Stop. Don’t make yourself look like a fool. And please for crying out loud…don’t ruin my day.
I leave you here with an amazing video that should give you a bit of perspectives on micro-aggressions.
Have you ever faced any micro-aggression? Let me know in the comment section!