African-American life in BA

alyb23

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Hi Claudio,
I am a mixed black-white woman who has lived for a little over a year. Though Argentines are more than happy to tell you they are not racist--per my personal experience here--it couldn't be farther from the truth. The first thing you'll notice is that they think you're Brazilian, and I get into arguments with people all the time who simply will not believe that both my parents are from the states. Though I find that discriminatory incidents (such as the one a fellow poster mentioned about his nephews) are directed toward those of indigenous heritage (every country has their own favored target), as a black man you will at the very least be exoticized. Though I didn't find it particularly bothersome at first, the longer you're here, the more frustrating that exoticism is. As a woman, I have an added treat: Argentines seem to think that Brazilians are all prostitutes, so that's nice to deal with. Basically, it's a terribly racist country that doesn't acknowledge it, but your experience will most likely not involve being barred from restaurants, but rather people trying to figure out what country your parents are from, or assuming things about your person such as the fact that you love to dance and sing with a big grin on your face. Kinda like going to a Chicago suburb where no one has talked to a black person before. However, it shouldn't deter you from coming. There's racism in the states, there's racism everywhere in this world. It's just weird when people deny it to you every single day.
 

ericdharma

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AMEN TO THAT ALYB23!!!!!!

I definately think that the amount of time that you spend here has a lot to do with how you perceive the racism here. You are the first person that I have heard on one of these sites express the same sentiment that I feel and I thank you for being honest about your experiences and your feelings even though they may not be popular. I have been here for about a year and I feel the same way as you do that BA is extremely racist and provincial especially when you consider that it is a huge city and very much tied into the rest of the world. You always hear Portenos talking about how much BA is like Europe and, having been to Europe, I feel that there is clearly a lack of sophistication among the people here that would seem to negate that comparison. I have had a variety of things happen to me personally here that have never happened to me with the same frequency anywhere else in the world.

For example, just a few months ago I was living in a building in Palermo. I would always smile and say hello to my doorman and he would never return the greeting. Every once in a while he might grunt or something but he clearly didn't seem to approve of my being there. I attempted to go out on the roof once and take a look at the city. His apartment was on the top floor and he saw me trying to go to the roof and he started screaming, "You can't go there because of security, blah, blah, blah. Even though he was acting like an idiot I didn't make a fuss and turned around and went back to my aparrtment. The next day I came down to leave my place and he was standing there. I smiled (like an idiot) and he WOULDN'T EVEN OPEN THE DOOR. I was furious. He sat there reading his paper while I got my key out and did it myself. About a week later I tipped my maid 50 pesos for the holidays. He must have found out about it because the day after I did it he was all smiles. All of the sudden I existed and he wanted to know all about me and have a chat. I told him that I was from the U.S. and he told me, "Oh I thought that you were Brazilian but you come from a strong country." I was like yeah whatever. If you think that you're getting a tip you are dreaming.

I remember being in Asia de Cuba and meeting this Argentine girl. We talked for a while and she assumed that I would be a great dancer just because I was black. This actually didn't bother me (because I am a good dancer) but I do think that this is a form of stereotyping and racism. What did bother me was when I asked her to go out in the future and she started asking me about my friends. I remember thinking "what do my friends have to do with us going out." She was asking me what kind of friends did I have. I started to think and began extolling the qualities of my friends (personalities, temperament, etc.) She asked, "Well do you always hang around with Black guys." It kind of caught me off gaurd because I really had never thought of whether or not I hang out with too many black people or not. In fact, I was there at the club that night with a bunch of Europeans that she saw me sitting with. It turned out that she was worried about being seen by people that she knew hanging out with a group of dark-skinned people. After hearing that I put as much distance between myself and this girl as I could while still being in the club.

Another time I was in Recoleta and was walking down the street minding my own business when this 30 something year-old lady came out of an apartment next to me with her friend. She saw me as I passed and started saying, "No me gustan los negros." repeatedly and then she and her friend bursted out laughing and disappeared around a corner. It was strange because I didn't even know them and until this day I don't know what that was about.

I have had numerous experiences where the people coming out of my apartment buildings visibly recoiled when they saw me coming and going. I don't think that it was necessarily hatred in every case but it was fear. It was like here comes the dark-skinned guy whose going to come in and murder all of us. The ironic thing is that I am paying at least 3 times more money to be in that apartment than any of them are so clearly an "assaulto" is not necessary.

Then there are the little things, like for instance, I have a friend from Germany who is mixed racially but is dark-skinned. We were in Bar Danzon talking and a group of Portenos next to us started a conversation. They asked where we were from and I said the U.S. and she said Germany. The guy started laughing. He said, "How can you be German. You don't look like any German that I've seen before." She explained that her father was African, blah, blah, blah. He then replied, "Oh so you are African." She said, "No, I am German." They couldn't accept that this girl thought of herself as European as well that she should have because SHE HAD NEVER SEEN AFRICA IN HER LIFE. Can you imagine someone in a club in New York or even Paris or Rome being that ignorant.

Then I started noticing that clerks in stores and restaurants never seem to want to put the change that I recieve in my hand even if I am holding it out waiting. At first I thought that this was a cultural thing but I began to get suspicious about it and started paying attention. It was only happening in most cases to the dark-skinned customers and the people who looked different in the line. One time I was in a convenience store monitoring this phenomenon when it suddenly occurred to me what I was doing and how ridiculous that it was. I thought to myself, "Look at what being in this place has done to you." I can assure you that "change to hand watching" was never a hobby of mine before I came to BA.

At that time I decided to stop internalizing the ignorance of the people here. I decided to stop letting these incidents make me angry and just go ahead and live my life. I realize now that, in a way, the experience of being here and dealing with this has been a gift. I haven't had an opportunity to experience this level of racism at home because, for the most part, the U.S. has progressed beyond that. Being here has afforded me the opportunity to experience first hand how my older relatives would have been treated in previous times and they would not have had the option of going home and escaping it.
 

henryb

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So, the doorman didn't open a door for you.
And some girl assumed that you are a great dancer.
Yeah, this stuff is really brutal.
 

nikad

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"alyb23" said:
As a woman, I have an added treat: Argentines seem to think that Brazilians are all prostitutes, so that's nice to deal with.
It sucks, but the collective word is that brazilian women are sluts ( black and white!!! ) and this is basically a very argentino way of making fun of brazilians for soccer rivality issues. It is a tease and not an actual belief.V
 

ericdharma

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So, the doorman didn't open a door for you.
And some girl assumed that you are a great dancer.
Yeah, this stuff is really brutal. - HenryB

It's SO funny to me how posters try to minimize this issue. I wonder what the motivation for that is. I clearly stated above that what she said about dancing didn't bother me. The other things that you were not capable of minimizing are what bothered me and a hundred other similar incidents that I did not have time or space to mention. Your agenda is clearly to minimize and discredit my experience. Please realize that there is no need for you to do that. If you have had a great time here and have not experienced any of these issues just be grateful. I wish that I could have come here and enjoyed myself and racism would not have been an issue BUT IT IS!!!!! That is the only point that I want to make. If you love the people here that is based on your experience and I have no intention or desire to take that away from you. I am just offering my honest opinion. Something that I didn't do, mind you, when this post first appeared because I knew then that people like you would make posts like yours. I felt that I didn't need the headache and as a result I kept quiet. I realized when I saw Alyb's post that not sharing my experiences does a disservice to the board because all opinions are not voiced and the truth is always a mixture of these opposing views. As a result I will continue to agree to disagree with you.
 

ChrisR

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Damn Igor that video is sad.
ericdharma, alyb23
Obvisouly you´ve seen things that some of us haven't, and I'm sorry to hear that, but this is something that is not confined to just Argentina, it happens in many countries. I´m not African American nor am I Caucasian, but I've seen some racism towards me in the past, but not on the scale you speak of.
There's people on this board who obviously do not share the views of the people that you've had experiences with. So hopefully you saw my initial post and you'll join myself and hopefully a bunch of other quality people for some drinks and laughs.
 

nikad

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Apart from the 2 ladies I really do not see racism. People are really not used to seeing black people. It is just eye catching and they get curious, I don´t really think they mean any bad feelings. My portero is a jerk and he sees me coming with my gorceries and wouldn´t open the door for me ( or anybody ! ) but when it is about $ he is all smiles. The girl at the club probably asked about your friends, cos since black people here are so unusual, when people see a white girl with many black friends or the opposite, they just think of the interracial fetish sexy thoughts. And, really, the association between black people and drugs, robbery, etc, is a very american thing, here ppl tend to think that way about peruvians and bolivians ( and yes, that is racist towards these peoples! )
V
"ericdharma" said:
AMEN TO THAT ALYB23!!!!!!

I definately think that the amount of time that you spend here has a lot to do with how you perceive the racism here...
 

ericdharma

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"Apart from the 2 ladies I really do not see racism". - nikad


This says a lot. I believe that you are Argentine from some of your other posts. Thank you for sharing that for the record.
 

nikad

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"ericdharma" said:
"Apart from the 2 ladies I really do not see racism". - nikad





This says a lot. I believe that you are Argentine from some of your other posts. Thank you for sharing that for the record.

Yes, I am local, and even though I stated before that this society is racist, it really isn´t towards black people, more towards other latin americans imhoV
 

syngirl

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I was just having a conversation with a friend from Brazil (I have never asked what her background is, but I'd guess maybe a mix of Indian and African? She almost looks Sri Lankan -- regardless, she'sgorgeous!) She was telling me she wouldn't mind doing her MAdegree in Buenos Aires. However she gets so sick of everyday having to answer where she is from, or having people start look at her oddly, or treat her as she says "not rudely, but not quite normally either" that she doesn't know if she can put up with it for 2 years.
I'm blonde and look kind of Dutch/German, and I get sick and tired of always having to say where I'm from -- so sick of it I'm actually looking for a fonoaudiologo so that I can correct my accent and blend in better. So some people might say to Eric "Oh so what, some chick at a bar stereotyped you" or "some guy didn't give you your change" and maybe they don't think it's bad treatment -- but if it's tiring for ME to have to tell MY story all the time, I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to be a visible minority here -- and a lot of the treatment that Eric talked about is stuff that is more than just "poor treatment," it's racial discrimination.
The fact is many of the Argentines I have met are overtly racist. My BF has called his own mum a Nazi for all the racist comments that come out of her mouth (usually about Bolivians, and so far never in front of me -- for the time being it's probably a good thing that I'm not fluent in Spanish or I would have already directed a tirade of my own at his parents). Of course his parents are totally shocked that I come from a city where 1/2 the population is Indian and Chinese -- they can't believe their son is going to come to visit.
I've actually witnessed a one-upmanship conversation along the lines of "I've heard the Bolivians have dirty toilets" "No, I've heard they don't even have toilets" "I've heard they just dig a hole in their garden and go" "No, they just drop their trousers in the middle of the street as if they were animals" etc etc etc
The other week a friend-of-a-friend was telling us that she had been offered a job in Rio but in the end didn't take it because she didn't feel as secure there. But then when my BF said to her that she could move to Salvador (de Bahia) if she wanted to go to Brazil she exclaimed: "Salvador! But it's a city full of black people - I would never live with black people!"
At home, no one with a bit of education would make these types of comments -- especially to people that they don't know -- and yet here, I hear it all the time, and from people that I don't even know.
One positive not -- I've seen these Descrimination Kills posters up around the subte stations. I haven't had a close look at one yet, but maybe it's the hope of a bit of an awareness campaign. Although... I think their graphic designer missed the point -- if I'm remembering correctly, the picture is actually a White Male, isn't it? Jesus... did the designers even read the campaign literature when they did a photo search?
 
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