I didn’t know I was black...

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Personal Thoughts / Opinion

I didn’t know I was black... until I was 23.

I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany by my white Dad and my brown Mom. My whole environment and the people in our life were predominantly white and by that I mean it. When I went to school there was only one black girl in my class and a hand full in the entire school as far as I could tell. I always felt different from the rest, I mean I was popular but there was just something that made me different from the rest, I used to think it was just my swag – haha jk - but apparently it was more obvious than that.

Maybe I would have realized it sooner if Germans recognized brown people as brown or black back then. Don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of this whole separation of light skin, mixed, dark skin this and that mostly because of all the stereotyping that comes with it but back then there was simply no niche for kids like me.

Not black, not white - something inbetween
In peoples eyes I could not be black because I simply was too light but white? Haha, try again, I was not going to be white even if I tried really hard, which I didn’t, I just didn’t see any real difference between me and the other children. It would take many more years till I could look back and realize that all the people I looked up to looked very much like me and therefor where not shared as Idols by any of my friends at the time.

Living my life like that, feeling I was not enough and yet too much of I don’t know what I decided to move to my moms hometown to get away from life as I knew it for some time. There was this constant feeling of missing something, an understanding of some sort and I would find it really soon.

At roughly 23 I moved to New York with about a dollar and no plans at all, it so happened that a month after I moved I got a room in a part of Brooklyn that is home to the Caribbean community, not the part where my family was from but familiar enough.

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I found a community I had never had and it changed my life.

All of a sudden I belonged. I will never forget that feeling of being at home so far away from home. The only time I felt something similar was when I lived in Zambia 3 years prior, where I felt extremely connected to the Zambian people because we had a mutual understanding of family values and tradition that Dominicans have but this was different.

This was home, this was „You arrived“, this was „Welcome back, where you been’“ This was, „eh, you are a Latina, you are mixed, you black before anything else... deadass!“ I was what?

And everything that followed just made sense. Going to a store and finding products that made my hair soft and curly, people that properly cut my curls, people that understood my skin, the hyperpigmentation, the ash... I can’t tell you how that felt.

I can’t even imagine how a dark skin black person growing up without any black people around must feel in Germany. By now I have had that conversation a lot and there is definitely a struggle and big people left with issues that in my eyes they will only fully overcome if they get the chance to be part of a community, to find their behavior, their habits, their values, their issues caused by being misplaced.

I found a community I had never had and it changed my life. Now we have the term BIPOC, I can say I am a woman of color although I am still looking for a proper German word and still struggle with not being black enough for and not white enough for and not actually German enough to. But that is a different conversation.

Author: Jaide Fuchs, @jaidefuchs

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