”In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change — breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.” — Susan L. Taylor
My name is Neika. I am 27 years old. I was born in Haiti, I lived a few years in South-America (french Guyana), before landing in France where I spent most of my life for the time being.
I currently live in Berlin, Germany for 3 years now.
So which nationality do you think I am ? Haitian ? French ? German ?
I am French. Well, I have a French passport and I.D. Although I don’t really feel French you know…
I enjoy very much the food and culture, admire the art and fashion, experienced their way of life, took the accent, studied their history, learned their geography, read their books… But it always seemed to me that it was from the point of view of a stranger : you recognize the beauty of it, but you never felt like you belong.
Maybe it is because I wasn’t born in France. And I acquired the French nationality when I was 13 or 14. Just like that, I received a piece of paper and I was no longer Haitian, but French. No ceremony, no anthem to sing, no congratulations. We could think that something that big as changing nationality, something affecting your personality, your rights in foreign countries, the way you present yourself, the way stranger think about you would at least deserve a toast or a speech.
However, truth be told, I didn’t even choose it, it just happened. My mother thought it would be more practical and I must admit she was right. So it was on a not special day that I became French.
But I don’t feel French.
Maybe it is because I am black.
Maybe it is because, in France, sometimes before I even open my mouth people always ask me : “Tu viens d’où ? ” Or “Tu es quoi ? » (where are you from ? WHAT are you?). It is actually not really a problem that they ask that because I really wasn’t born in France. But I understood later that for some people of color who were born in France and grew up in France, it can be frustrating to feel always questioned about their origins when they feel completely and only French. And I don’t even talk about the French Caribbean people or people like my sister and brother who were born in French Guyana which is France, or supposed to be, even if it is on another continent.
When I first arrived in France I was around 10 years old. And it was about this time I realized that I was black. I was « different » from others.
Some people may make fun of me because of the color of my skin.
Some people may insult me because of the color of my skin.
Some people may feel better than me because of the color of my skin.
Some people may feel threaten by me because of the color of my skin.
Even Jonathan, the guy who repeated 6th grade twice and could barely read when I couldn’t decide who from Baudelaire or Rimbaud I liked the most, felt the right to insult me of « sale noire »
With their good feelings, and compliments that didn’t feel like compliments. « Oh you don’t sound African ! You speak good French! You don’t have any accent. »
Like Africa is the only place in the world with black people. Slavery, colonization, globalization never happened and speaking French with the French accent means you have no accent. There are regions in France where people speak French with really strong accents, does it mean that they don’t speak good french ?
Their attempt to make you endorse their racist comments with sentences like : « I am not racist : you are black ! And you’re my friend but… » or the classic « I don’t like black people except for you. ».
From 10 till now I have experienced every kind of racism possible.
The silent one, when you received this job offer. The first contacts went well over the phone and they seemed enthusiasts and interested in your profile. Sure you noticed that they reversed several times your first name and last name and made it sound more… french but you are kind of used to it. Teacher, friends; everyone always do that because they are too lazy to learn how to pronounce your name properly, so you just let them.
However, in the end they refused to hire you without giving you a reason after the face-to-face interview in an office where everyone, no exception, is white.
The hypocrite one who smiled at you, made you think you had a connection and told your friend « hey she is absolutely amazing, too bad I don’t like black girls ».
The very loud and stupid one (Thank you banania!).
The weird one.
Being a black woman, I have been called ugly, I have been called « wild » and I have also been fetishized. I have felt like being this white guy phantasm, a way for him to realize his desire of exoticism and who thinks he can easily own you by buying stuff, when he would never ever dare to behave the same with a white woman.
Even my friends, even people who deeply care about me, made me feel it at some point.
I am black.
Therefore, I am not from here.
Click here if you want to read the other parts of my story :
- So where do I come from?- Part II
- Discovery of Africa – Part III
- Search of Identity – Part IV
- Search of Happiness – Part V
- Africa is harder than expected – Part VI
- Sweet Cameroon – Part VII
🇫🇷 Version française : Ici