I imagine I am much like other girls trying to feel their way into becoming a woman.
If I had to use one word to summarize my feelings on life in Berlin, Germany it would be “paranoid”.
Paranoid is wondering whether that woman crossed the street from your side because she actually needed to be over there, or if she just didn’t want to walk by the “Neger”.
Paranoid is avoiding speaking to your crush, not because they might not have similar feelings, but they might not have similar feelings because you’re black.
Paranoid is questioning whether you were actually in the wrong when a stranger tried to touch your hair and you slapped his hand away so he spat in your face. In the middle of the crowded street. At 2 p.m. And everyone just looked the other way.
Paranoid is wondering whether you did something wrong at the new job when they call you to say the old sales-girl is returning so they don’t need you anymore. But you notice the ‘Help Wanted’ sign still up on the door for weeks, until a new face pops up in the shop.
Paranoid was knowing that from the very first day, after the elderly lady rubbed your skin, spun you around, sniffed you and asked “Wie oft duschst du dann?” (“How often do you shower?”), they’d find some excuse to let you go from the position.
Paranoid is being told you have a class trip further into East-Berlin and having to find the right words to remind your program director that you, the black girl who lives with the Mexican-American and the Hijab-wearing Palestinian, don’t feel quite safe going there after dark.
Paranoid is wondering whether the complete lack of diversity in your college’s faculty, staff and curriculum is actually an issue since nobody seemed to notice it before your black ass showed up.
Paranoid is having to research instances of racially-motivated physical violence before you hop on a plane for a cheap, quick weekend trip.
Paranoid is not braiding your hair before you visit a White friend because you just don’t think you’ll be up to explaining yet another facet of your existence this weekend.
Paranoid is having every question, no matter how simple, innocent or genuine, irk you because you’re just tired of being something that requires a definition and an explanation.
Paranoid is checking the news before you leave the house just in case any right-wing groups are protesting near wherever you’ll be.
Paranoid is going months without making eye-contact with anyone for fear of seeing THAT look, the look that says they think you’re lesser than.
Paranoid is avoiding sitting beside other People of Color on public transport because it might be provoking to “Others”.
Paranoid is constantly being aware of the fact that you are the only Black face in the room and wondering if everyone else has also realized.
Paranoid is making “at least you won’t get shot here” your mantra to justify why living in Europe must be better than being in the United States of America.
Paranoid is knowing that being shot isn’t the only way to have your life taken from you and going through every other possible way it could happen every time you leave the house.
Paranoid is standing as far away from the edge of the sidewalk or the platform because someone might push you into an oncoming tram or train.
Paranoid is spending weeks trying to be neither seen nor heard so as not to entice anyone to use these alternative scenarios you’ve concocted.
Paranoid is knowing you are truly in the lion’s den, because Europe is the scourge of just about every affliction on the face of the human race in modern history.
Paranoid is questioning whether you really have reason to feel spoken over and about but never to; fetishized, tokenized, ignored and treated like the feature attraction in a Freak Show.
Paranoid is wondering if people realize that as confidently as you speak and write, you wake up every day and question whether today’s the day that you give up; or have that choice taken away from you.