I went back to Sultanahmet yesterday to do some more exploring of the area with the other exchange students. Let me attempt to succinctly summarize the fucking racist events that happened to me in the span of 8 hours.
(Note: general staring is NOT included in my definition of “fucking racist events”. I can deal with the staring)
(1) Whilst standing in the square between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, I attracted the attention of a man that can only be described as an asshole. He comes up to me and says, “I like your hair – is it real?” Um, last time I checked you were a complete stranger and that’s an extremely personal question. But wait, it gets far worse. Then he proceeds to rant about how African women always have fake hair, and how they’re dying to have his hair texture, blah blah blah. In summary, completely offensive and unwarranted for <— this will be a recurring theme throughout the day.
My thoughts: I wasn’t TOO disturbed by this moron because he seemed to attack everyone, regardless of race. Thus, I just wrote him off as a crazy person.
(2) I had my first glimpse into the Grand Bazaar yesterday. And so, the name calling began.
“Hey, come into my store, I like chocolate”
“Come try this candy, its sweet just like you”
“Hi, I am single”
My thoughts: UGHHHHHHH. I’ll admit, some of these store owners were adorable (one said: I’ve seen you before…in my dreams – I proceeded to laugh until I had tears in my eyes) but many made these disgusting comments that emphasize so heavily on the color of your skin, leaving you to feel stripped of your humanity.
(3) SO I met this Chinese dude from Texas, who I first thought was pretty chill. Unfortunately I quickly came to realize he’s a damn fool. While chatting, he says to me, “I’m glad I met you…because now I have another black friend.” Upon which he began to sing “Versace” (a popular rap song by Migos ft. Drake). YES PEOPLE, HE BEGAN TO SING FUCKING VERSACE.
My thoughts: When this happened, all I could think was “Woooow, this dude is NOT for real.” I tried to make him realize how stupid he sounded by asking him, “So all I’m doing is filling a quota?” Upon which he began to laugh. #smdh. The problem really lies within the fact that we are all a diluted version of ourselves, since “everybody wants to be friends”. Thus, I couldn’t snap at this dude like I typically would have – it would have only lead to me becoming known as “the crazy black girl who snapped in the Grand Bazaar”. Fucked up, I know…
(4) The Grand Finale of All Fucked Up Racist Events: While eating amazingly delicious fish sandwiches in Galata, we decided to sit on the edge of the water with our legs hanging over. It was beautiful and very relaxing. I was really starting to take in how I lucky I was to have this experience. But of course, some fucker had to come along and ruin it. Next thing I know, these two 4-5 year old boys come running up behind me – one then proceeds to touch and PULL my fucking hair. They ran away so quickly I didn’t even see their faces. It was definitely a “dare” situation.
Thoughts: I can’t even BEGIN to describe how disturbing this event was. The touching was weird, period. But the pulling was SO FUCKING VIOLENT, I cannot even deal. The worst part? No one said anything. This one dumb-ass asked me, “Did it hurt?” WAS THAT THE FUCKING POINT!? Ya Allah, I can’t deal with these white girls. In fact, I can’t deal with many of these exchange students. What they did was incredibly cowardly and de-legitimized any space I had to air my concerns.
So, what conclusions have I come to? The reality is that this fucked up city is my home for the next five months – and I don’t intend to spend them (a) feeling sorry for myself or (b) feeling vulnerable in public spaces.
(a) Be aware of your surroundings. I should have never sat with my back turned to the general public. It’s fucked up – but I need to ensure that I am safe first; at all times.
(b) Don’t have any expectations from these morons on exchange. No one can be your saviour except YOU and ALLAH. Don’t rely on them. Don’t expect them to care when racist shit happens to you. Understand that they are comfortable living in a world filled with delusion, which you simply DO NOT have the time for.
(c) Understand that many Turkish people are highly ignorant. Laugh at their moronic comments. Laugh because you know that they are uneducated – and smile because you know that you are lucky enough to have a much broader understanding of the world around you than they do. Don’t let them rain of your parade.
(d) Understand that fellow PoC can be just as moronic as white exchange students. Insert, that Chinese fool from Texas. Also met this Asian girl who recounted a story of her friend in Puerto Rico having her hair patted by a stranger, and being called “Obama”. She said it with a laugh and a smile. I didn’t know how to feel. There’s also this black dude from the States who lets the other exchange students call him “Obama” jokingly. Ahem, do you boo. Thus, don’t have expectations of enlightenment solely based on the color of one’s skin. These people can be fools too.
(e) Don’t let any of this affect your mental health to the extent that it overshadows all the wonderful experiences you’ve had thus far (and will continue to have in the future). I will explore Istanbul. I will shamelessly eat simit, and kaymak with honey, and Turkish doughnuts, and drink strong-ass tea. I will have photo-ops on the Bosphorus bridge, I will laugh with store-owners trying to woo me, I will encourage conversations about race and racial discrimination wherever appropriate. I will make a conscious effort not to surround myself with morons, and explain to them kindly how moronic their actions are whenever I get the chance. I will laugh, smile, and cry. I will refuse to let these dumb-asses chip away at my humanity – because I know who I am and I understand my value.
I will thrive.