race: you’re never gonna get away from it

One of the things that has surprised me most about race in Istanbul is how RARELY I seem to get away from it. Cue today. I was having a perfectly lovely day – went to class, ate some lunch, was hanging with some friends. All of a sudden, this Turkish girl comes up to me on campus and compliments my hair. I said thank you. She then proceeded to “ask” me if she could touch my hair as her hand was simultaneously moving towards my head.

You know what’s most interesting about this scenario? I just said yes to everything. Not because I want a random stranger’s hand on my hair, but because I’m learning how to react to fucked-up racial curiosity. Actually, big props to my homegirls K and B who were sufficiently disturbed by the exhibitionist fetish-y behaviour certain Turks tend to exhibit around me. I think part of the reason why I didn’t react the way I normally would is because I’ve been working incredibly hard NOT to make this experience of being in Istanbul all about race. So when fucked-up shit happens to me, I’m more likely to react inwards in order to distance myself from the experience as much as possible. However, as K and B so candidly pointed out, I need to put people in their place because its the only way they’ll learn that this kind of behaviour is NOT OK; and more importantly, that I, as a woman of color, am not a piece of public property.

I know I’ve said it once already, but I must reiterate that I feel so damn lucky to meet people who get me. Its especially important because I need people to bounce my thoughts off of and who help me legitimate my assertions.

Cue:
*racist event*
Friends: Yo that was fucked up!
Me: Yeaaaah….
Friends: No DUDE that was fucked up

*ensuing convo about race that leads me to feel legitimated and sane*

Me: Thanks y’all
Friends: No worries, we have your back

——————————————————————

And then, just when I thought the party was over, this shit happens. So I ran into a bunch of dudes who I haven’t seen in awhile, some of whom were there for my first horrendous venture into Sultanahmet. One of these dudes, who I’ll refer to as S, was actually present while I was called “Janet Jackson” by a store-owner. S was quite disturbed.

Now today, while I introduce myself as “Yasmin” to the group, he laughs and says “No, Janet Jackson” and then proceeds to launch into a COMPLETELY inappropriate and unnecessary dialogue about how I came to be called “Janet Jackson”. He then says, “I’m never going to forget it”.

HOLD THE FUCK UP S, did you even take a second to consider how I felt when that shit happened to me!? Did it ever occur to you that I may not want to go down memory lane and recollect on all the racist shit that has happened to me!? OMG, who are these people!? Is this the only way this dude felt he could relate to me? By relaying a fucked-up event that happened to me in his presence two weeks prior? Its also a hella awkward story to recount to people, MAINLY BECAUSE ITS NOT ENTERTAINING YOU PRICK!

*Ya Allah* I truly CANNOT deal with these fools. I thought S was one of the better ones. Damn, was I ever wrong. Another one bites the dust! Only 288 to go.

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