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Don’t People in West Africa Have Light Skin?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Do you ever have times when you would have a weird feeling about something or someone but then your mind would interrupt you going: No, you’re wrong. These are all very lovely people and normal occurrences. You’re being overly sensitive. Don’t worry, it’s all good…you’ll live happily ever after…? Well, that has happened to me a number of times! Funny enough, after every weird experience, it would often turn out that my instincts were right.

My lovely neighbourhood is a place we have called home since 2015. It’s a calm peaceful vicinity surrounded by nature in the suburbs and we only have to drive roughly 15 minutes to get to the center of Hamburg. After I met my husband and we had our first child, we decided to sell my flat in Hamburg and move to the suburbs since we were planning a second child and needed a much bigger place. So we built a lovely home on a plot I had bought two years earlier. Just months after we moved into our beautiful home, we had our second child. It was the summer of 2015.

I can vividly remember a strange conversation I had with a neighbor who attended the roofing party of our home when it was still under construction. We were outside in the garden having a little party we had organized and we had some neighbors around - a gesture in an effort to start off on a friendly note in the neighbourhood. I was standing next to a couple and we were having a conversation. They seemed nice…

Man: So what really brought you here?

Me (rubbing my baby bump): Erm… we’re having our second child and need a bigger place in nature and a garden, which is really hard to get in the city.

Man: Ah…I see. But why did you choose this vicinity? Do you have family around here?

Me: “Uhm… well no, we don’t have family here…

(Me thinking) do we need to, in order to live here? I thought people could move around and live freely without any particular reason.

Then my mind goes:

Calm down Grace. You’re being too sensitive… It’s the hormones…Don’t worry, it’s all good.

His wife was observing me. After a brief pause she asks…

Woman: why are you so dark?

Me: wh…aat? I beg your pardon?

Woman: why are you so dark?

Me: well, maybe because I’m…. BLACK?

Woman: which part of Africa are you originally from?

Me: West-Africa…why do you ask?

Woman: don’t the people in West-Africa have light skin?

Me thinking: What the f**k…?!

She could see my puzzled look and quickly adds…

“Oh, we’ve been to Abidjan in Africa and I think the people there have lighter skin.”

I wanted to reply with something nasty, then changed my mind. I chose diplomacy instead:

Me: thanks for the lovely conversation, now if you’ll excuse me (and I walked away from them).

What the hell was that?! (I thought to myself). It was summer and I was heavily pregnant. Do I need to explain to anyone that skin tones get darker during summer and/or when women are pregnant? Do I even have to justify or explain to any rational human being, the reason why I’m black?

Then the mind goes again:

You’re being too sensitive Grace. That’s probably not what she meant. Don’t worry, it’s all good… blah blah blah…


As if things won’t stop there, a while after we had settled into our new home, another neighbor asked my husband if she could put up a “black” wooden figure to block out the view of a colorful art sculpture I had erected outside, on our property. She was serious.

My husband, being my ally and someone who would neither tolerate nor encourage “subtle nastiness” against me, simply said to her: “Remember my wife right? She’s black and she owns this property. Why don’t you ask her next time you see her outside in the garden or going out to walk the dog? Will you do that please?”

And the woman never mentioned it ever again 😂.

There is a better name for it. Here, I’ll call it madness. Yes. There’s real “madness” out there. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. Maybe these are all normal situations and we will all actually live happily ever after. Who knows?🤷🏽‍♀️

But what I’ve learned from all these random experiences are:

  • Sometimes it’s not about you being overly sensitive; It’s your antennas being active and fully alert.

  • Sometimes it’s about people being overly oblivious to their own stupidity. Don’t blame them, it’s a virus that goes around. Just make sure you don’t catch it too.

  • Some people will never understand it when you’re being you.

  • Some people do not know how to reciprocate friendliness and diplomacy.

  • Some people are plain nasty and don’t know it any other way.

  • Some people will treat you differently because they have a problem with themselves; It is not your problem. Feel sorry for them, then move on.

  • Some people will think you’re flirting with them if you offer a polite smile.

  • Some people will stop being friendly to you once they realise that they cannot look down at you. It’s called superiority complex and it’s a kind of illness - look it up. You’re not the problem. Move on.

  • Some people will literally claim your arm if you offer them a hand.

People are just who they are and not always who we think they are. People are different and so are you. If you find yourself in a new environment, adapt, adjust, learn the mannerisms, language, culture, etc., and respond accordingly just to get along. You might know better ways of doing things but that would be your “secret” power. It is what would make you stand out from the crowd. Never ever change who you are to fit the crowd. And most importantly: Never ever let anyone turn off your spark 💖

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5 comentarios

Grace Denker
Grace Denker
16 sept 2020

Lisa, I don't think people like that will ever change. They're stuck in their ways and know very little about the world or have a stereotyped image in their heads which they don't want to let go of. It can also be due to ignorance, bad education, and how their parents raised them. Sometimes it is actually an illness called superiority complex - in which case they truly think they're better than others. Sometimes it's just a tactic to provoke, especially if they have come to realise that they're not better than you but they're still trying to tamper with your self-esteem. In modern times, racism equals stupidity, since only someone really stupid and ignorant will think that they're better…

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Bettina Huchtemann
Bettina Huchtemann
16 sept 2020

I think that one has to decide depending on the circumstances when to fight and when it is smarter to ignore certain ignorant comments, like you did, Grace. So I agree with you, Lisa. What makes me sad is that it is always black people who have to explain or defend themselves. That is neither fair nor right. It's white people who need to become far more sensitive and respect that all humans are equal, and that the colour of the skin makes nobody better or worse.

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Thank you for sharing this story Grace. Your reaction was very wise, I haven’t thought it this way when I first read the article as it made me angry that some people can be as nasty. The trick is to know when to ignore their comments and when to not let them get away with it, as Bettina mentioned. I wonder if these people will and can change...

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Grace Denker
Grace Denker
15 sept 2020

Trust me Bettina, I'm not always calm about such things. I know how to choose my words to make people think about their nasty behaviours and I even sometimes take it upon myself to educate them on the spot.

We all know that people in Abidjan are blacks and have dark skin so her nastiness was something very obvious even though she tried to be subtle about it. Besides, maybe that's exactly what she wanted - for me to start a heated discussion about race at the roofing ceremony, so the neighbours would go "yeah, an angry black woman just moved into our neighbourhood and even fought with her guests at her roofing party". When people are that transparent, the…

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Bettina Huchtemann
Bettina Huchtemann
15 sept 2020

Thank you, Grace. It hurts when people ask dumb questions or make ignorant comments. I have stopped letting them get away with it, and always confront them with my point of view. So they cannot just rest in there comfortable beliefs and think that those are the truth. Some people may be racists others are insecure and not informed. It will take time but every action against this insensitive and insulting behaviour counts and will make a change in the long run.

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