When being white is not about your skin colour…
Possibly because of tradition and common belief I always had the idea that black people are black because their skin is dark, brown or ebony and white people are white because they are just not black. It wasn’t until this year that I started exploring skin colour or race as a social construct and when I finally travelled to Africa, everything appeared so clear in my mind.
In Europe, whether if I’m in Spain, England or Italy, I am considered (even by myself) a black person and that makes sense to me and to most people because I have quite dark skin when I’m actually mixed race. Although it is politically incorrect, there’s nothing wrong with people creating that association and I don’t get offended basically because there’s no reason for that. I’m proud of my African heritage and every single thing that it has brought to my life.
I had a completely different experience in Cameroon. My black woman self-identification was in a way, destroyed. From the very first day that I spent there, I was ‘la blanche’ or the white girl and that really made me feel attacked. For the past 18 years I believed I was black so how could someone start telling me that I wasn’t?
That idea didn’t fit in my mind, I asked everyone about it and they told me to not take it serious but I couldn’t really do that. I felt it was such a big thing.
After many times where people called me ‘la blanche’ and meeting a mixed race woman that lived in Cameroon for her whole life I realised that there was nothing bad about the term, that I could still be their sister even if I was "white". They didn’t denied me from being African, it was just a name and later on I discovered that African or at least Cameroonians don’t associate white race with fair skin but with social status, wealth or way of doing. At that point, those who had money or simply lived with less preoccupation and those who spent time in Europe were white as well.
Storyteller -- Agnes Essonti