I still remember the day when Trump was nominated President of the United States. It was November 2016 and by the time it was the following month I had seen many tears being shed down on my peers’ faces. I didn’t understand why crying was an innate response to politics. How bad this guy could be? I thought. He looks nothing good, but he can’t be that bad, his behavior must be just an exaggeration. I was saying this because I had never questioned the American Dream, the lifestyle that everyone from all over the world aspires to. How could the president of the country of the ultimate crush this iconic pillar and landmark, something that every immigrant longs for? And here I am, almost four years later living my dream – a dream in a dreadful nightmare.
Besides my personal life, which was gonna be chaotic anyways during these times, the world is being the protagonist of an unexpected simulation, a dystopian Black Mirror episode. If you’re a young brown woman in media, just graduated from college, Italian-Brazilian living in the US, under a pandemic and a series of outbursting racist events, there’s only one single thing you can think of and agree on: what a time to be alive.
Numerology and cataclysms are the most popular features of 2020. It was in fact a leap year with remarkable people passing away from January until May under a pandemic and with the outburst of several civil rights movements, especially Black Lives Matter.
The death of George Floyd hasn’t surprised me. Police brutality has been a reality that I had to accept and digest, as well as question it and learn about it. When I first arrived at Hofstra, I had a different idea of what racism was like in the USA. I thought that everything was solved after Martin Luther King’s activism, Rosa Parks’ actions, Angela Davis’ efforts, and Malcom X’s responses: no more racism, the History books are saying so. I had done my homework. In Italy we’re not taught how the States are in contemporary times. We grasp information from movies, tv shows, songs, toys, media, magazines. Even if I had a father who was always reading the New Yorker and discussing with me about American politics, I couldn’t fully understand and see the issues that the modern USA have been facing, especially if we’re talking about minorities.
Coming from a predominantly white country, it is not surprising to receive partial news, media, type of movies, and so on. However, it didn’t take me lots of time to comprehend the real picture and the ugly scenarios that non-white people live with in this country. I had entered in this country with an (Italian) White mind if we can say so, even though I am Brown. It wasn’t a matter of hate or standing against an idea: I was simply misinformed, naive, and confined in a bubble. I had never grown up with many Black Italians. My mom never felt having conversations on race with me at home in Italy, even though I was exposed to this type of arguments anytime I would be in Brazil, within my relatives who are educators and social activists. Despite these episodes, my Black mom shared only her own experience with me, but it clearly wasn’t like the one that an African American woman lives: it is naturally different, although being Black is a universal experience per se. However, at home, in my town, or in any other part of the nation, I was never perceived as a threat. In Italy, we don’t have the n-word, we never had a history of slavery like the US or other European colonies. I thought that my skin color was an ugly feature only when it came to boys, to whom I was never a good looking choice. At the end of the day, I believed that I was just like my Black and Brown peers in America. I would watch them in movies and music videos, shiny, glamours, with the latest hairstyle, with a boyfriend or girlfriend… everything that I couldn’t see myself having or experiencing in Italy was in America. My American Dream was to be in a country where people who look like me can be appreciated and loved for what they do and believe. Once I landed here, I got to understand more and more those sporadic conversations my mom and her family had shared with me in Brazil, in the hood. Even my father’s words started making more sense. But until then, nobody had instructed me that my skin color could put me in danger, from going to jail or being shot on a sidewalk by a police officer. I’m light-skinned, but just imagine a Black person like my mom, my aunts, uncles, cousins, some of my friends: they have the worst treatment. I had to learn this by myself, both through an academic context and unforgettable friendships.
The death of George Floyd is a murder. It shocked me because for the very first time I thought: “That could’ve been my friend“. A man whose minor penalties had to serve a deadly sentence. “That could have been my homie“. What disgusts me is not only the inhumanity that public authorities and narrow-minded white people display, but is the systemic racism that this country still perpetuates, no matter how often and constantly its people keep fighting to abolish these atrocities. I just go by logic: how does a country which was built by immigrants attack other similars? What does the color of the skin at the end of the day change? What’s the deal with someone’s skin complexion? I both love my dad and mom, White and Black. My white and non-white friends. And I am not saying we’re the same, but that’s what I love about the world. We’re not the same. Diversity means being different and show off our differences, without pity or shame. As a biracial person, having experienced Trump’s presidency was a roller coaster of emotions, because I simply couldn’t understand his motifs to conduct such racist and inaccurate agenda. The more time I spent with my professors, friends, coworkers, and mentors, the deeper my analysis and feelings towards this country grew. In four years my answers and opinions haven’t changed, only empowered and enriched. I still find absurd that people like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, and so many other souls. Black souls.
I could write so much about this topic and explain you all the reasons why this subject touches me, even if I’m not from here. As you know, my goal is to represent the underrepresented and this is the time when my voice needs to take space. I am speaking up for those who are watching from outside and don’t get what’s happening (for example a lot of my Italian friends and acquaintances, but also Brazilians). I am reporting reflections and reactions to those who are victims, those who need another voice to lift them up. But why would I be so concerned if, again, my heritage isn’t completely Black nor African American?
As I’ve wrapped up my college journey, I took time to think about the people I got the chance to meet up with during these last four years. A great portion, if not the majority of my American friends are POC, most of them Black. I am so grateful for their friendship, because they were the people I lacked of back home. Girls who could get my hair, with whom I could share secrets, concerns, and stories, as well as remarkable experiences. Guys that were brothers to me, best friends, and some of them even lovers who have changed my life.
Sometimes I think about my future and the possibility of having a family: my kids will be black and biracial, regardless with whom I will have kids with. I will need to help them navigate this world and if I happen to stay here in the USA I need to know myself, my position in society. The thought of having kids is something still surreal – I am actually scared of babies, I feel awkward holding them, and sometimes even babysitting them if too young – but having conversations with older friends of mine who are starting families, are in committed relationships, or are thinking to adopt a kid, make me think about endless futures I could have. I can control the present, but I don’t have total control over the future. For this reason, I wonder about different scenarios. Regardless of what I will happen to be in or have in my life, I will always need to embrace my biracial background, my marvelous brown skin, my voluptuous 3C hair. Journalist or not, screenwriter or not, creative director or not, model or not, single or not: all of these conversations and news matter to me and will define me.
My heart is heavy, because the love I got for me and those dear ones is full and charged. Even though these are hard times, I am glad I still have my own body that stands still and firm. My fingers are ready to type fast and report what is necessary. My eyes scroll from screen to screen, line to line, and absorb all they can grasp. My ears lean to both weak and strong voices, rhythmic verses, and heart-aching melodies. My heart carries a lot of emotions and affections. The only safe place my most sincere feelings can be now is just my heart, a heavy muscle pumping and keeping its lively beats.
Whose heart ain’t heavy?
the curly flower