Being a black woman in Italy is not that easy. The image of black women in Italy as elsewhere is not grandiose. I could see this for myself by living the experience in Naples.
I had not noticed that before coming to live in Naples, that black beauty was particularly appreciated in southern Italy. In fact, I was often complimented on my skin color by Neapolitan who thought it was simply beautiful. Furthermore, Neapolitan like to be tanned, having a golden skin. It raises for sure your self-esteem. And by this attraction, a fascination of the black skin, I used to get hit on a lot. However, the image of black women in Italy is degraded and being a black woman in Italy is definitely challenging.
These black women, sex objects
Despite the fact that he appreciates black beauty, stereotypes persist. Which ones? Of a black woman with whom it is easy to sleep, a woman who does not respect herself, who dresses in a very sexy or vulgar way. Prostitutes in Naples are mostly from Eastern European or African countries. Hence these stereotypes that persist.
Sometimes I have had men stop (no shame) and ask me to get in their cars. I did it once because I clearly lost my temper. He was really insistent, he went around and said: “let me take you home, you don’t live far”. I accepted after the 6th time. We were really close to my place, two minutes away. He did the conversation, I told him that I came here to live with my Neapolitan husband. It didn’t stop him. Before he got out of the car, he told me that I had such a nice ass and wanted to touch it. Fortunately, I had my fatal weapon, my umbrella and I hit it with it. He left quickly. Through this lesson given, I hope he will think twice the next time he sees a black woman walking alone before offering to get in his car.
Some may disagree with this approach, which I can fully understand. What pushed me to do so was not to be respected at all, not to be considered as a human person above all, which constantly irritated me. I had the impression to go back 100 years, that to have the respect of people, especially men, I had to use violence whether verbal or physical.
The other times often ended up in insult, in French and it was enough to make them flee. The angry black woman stereotype suited me well. I was so much so that in the end I was no longer bothered by anyone to believe that everyone knew me. Besides, think the Gomorra series also made my life easier. In season 2, one of the Camorrists was engaged to a black woman. After these episodes, I saw the situation change.
A hopeless situation?
It was necessary to fight every day to be able to impose its respect so that men see you as a person and not as a sexual object. I told my boyfriend at this time that I find it appalling that men stop and ask me if I want to get in their car. He told me that it was the mentality here and because I hadn’t grown up there I couldn’t understand. In other words, I should close my eyes and find it normal? Should I let them treat me that way? I did it not only for myself but for the black women who are there so that they can be respected. Machismo, street harassment is rampant in southern Italy. And when you are a black woman, you feel it even more.
How many times has it happened to me that when I refused the advances of a Neapolitan man, he answered me “But why do you say no? But where he’s your boyfriend, you’ll never be alone with me”. Like I don’t have a choice. I did everything I could to try to change the mentalities in my own way, but I’m afraid it had little impact. I don’t think anything will change.
Racism, ignorance are not forgotten
The problem is not only the hypersexualization but also ignorance and racism. I can’t say whether I experienced racism or not. However, some of you remember Cécile Kyenge, a former minister, facing racist insults, A-lesser known but important case, a Nigerian man killed in northern-central Italian town because he was defending his wife.
I do not generalize, not all Italian are racist of course but it does not mean that racism does not exist, that we have to sit on our hands. Is it normal that I have to impose on people to respect me because they can not see that I am a human being? Obviously not.
Here is a video of black Italian female Youtubers talking about their feelings while living in Italy.